Friday, July 24, 2015

Apple Car May Take On Nexus-Style Design by Working with BMW's i3 as Its First iCar

Here is a rumor that I find interesting enough that to speculate on what Apple's auto plans may be.  Supposed Apple isn't quite ready to build a car on its own or not in the time frame that it wants to push out an Apple car.  It would have to find a partner.  In this rumor (9to5Mac), Apple may be in talks with BMW (or had discussions) to use the i3 (wiki) as the basis for its own car. 

It's anyone's guess why Apple is talking to BMW and only a tell-all-book about Tim Cook, Jony Ives, or just the iCar in 2020 will answer that question and it may not even be definitive, suppose Apple is not build its car right away.  Supposed it only wants to showcase its own designs and technology in an existing car like the i3 for the world to see - this is an Apple designed car. 

And it is willing to work with different brands, perhaps Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, or any other luxury brand cars to co-develop showcase electric vehicles not unlike how Google is using the Nexus devices to showcase its Android OS.  And perhaps, years later, Apple may eventually unveil a car wholly designed by its team without outside help.

Now, it would not be like the Motorola ROKR, the first "i" phone that had a flaw iPod support thich later gave way to the iPhone.  While Steve Jobs hated that monstrocity, Apple will put it 110% of its effort into cars it works on with other brands and they'll love them as much as if they had developed them themselves.  It will give Apple the ability to dip their toes into the auto industry without a full plunge, learn from the mistakes and then develop the iCar much later.  Of course, such partnerships with car companies will still exist even if Apple does end up selling its own car because Apple is not going to be able to release line after line of cars immediately.  It would take years if not decades.  Look at how long Telsa has expanded to a second model, the Model X, after the Model S.  The Model X is still no on the road.

Why would an auto company be interested in working with Apple?  Well, it is Apple after all.  That is a good enough reason.  Some companies will not want to work with Apple for obvious reasons.  They are doing well on their own and may not be keen on giving up control to some aspects of the design to another company even if it is Apple.  And Apple will likely have draconian terms that they'll want auto partners to adhere too.  It's like that it will be a bit flexible in trying to get BMW onboard but that is about it.  Apple will likely be willing to share some information with auto companies. For instance, like battery technology. 

In the long term, even if Apple end up parting ways with auto companies and end up going at it alone, it is better for them to have had the experience of working with Apple than not.  This is one instance where if an auto executive said "the phone or PC guys are not just gonna waltz in here and make a car that people will want to buy", most including Apple friendly media and blogs will likely agree. 

Apple does have a long roadmap for its involvement in the auto industry.  There are some ideal routes that it wants to follow but there are also twists and turns that are drawn out depending on market and economic conditions.  This includes a turn that takes into the account of Apple even not getting into this market at all if it cannot build a car that is better than what is already out on the road or it is unable to make money on it. 

But a Nexus model for Apple's cars in the first few years is not a bad plan at all.  The auto industry is a competitive market but it is also one where many companies also cooperate with one another to source parts or partner in other ways.  So, if this rumor is true, we may be looking at an Apple-BMW electric car on the road sooner than expected.

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