The Apple Car discussions in the media always seem to default to the design aspect with mockups of what it could look like. Something like the physical Apple TV rumors and mockups that were flying around a few years ago. Every graphic artist basically put a big iPad on legs and said ‘here’s what the Apple TV is.’ The point is, the physical design of any Apple Car is the least interesting thing about it.
More interesting is the long-term opportunity Apple sees to disrupt the industry, given that connected, self-driving cars are under development with every car and computer company out there. What can they bring to the party that a zillion Silicon Valley start-ups can’t? What if we take the physical car out of the debate, and focus on this as a mobile, connected, software platform. Ultimately self-driving. So Apple has this 500M lines of code on wheels, they have massive cloud and big data analytics capability, they have voice control technology (let’s assume Siri gets awesome over time) and they have credit card data from half the first world consumers (made up the statistic but you get the point). So how do they make money? Not from selling a hunk of metal, that’s for sure. How does this massive mobile software platform fit into the Apple ecosystem?
For sure this won’t be a standalone product; nothing Apple ever does is. This mobile software platform will know where you go, when, where you buy your coffee, what school your kids go to, who you call & when, and what your hobbies are (golf app and everything else in iCloud) where you work, and what music, movies and books you like, as well as who you hang out with. Basically everything about you. For Google this big-data is why they are getting into automotive — to monetize this for targeted ads, among other things. We know Apple won’t do that, but they do want to leverage their existing infrastructure and cross-sell across their platforms. Apple Car (self-driving) allows driver and passenger to consume all kinds of media through a more innovative delivery pipeline than today. iTunes store, stock up on movies and music for spring-break road trips, FaceTime business meetings on your commute, MacBook built into the walls of the car to create PowerPoint files, anyone creating podcasts and other media real-time in this mobile compute platform. Siri responding to your request ‘Siri get me a coffee in five minutes’ en-route.
Then there is the business model. Will this be a shared mobility thing, where Apple Car competes with Uber robotaxis? Would it be better to get 20 different consumers into their car every day than just one, who leaves it parked for 90% of the time? I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure Apple has asked all these questions and more, and come to some conclusions on all of it. Imagine the scenario: you wake up, ‘Hey, Siri, take the kids to school 30 minutes earlier today… they have band. And get them food on the way, I forgot to pack their lunch.’ An autonomous Apple Car obliges, stops at the Starbucks drive-through on the way, your credit card is on file. Done. Easy. ‘Hey, Siri, I need to get to the office early…I forgot to do my expenses’ (although Siri will probably know that already and probably have rescheduled your day in advance, but this is just making a point). ‘Hey, Siri, go get Raquel and bring her to our lunch appointment’. The list never ends when you have a mobile software platform that can schedule your day, as Apple calendar can. And today maps can tell you when to leave for your appointments, now Apple Car just arrives at your door and takes you to whatever is on your calendar.
So I prefer the shared mobility theory. You and I don’t need to own a single car. What we do need is to purchase multiple trips during the day. Sometimes simultaneously as you need to get to work, send the kids to school, and take the cat to the vet, all at 8am. Siri says, ‘Hey no problem.’ And it’s all already scheduled. Three Apple Cars outside your door. Apple takes the kids, they are camera-monitored in a secure car the entire journey and you can FaceTime them to review their homework on the way whilst you are driven to the office; Apple takes the cat, pays the vet, and gets you to work. The productivity gains are in the $ trillions. Thanksgiving dinner? Apple Car delivers the groceries to your door, picks up Grandma and Grandpa even though they are way past their driving age and can barely see any more. The aging population are mobile for their lifetime. We haven’t even touched on the safety aspect: 1.2M road deaths globally per year. This is an epidemic, and self-driving cars cuts 90% of that or more, once the software algorithms are refined sufficiently.
I could go on and on … the point is, Apple Car as a big piece of metal is kind of dull to talk about. Apple Car as a mobile, connected, autonomous software platform opens up truly life-changing experiences and lifestyle, and the monetization opportunity for Apple is staggering to think about.