Is an Apple car the next iPod or the next Apple Television?

It could make a lot of sense and very little sense, at the same time.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
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Brian Cooley
2 min read

Where does a car fit in Apple's plans? The iPod represents one possible comparison: It was a pivotal product that moved Apple from being just a computer company, and it set the table for the iPhone. Or it could be like the Apple Television, which represented an obvious entry point but into an otherwise unattractive market -- but it never happened. 

More than technology, Apple is all about concrete, profitable growth. If a car is coming, our predictions have to reconcile with that.

"It's very clear Apple has ambitions to build a car," says Gene Munster, Managing Partner of Loup Ventures and a cogent Apple watcher. "It was not clear six months ago." But ambitions can come in many forms. If it did make a car, Apple would certainly contract out the actual manufacturing, as it does with its electronics products. It may focus on one part of a car as its signature, much as the original iPhone was differentiated by its full screen user interface and operating system, while it lagged in copy and paste, 3G and other features.


Apple probably wouldn't enter the market with a sports coupe. For all its high design pretensions, Apple has made a good living focusing on suburban America, so a compact or midsize crossover would make the most sense.

One path the company will almost certainly avoid is contributing to another brand of car. "Licensing models are a lot easier to approach," says Munster, "but it's just not in Apple's DNA to do that."

The timing of a car may be more lax than many breathlessly predict. "I think it's important to make a distinction between when Apple works on something compared to when it sees the light of day," says Munster. Compounding that deliberate approach is the fact that battery prices keep falling, working in Apple's favor as it decides whether car-making is compatible with its remarkable run at building corporate value.

One way Munster doesn't expect to see an Apple car is as a partnership with Tesla, as logical as that might be at an industrial level. The two companies are headstrong and committed to undiluted visions of their products, so not necessarily good collaborators.

Watch the embedded video to see me walk through the pros and cons of the most difficult thing to predict about Apple.