Understanding Apple’s Car Strategy
A version of this essay was originally published at Tech.pinions, a website dedicated to informed opinions, insight and perspective on the tech industry. (Insider Exclusives registration required for this one.)
Not long after the original iPhone came out, I had a friend who was close to a major luxury-brand auto maker. He also knew Steve Jobs well. My friend asked Jobs if he was interested in talking to this company about finding a way to connect an iPhone to its entertainment system. From what I know of this meeting, I understand that, once Jobs talked to this company, a lot of lights went on in his head about how Apple could work with auto makers to integrate Apple’s technology into future cars.
Indeed, I suspect the roots of CarPlay can be traced to this meeting between Jobs and this auto company and, since then, Apple has courted and won support from just about every car maker to connect or integrate an iOS-based device and their services into their current and future models.
Over the last few months, there has been a lot of chatter in the tech world about the idea that Apple is building a smart or driverless car, and they have hired a series of top auto-industry execs and engineers that would seem to bolster that rumor. The basic word on the street is Apple has a secret lab, and has various car prototypes they are working on with the idea of creating an actual car that would have an Apple logo on it.
While this speculation is interesting, count me as one of the serious skeptics on Apple actually making a branded car and selling it as a standalone vehicle, regardless of how smart it could be. If they really wanted to get into the smart-car business, just buy Tesla and work with them to add Apple’s intelligence and services to this vehicle. Clearly, they have the money to do this if it was strategic to their future.
I believe Apple’s plans are much grander than doing its own car. I keep coming back to that meeting. I can imagine that, as Jobs thought through the original deal, he started formulating a big picture concept around a “what if” Apple could do more with car companies. Getting them to support the iPhone was a good first step, but over time, as iOS became an important OS in its own right and could handle music, entertainment, apps, sensors, cameras, etc., why not create the technology to make all cars smart and tie them to Apple apps and services?
I do believe Apple has car prototypes in its labs, as some have suggested. But I believe they are there to help the company create a radical smart/intelligent connected-car architectural design that could be licensed to all car companies or be part of an integrated solution.
I do believe Apple has car prototypes in its labs, as some have suggested. But I believe they are there to help the company create a radical smart/intelligent connected-car architectural design that could be licensed to all car companies or be part of an integrated solution. Apple would work with car companies to customize future models that would be smarter and perhaps safer than any car on the market today.And from Reuters:
The operative word here is “safer.” In my talks with car companies, it has become clear that, while they want to create smarter and safer cars, one of the challenges is to have a rich operating system that would allow them to handle all types of cameras, sensors and, perhaps equally important, is an operating system that can be tied to apps and services. For each company to try and create its own OS and convince developers to support it would be a difficult proposition....MORE
Apple, BMW in courtship with an eye on car collaboration
BMW (BMWG.DE) and Apple (AAPL.O) may rekindle a courtship put on hold after an exploratory visit by executives of the world's top maker of electronic gadgets to the headquarters of the word's biggest seller of premium cars.
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook went to BMW's headquarters last year and senior Apple executives toured the carmaker's Leipzig factory to learn how it manufactures the i3 electric car, two sources familiar with the talks told Reuters.
The dialogue ended without conclusion because Apple appears to want to explore developing a passenger car on its own, one of the sources said.
Also, BMW is being cautious about sharing its manufacturing know-how because it wants to avoid becoming a mere supplier to a software or internet giant.HT on the second article: The Big Picture
During the visit, Apple executives asked BMW board members detailed questions about tooling and production and BMW executives signaled readiness to license parts, one of the sources said. News of the Leipzig visit first emerged in Germany's Manager-Magazin last week.
"Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too," a senior BMW source said.
The carmaker says there are currently no talks with Apple about jointly developing a passenger car and Apple declined to comment. However, one of the sources said exploratory talks between senior managers may be revived at a later stage.
It is too early to say whether this will be a replay of Silicon Valley's Prometheus moment: The day in 1979 when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs visited Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center where the first mouse-driven graphical user interface and bit-mapped graphics were created, and walked out with crucial ideas to launch the Macintosh computer five years later....MORE
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