Why An Apple iCar Is Actually a Great Idea

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The New York Times‘ Nick Bilton reminded everyone recently what we previously learned from longtime Apple board member Mickey Drexler: Steve Jobs wanted to build an Apple iCar.

People tend to dismiss the idea as a goofy pipe dream. In fact, not only is an Apple iCar a great idea, it’s perfectly aligned with Apple’s history and mission.

Here’s how they should do it.

An automobile performs several functions. First and foremost, of course, it’s a conveyance — a device with a motor and wheels that transports human bodies, as well as groceries and golf clubs, from one place to another.

Secondarily, however, a car is a content consumption device. People listen to the radio, digital music, audiobooks and more — or chat on the phone — while they’re in their cars.

So that’s what a car is. But what is Apple?

People think of Apple as a computer company, or more recently a consumer electronics company. But that’s not really what they are or how they see themselves.

Apple views itself as a company that exists to save the world from horrible content consumption and communication interfaces.

They look around for industries where millions or billions of people are suffering from ugly, non-intuitive, clunky user interfaces with no help in sight, then step in to redesign a better way.

When the world was stuck with IBM PC DOS-like command line user interfaces, Apple stepped in with the Lisa and the Mac.

When music fans were suffering with clunky devices and interfaces for listing to portable CD players, Walkmans and horrible digital music players, they saved the music world with the iPod.

When people were stuck with BlackBerrys and other clunky, funky phones, Apple came out with the iPhone.

And when Microsoft and Intel wanted to force the Windows-based Tablet PC and Ultra-Mobile PC on the world, Apple saved us all by introducing the iPad.

I and many other believe that the TV is the next horrible content consumption experience that Apple intends to transform into something awesome.

So after the computer, music player, phone, tablet and TV, what’s the next biggest content consumption experience that currently sucks?

That’s right: Your car.

Apple Is Bigger Than Detroit

Another way to look at a car is by the types of expertise that goes into producing one. A car requires design expertise, computer expertise, user interface design, materials engineering and manufacturing prowess — all of which Apple is significantly better at than the car industry is.

Of course, the particulars of automobile design, computers, interfaces, materials and manufacturing are different from those in the consumer electronics industry. But such expertise can be easily purchased.

Anyone who thinks the car industry is a big, complex, expensive proposition for a company that makes little gadgets might want to reset their perspective.

Apple, in fact, could buy Ford, Chrysler and GM and pay in cash — and still have more than $18 billion left in the cash hoard. No, I’m not saying Apple could buy any of them. I’m saying Apple could literally buy ALL of them with cash on hand based on the value of their existing market caps.

Apple is a giant, powerful company compared with any US automaker — or even compared with all of them.

So one way for Apple to get into the car business would be for Apple to simply buy an existing car company.

But which one?

I think the answer is clear: Tesla Motors.

With that purchase they would have all the expertise and manufacturing capability they would need to build Apple-influenced cars.

Tesla is currently considered an extreme luxury brand with impossibly expensive electric cars. But they’ve been planning for years to bring out increasingly affordable cars, and are even now working on a car that should cost about $30,000.

Apple could influence the direction of future Tesla designs (which are already awesome), and totally take over the dashboard design. Right now, all Tesla dash controls are on a 17-inch touch screen, which is both leading-edge and desperately in need of Apple’s “touch,” if you will.

(Tesla showrooms are designed by Apple’s former retail chief, George Blankenship.)

By buying the world’s most innovative electric-car company, Apple would remain true to its mantra of investing in future technologies and abandoning the past.

And by transforming the user interface of the car, and also making the dashboard an awesome content consumption experience, Apple would continue its tradition of fixing bad design in content consumption.

Steve Jobs’ dream of building an Apple iCar is not only something Apple could do, it’s something they absolutely should do.

  • bozomac

    I want… Please recommend to Master Cook and Skipper Ive!

  • Chuckster

    Elon Musk is on his way to become the next Steve Jobs, so the Apple-Tesla acquisition would be worth it on many levels. I can definitely see Elon as Tim Cook’s successor in ten years.

