I’m coming around on this.

  1. Tesla controls their entire “stack,” starting with the batteries, which they are the best at in the world, and which they are heavily investing in. Just like Apple controls all of their hardware, starting with the processor.
  2. Tesla isn’t trying to tackle the low-end of the market. They are happy with being supply-constrained and at the high end, catering to the buyer with high standards and deep pockets. Given time, their hardware becomes more affordable, but still aggressively priced. Just like Apple.
  3. Tesla has started curating their own ecosystem of chargers, a network only available to their customers, and much of the benefit is free once you’ve bought the hardware (the car). Sounds just like the iTunes / App Store to me.
  4. Tesla also writes all their own software for the cars, while making money off the hardware. The software is free, regularly-updated, and can change pretty much any of the behavior of the car, including its suspension height at highway speeds (see sub-headline here). Sounds like every iOS device to me.
  5. Every other car has a system of buttons and knobs, while the Tesla uses a giant touchscreen glass panel. Sounds like the iPhone compared to its competitors in 2007, which all used hardware-based keyboards and styluses.
  6. Assembling commodity materials with a world-class design team to create something so advanced yet so obvious that it’s a wonder why the competition is stuck with their complexities (solar electricity vs gas extracted from foreign crude oil) (aluminum and glass vs giant, complex mechanical hunks of iron requiring regular maintenance).
  7. With self-driving cars, the auto industry is about to make a giant leap forward, just like the phone industry did with Apple as the leader.

OK, so there are some similarities. Apple would only build cars, though, if it could help their entire product line. How would that happen?

  1. Most obviously, iOS in the car, running all of the best navigation and entertainment apps for the passengers. More ecosystem lock-in would mean their car customers would become iPhone and iPad customers.
  2. Battery tech and materials used in the car would also be used in the phones, probably with a robust recycling system. Tim Cook likes green things.
  3. When it comes to self-driving cars, deep integration with your iOS devices would let your robot car find you and pick you up at just the right moment.

I guess the biggest mark against this would be the potential loss of focus for Apple. Like I said before, they take deep pride in having very few products, and doing them very well, and allowing their small executive team to stay tightly involved with all aspects of every product. The Tesla acquisition would have to make the company more focused for it to start making sense.

Posted Mon 03 March 2014