The first is more in line with reality. No, not the Apple Car, though it would seem Apple has the design and engineering chops, and the monetary muscle to birth a self-driving electric car into the world. I’m also thinking CarPlay, which is the interface and system standard Apple is pushing into the automobile industry, and what it requires of us.
Self-driving vs. Self-Entertainment
Most of Apple’s best selling devices are all about personal digestion and sharing of content; from Mac to iPhone to iPad to Apple TV, it’s all about eyeballs and fingers, generating this or that or viewing something else, communicating with someone.
In one respect, Apple’s products are self-entertaining devices that require some physical and mental interaction from us, the user, consumer, or customer (if titled descriptions are required, I prefer the latter).
As much as we might desire that Apple get into the home automation business with security products, household utilities and appliances– born because we love Apple’s designs and attention to details– we tend to forget that Apple is all about usability and buy-ability. Macs are used more, on a per user basis, than PCs. Ditto for iPhone and iPad. We tend to use Apple’s products more, and in more unique and useful ways, than other similar products.
How does an Apple Car fit into Apple’s equation for success? CarPlay becomes the interface to our Apple devices– iPhone, iPad, iCloud– and a mobile window to the rest of the world; complete with alerts, alarms, notifications, and communication options that require our eyeballs, ears, and senses– and fingers– to use.
It may take only a few years for CarPlay– and Android Auto; both can co-exist in a car– to become the de facto standard interface for automobile electronics. Should Apple go to the expense of building a self-driving electric car we can also expect Apple will provide the built-in entertainment and communications options, too. In other words, Apple wants our undivided attention; our eyes and ears to receive whatever communication is in play, and our fingers and voice to navigate– both the car and the entertainment and information it provides.
To be honest, I’m skeptical about an Apple Car. It’s a huge undertaking and a huge risk. Apple has been so successful at so many other product lines that I wonder what the company could bring to an industry that isn’t much different than what it was 50 to 100 years ago– engine, wheels and tires, steering and seats– that isn’t already available by many, many competitors.
Just remember; Apple is all about usability and buy-ability, and success requires the company to keep customers happy and satisfied when using their products. Tesla has managed to do that with the Model S, but the company is losing thousands of dollars per car each year. That’s not like Apple at all. Apple is about surveying the present and bringing the right parts, repackaged, into the future. An Apple Car would compete with other automobile manufacturers who then might be reluctant to use CarPlay in their vehicles, diminishing Apple’s market presence.
Then again, if Apple isn’t working on a self-driving, self-entertaining electric vehicle then the company must be working on a transporter to beam people from one location to another.