Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Apple Car

Apple CEO, Tim Cook and Didi President, Jean Liu in China
When Apple invested $1B in Didi Chuxing, the "Uber" of ride sharing in China, it got me thinking...

What do wrist watches and cars have in common? They've both been around for a hundred years and, in my life time, there hasn't been significant innovation prior to the last decade. Until recently, cars have used internal combustion engines to transport people and wrist watches simply told time.

Over the last dozen years, we've seen automobiles transition from internal combustion engines to hybrid and pure electric cars. While it's still a nascent technology, with single digit market share, it's growing. The same is true for wrist watches which have been simple digital or analog devices with limited functionality beyond telling time. Once a technology has matured, it frequently becomes a fashion item such as clothes, cars, condos, and color choices, to name a few. A $10,000 watch doesn't necessarily tell better time than a $10 watch; and a $110,000 car doesn't get you to your destination faster than a $10,000 car. The inside of a $299 Apple Watch is the same as a $17,000 Apple Watch.

Before the Apple Watch, Apple could choose the form factor for their products. Simply look at the Apple II, Mac, iMac, iPod, etc to see how Apple dictated the industrial design. That changed with the Apple Watch where Apple had to fit the technology into a predefined form factor while making it fashionable. Wearable high tech is hard to make fashionable, as we saw with Google Glass. The key to rapid adoption is packing innovative technology into a familiar form factor.

For years, there's been a long standing rumor that Apple is developing a car. The details are secret and many Apple R&D products never see the light of day. But it seems clear that Apple's working on something automotive related, whether it's an entire electric car or merely software for a car.

Perhaps, Apple can bring to market a self-driving electric car, which is the holy grail of personal transportation. Now, imagine if you produced a self-driving car and you owned a transportation network company?

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