The ecosystem realities around Apple Car that keep Tim Cook up at night

Thoughts on Apple car, Part 5

Jean-Louis got me thinking.

Apple wants to control the primary technologies behind its products. Many have cited manufacturing as being one of the most important areas ripe for innovation – historically it’s been a source of change in the automotive industry.

But what about the primary experiences alongside Apple’s products? What are they and can they control them?

With the Mac, Apple put an all-in-one computer onto people’s desks. It required a power source – not more. Only with the internet, Apple needed to start dealing with an experience-defining parameter from a third party it couldn’t control: You had to have an internet service provider, probably with a slow connection, making weird noises in the beginning, and you were visiting websites that may have looked broken or incomplete in Safari (because they were built for Explorer) and were taking endlessly to load in the first place.

For Apple, there wasn’t a lot to do about it, they could only make sure that the rest of your startup experience was getting faster – so you’d have a positive experience with the product and could easily tell who’s to blame for the bad parts.


With iPod + iTunes, they started to solve ecosystem problems. After having the core hardware product, they actually tackled the whole process of browsing and buying music. We know now how that not only shaped the experience but the industry. It was clear who the bad guys were, but Apple saved us.


With iPhone, the bad guys were – from the start – the telecom providers. Starting with AT&T, they surrendered for the sake of being the first ones offering iPhone and played the bad cop in the customer experience equation. Slow connections, dropped calls, … everything was blamed on AT&T (and others later).

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However, Apple also gave telcos an unimaginably strong new business: data plans. A virtual good that is virtually constrained and throttled unless you pay more – heaven for a service business, and an incentive to invest in better infrastructure.

The question for the Apple car is:

What are the sources for bad experiences, can Apple involve them in making it better by offering them a great business they didn’t have before?

One example (there will be more):

The quality of roads will be essential to the driving experience of the Apple car. Why? Because it could be a differentiator to other cars, since they all need to go on the same roads.

Cars can’t go everywhere, and Apple’s cars won’t only go on rails like trains do.

But since they are (probably) selfdriving cars, the experience changes for the passengers.

  • When you drive on your own, and all the passengers look in the same direction, they see bumps coming, they see it coming when there will be a turn, an overtaking manouvre, or just breaking and accelerarion. They can anticipate.
  • When the car drives itself, there’s no need anymore to look into the same direction the car is going. Everyone can do something else.

Since with more time you’d engage in deeper activities like watching a movie or reading or writing, you’d be more than subtly interrupted by bumps and turns. Imagine your Apple Pencil bumping off your iPad Pro that is on top of the table in your car. You wouldn’t be able to take notes or draw, without the risk of being disturbed by the ecosystem’s overall experience.

Because this problem may affect the user experience of Apple’s other previous products as well, it’s critical and needs to be solved.

So, what could Apple do to improve the roads its car will be driving on?


Read parts one, two, three, and four.

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