Could Apple be successful with a car? Well the company Newer Macintosh was distinguished not only by fast chips, but also by unprecedented autonomy. So it’s no surprise that we’ve heard that the Apple car will have revolutionary battery technology, a game changer for electric cars. (Macs, on the other hand, still need “dongles” to connect to common peripherals such as printers, light rings, and external drives.)
But even more important will be whether Apple can produce something that transforms the concept of what a car is. This could be a challenge, as most of Tesla has already done so. When you drive a Tesla, or even sit in one as a passenger, it’s immediately clear that the technology now central to our lives has finally been incorporated into cars. The dashboard, with its large screen, offers maximum access not only to the functions of the car, but also to the connected world around it. Some people even called Tesla a iPhone on wheels.
It is a difficult act to follow. But which company is better positioned to challenge Musk than the one that made the iPhone?
Sadly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, this is something Detroit automakers don’t seem to understand. In 2015, I visited Bill Ford, the president of the company bearing his name, and asked him what he thought of Telsa. He gave it measured praise, as if it was just another competitor who had just come off a conventional assembly line. I wanted to shake it up. It’s not a question of transmission, Bill, it’s a paradigm shift! The same year, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, was asked a similar question during a conference– the interlocutor was about to beg her to recognize Tesla, and her answer was just as obtuse. Yes, she had driven a Telsa, she said. The nicest thing she said about it was that it was ‘new’. Six years later, both companies have credible EVs, but they don’t take your breath away like a Tesla does. This is why Tesla’s share price is several times that of Ford and GM combined.
So it seems logical that Apple has the best chance of going up against Elon Musk to rule the roads of this century. The Apple car isn’t a sure thing (and of course Apple hasn’t commented on its plans), but if it does show up, hopefully the iCar reflects the earth-shattering redesign that Jobs himself brought to the personal computer, music players and telephones. And that it does not require a dongle for charging.
Here is an excerpt from Backchannel story I wrote about this interview with Bill Ford, which took place in his office in Dearborn, Michigan, “a paneled man cave full of toys and memories”. But, Henry Ford’s great-grandson told me, it was designed with durable materials, from acoustic tiles to rugs: