More and more rumours are coming out about “Project Titan”, which is allegedly the code name for Apple’s electric car initiative. It’s now considered an “open secret” by almost everyone.
The first rumours about Apple’s electric car project (let’s just call it "Apple Car") came in early 2015. An unconfirmed report claimed that Apple had been considering the effort for quite some time. Rumours should naturally be taken with a grain of salt and Apple is known for never confirming or denying rumours.
However, what seems to be a fact is that Apple is recruiting a lot of engineers with skills and experience from the automotive industry – a move which Elon Musk commented by saying "It's pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it”. It also seems to be the case that Apple is scouting for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area for a new automotive test base.
In other words, while Apple has remained tight-lipped about its car project, several credible sources including the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian claim that something is cooking in Cupertino. That would make sense because Apple’s customers and shareholders have been yearning for "the next big thing" for a long time.
Indeed, the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, which is ages ago in the fast moving tech world. Nothing that Apple has introduced since then has reached similar heights, at least not in terms of number of units sold. According to the Financial Times, iPhone will soon reach 1 billion units sold. Apple’s latest product the Watch is currently on a completely different sales trajectory and will probably never reach that same milestone.
Apple must be under tremendous pressure to prove that they still know how to develop innovative and category defining products, even though Steve Jobs isn’t around anymore. It’s not just a question of image, there are no alternatives if they wish to remain the most valuable company in the world.
If Apple Car truly is the company’s biggest bet for the future, I see at least two major problems ahead.
First, an electric car is by no means a revolutionary product anymore. After Tesla’s success almost all major car manufacturers are talking about going electric. Even if you would add autonomous driving into the formula, it’s still not a revolutionary product anymore. In fact, several car manufacturers have also autonomous driving on their roadmaps. Unless Apple has something truly remarkable up its sleeve, they won’t be able to produce a similar wow-effect as they did with the iPhone and iPad.
Second, Apple is very late in this game. If the earliest possible launch is in 2021 as some reports claim, the schedule is going to be a serious headache. Just think about how much will happen within the field of electric cars during the next five years! At the time of the launch, Apple will not be seen as the front-runner but instead as one competitor among many others.
Considering the challenges Apple is facing with its its car initiative, it seems more than likely that they will end up buying another player just to speed things up. Tesla would be the perfect candidate, but a joint venture with another major car manufacturer, like BMW for example, could also be an alternative.
The good part is that if Apple is indeed entering the electric car business, it will deliver a major boost to the overall progress within the industry. That will almost certainly benefit us all.