Remember When Apple Was Building A Television?

The latest Apple rumour hype to make the rounds is their car which, according to “insiders”, will be shipping in 2019. Major publications have all jumped on this new bandwagon (just Google for it, the links are too numerous to bother including). It’s starting to sound like the Apple Television Round 2.

Supposedly Solid Sources

For nearly 4 years, “experts”, “pundits” and “analysts” all predicted Apple was going to build a television. Every time an Apple event was planned, a horde of these people people would state that this announcement would include the fabled television. It was going to “revolutionize the way we watch TV” and it was a “fundamental transformation” that cable and satellite providers were not going to be ready for.

And it wasn’t like this was being pulled out of thin air. Of course, every one of these so-called “experts” got their information from “insiders”, someone in Apple that was leaking what was coming. On top of this, these “experts” would pull together other information (ads for new hires, types of people joining the company, domains being registered) to act as “evidence” to back up their claims.

The “experts” were certain, and when a television was not announced, either proclaimed it was a mistake, or simply put off their prediction until the next Apple event was scheduled, or when it was a slow day for Apple news a rumours. It was endless.

About the only thing that interrupted it, briefly, was the “all the glass will now be sapphire”, with one piece of “hard evidence” being Apple’s partnership with a sapphire manufacturer (which went out of business, and their factory is now going to be an iCloud server farm). Oh, and the usual “insiders” giving them the scoop. The only sapphire that Apple has used so far? The sapphire in the touch ID sensor, the protection for the camera lens and on Apple Watches. The usual glass areas remained glass.

So, Now They’re Building A Car (Maybe)

Now, the braying crowd has decided that Apple is going to build a car. The current “solid rumour” is that the car will be announced/shipped/released/made public sometime in 2019. This is backed up by “insiders”, apparently those same, oh-so-reliable insiders, that spoke about the television we never saw.

Of course, Apple has hired a few automotive engineers. Not exactly a staggering number of them, and they do cross the spectrum needed to build a car. So, sure, they may be designing a new car. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

On the other hand, these simply could be there to beef up Apple’s presence in the automotive market to help expand CarPlay. Another explanation: Apple is experimenting, but it may never see the light of day. Apple does spend around $6 billion a year on R&D. A lot of that will be more “R” than “D”. It isn’t unusual for most internal research to get put on a shelf, with some of the lessons learned (but not necessarily the actual research product) applied in different ways to existing technologies.

Would They?

it is entirely possible Apple might make a car. They swore up and down for nearly 2 years they weren’t going to make a smartphone, and did anyways. If they are building a car, what could it look like? Assuming Apple wants to navigate the maze of regulations for a car (which make the rules for a wireless device look like a stroll in the lark), it may not be what we expect in some ways.

For starters, it will likely be all-electric. Getting any kind of internal combustion engine certified is a bit of work, particularly for emissions (- insert obligatory VW-cheating joke here-). With zero tailpipe emissions, putting them on the road is definitely easier. They may also be autonomous, although the rules for those are extremely limited and the technology has a long, long way to go. Building a conventional car is easier to get on the road, although it has its own challenges.

But imagine this: an autonomous car service. Don’t think “iPhone”, think “iCloud”. Rather than building a car that people would lease or buy, Apple could be building what amounts to an autonomous taxi service. Rather than an up-and-down cycle of purchases, with customers buying a new vehicle every 4 years, plus requiring a dealer network (no direct sales from storefronts, because that’s illegal throughout the US and Canada), Apple has a service that represents a continuous revenue stream.

Apple building a car, even just as an experiment, isn’t out of left field. Turning that into real product that you can sell is a different prospect. But using it as the basis for a new service, that might be a way to go. It still requires all the regulatory hurdles, but it avoids the whole “selling cars to people” bit, which in North America (the largest car market in the world right now) is incredibly hard.

Advertisements