    You left out the most exciting potential for a self-driving iCar which would revolutionize transportation as we know it. You also misinterpret Apple’s mission, which is far broader than mere consumption devices with pretty UI’s. It’s about blending technology and the liberal arts to change the world.

    The question that a massive risk like the iCar poses is whether Apple’s board and Tim Cook have the balls to pivot in this direction? I think Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene, should join Apple’s board to ensure her late husband’s vision is realized.

  • anth

    I would like to see them buy lotus, but i cant see them getting into the automotive industry
    theres no money in it!
    The big automotive oem’s are suffering at the moment.

  • johnnyv

    Love the idea , I’m an apple addict for sure sure such icar woudn’t be for everyone. Can’t even begin to imagine the price tag

  • aardman

    I want… Please recommend to Master Cook and Skipper Ive!

    Unless you are expressing a personal wish, Skippers outrank Masters.

  • Bob Smogango

    Elon Musk is on his way to become the next Steve Jobs, so the Apple-Tesla acquisition would be worth it on many levels. I can definitely see Elon as Tim Cook’s successor in ten years.

    You left out the most exciting potential for a self-driving iCar which would revolutionize transportation as we know it. You also misinterpret Apple’s mission, which is far broader than mere consumption devices with pretty UI’s. It’s about blending technology and the liberal arts to change the world.

    The question that a massive risk like the iCar poses is whether Apple’s board and Tim Cook have the balls to pivot in this direction? I think Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene, should join Apple’s board to ensure her late husband’s vision is realized.

    Who said anything about self-driving? Google’s working on that fiasco, but it would literally take at LEAST 30+ years AFTER it was approved to sell before it was affordable. Look at Anti-lock brakes and how long it took before it’s standard on all four wheels on every car sold from the date it first came on the market.

    I’m not too keen on self-driving cars. Mercedes and others are dealing with Pre-safe technology which is STILL not affordable to MOST people as they only have it on their most expensive models until they figure out how to sell it cheaper, but it takes YEARS before they bring down a new safety feature to the masses. It’s just how things work. The whole concept of self-driving cars for the average Joe Blow is YEARS away. In the mean time, Google can waste their money on it all day long.

  • MacAdvisor

    If Apple is going to buy anything, it should use its cash and some stock to buy The Walt Disney Company. That would give them access to a good chunk of content for the Apple TV and diversify their holdings for financial security.

  • stefn

    The iPlug, yes. Apple all by itself tamed and transformed computers into consumer devices. Cars are rapidly becoming CE appliances. Apple needs a huge hulking market sector for continued growth. More than that, Apple is happiest when it’s (a) doing hardware design and (b) creating disruption. Apple should take on the Everest of hardware challenges: the auto industry. I hope to be driving an Apple iPlug vehicle in five years.

  • kathryn1233

    Bella. I agree that Philip`s posting is unbelievable… on monday I got a new Car from having made $7552 this past 5 weeks and over ten-grand this past munth. it’s by-far the easiest work Ive had. I actually started seven months/ago and practically straight away startad making over $72 per/hr. I follow this website, jump15.comCHECK IT OUT

  • bdkennedy

    I think Apple’s stock would plummet if they were to acknowledge such a ridiculous idea. Just like the idea of Apple creating a TV, Apple isn’t going to flood the market by making cars. They will do it by making the car stereos. This area I guarantee you Apple will take over because car stereos SUCK.

  • joewaylo

    999 miles to the gallon. Never need to recharge for the month.

  • publicmat

    I have always liked the Gordon Murray t27. It is a three seat electric runabout that uses a different production method called iStream. This method has the potential to drastically reduce costs. The car is well suited to Apple fans in my opinion and offers a responsible way to commute to work without the consumption of gasoline. If produced for under 10K many drivers could offset a large portion of their current gas costs towards the lease of such a car. The design would need to be handled a bit by Mr. Ives and perhaps some of the drive train components or software could come from Tesla to boost range. I believe Apple has the cash flow and clout to make such a product viable.

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Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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