Apple Car Update

The tech and automotive world have been abuzz about the prospect of an Apple Car over the past year. While Apple has been silent on its automotive ambitions, the media has covered the tech titan’s every public auto-related move, such as snapping up car tech talent, inquiring about use of a Northern California autonomous-vehicle test track and speaking with the California DMV about self-driving car regulations.

While such media coverage gives a glimpse of what Apple’s Project Titan may entail, there are other indicators of what an iCar could mean for consumer as well as for the auto industry. At the recent C3 Connected Mobility Summit in San Francisco, a presentation titled “What We Can Expect from the Apple Car” used a data-driven approach to paint a picture of the tech giant’s potential entrance into automotive.

Participants in the presentation were John Suh, director at Hyundai Ventures, and Sarah Pilewski, principal at the data analytics firm Quid. In the first part of the presentation, Suh and Pilewski looked at how Apple traditionally launches new products and enters new industries.

For its initial entrance into the phone market, for example, Apple partnered with Motorola to launch an iTunes player on the Rokr E1 in September of 2005. But because the phone had a maximum usable memory of 1 GB and was restricted by its firmware to allow only 100 songs, the Rokr E1 sold well below expectations, which eventually caused friction between Apple and Motorola. By the time the follow-up E2, was released four months later, iTunes was dropped from the device and in June 2007 Apple released its own iPhone.

Suh and Pilewski pointed out that when Apple originally entered the phone market, incumbents such as smartphone pioneer BlackBerry were skeptical of its success and also openly critical of the iPhone’s touch interface, which has since become the industry standard. And by the time RIM followed Apple’s lead by releasing the touch-based Storm in 2008, the market had moved on and the opportunity had been lost. Suh and Pilewski pointed out that RIM CEO Jim Balsille said at the time, “We can’t be who we used to be anymore.”


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