Apple Car’s USP will be design.
Neil Cybart a few weeks back had a great summary of what makes Apple Apple.
He sharpened the role of Apple’s ambition to own the core technologies behind their products:
»Apple views core technologies not as products themselves, but as ingredients for something else.«
Instead of wanting to chase after technology’s raw capability, Apple is more interested in technology’s functionality as it relates to the user experience. This brings up Jobs’ reference to Apple being at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. By looking at the world through this lens, we receive a clearer roadmap as to where Apple is headed in terms of product strategy.
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A classic example of core tech being „an ingredient for something else“ is AR. This is not a product, but will be core to one. The iPhone? We will know in September. The car? We will know in a few years.
I expect AR to shape the inside product experience of Apple Car.
Neil went on with his argument (emphasis mine):
Apple is researching autonomous driving technology because it will be a core ingredient powering a range of Apple products in the transportation space. Instead of partnering with legacy auto companies, Apple will look to do everything on its own. The motivation and ambition in such a move is born from Apple’s adherence to design and the quest to control the entire user experience.
Just like Apple designed even the pizza box for its new campus, it will try to control as much of the user experience of next generation cars. This will involve doing the whole thing. It’s just too big of an opportunity. And it leverages Apple’s USP: Design.
We can expect many legacy and entering carmakers to chase a fraction of the autonomous car business. The problem really is that it won’t be about the car itself, not its performance features, nor the experience of driving.
Autonomous mobility will be only about the experience of getting somewhere else.
It is probably an even more profound change that the one the iPhone caused, because you still own your phone (rather than rent it), you’d still charge it like any other phone (rather than the thing charging itself), and you’d still mess around with data plans (rather than just hiring it for a job and letting everything else go).
A self-driving car may be lifted from so many of the legacy burdens of cars, that it will be hard to grasp.
So this is a design challenge, to make adopting the new tech as easy as possible.
A core Apple strength.
Remember the advent of the iMac, the first friendly looking computer. Skeuomorphism, the design language to help gap mental models. iPad was a new thing but you couldn’t do anything wrong, you could hold it in any direction, you couldn’t mess up the software.
Design is how it works.
As I said before, Apple Car will compete on experience not on features or performance. This will be a big difference not only to legacy carmakers, but also to Tesla. They are doing an electric car, sure, but they compete on performance and standard car features: Acceleration, torque, how many people fit in, safety, how much room you have.
The difference in experience to normal cars is actually quite small.
Apple Car needs to be different, and better.
It will have a different emphasis:
It will have Apple design.