Gene Munster: Would Apple build a product that kills?

From a note to Loup Venture subscribers that landed on my desktop late Monday:

The philosophical question on safety An Apple-branded car creates an intense philosophical dilemma for Apple; do you build products that may result in the loss of life? In 2019, almost 39k people lost their lives in auto accidents in the US. We believe this dynamic is important to Tim Cook, who may be reluctant to release a standalone car given this risk. For tech companies, this dynamic is amplified given when they are involved in an auto fatality, it generates media attention, evidenced by any fatal Tesla accident or the Uber self-driving accident. The reality is that cars are dangerous, and tech will make them safer. That said, tech companies need to get more comfortable with negative press that will come in building towards this better future.

Apple TV, a cautionary tale For years, we predicted Apple would launch an Apple-branded television. All of the markings were there. The TV experience was broken, an Apple-branded TV fit nicely within the company’s product road map, and Apple hired people from the TV panel industry to build a prototype. To cap it off, Steve Jobs even mentioned “an integrated television set… I finally cracked it.”

In the end, I was wrong. Apple never did a TV. As talk of Apple Car gains momentum, I’m reminded of a valuable lesson I learned the hard way: just because Apple is working on a product doesn’t mean it will see the light of day.

My take: Munster is a mensch.

14 Comments

  1. Tommo_UK said:
    Car companies don’t suffer reputational or brand risk unless accidents are linked to manufacturing or safety defects. Cars don’t kill. Bad drivers do, mostly.

    I doubt this is a concern for Apple. Safety will be its overriding priority and one of its selling points, considering the company’s stance on privacy for its other products, if there ever is an actual Apple Car.

    What I’d like to know is if privacy glass will come as standard or an optional extra 🙂

    3
    December 22, 2020
  2. Chris Ferebee said:
    Gotta love Horace’s tweet:

    “Looking forward to Apple getting P/E of 1600 on Apple Car news. (Because everyone knows that Cars are both faster growing and more profitable than phones, tablets, computers, wearables and services.)” – @asymco

    I’ve been burned more than once, but it’s hard not to see this as a trading opportunity.

    4
    December 22, 2020
  3. Bart Yee said:
    If Apple builds a car with autonomous operation, you can be damn sure its optical and lidar sensors will be very very well calibrated and set up to avoid anything that may be in the way or try to optimize an avoidance maneuver. If the software is tied tightly into the hardware and automotive performance parameters (a la Porsche’s active suspension, traction control, selective braking, understeer/oversteer protection) and hyper-sensitivity to weather and road surface conditions (conservative speed, cornering, and following parameters), control of the vehicle can be actually quite precise for accident avoidance.

    As such, the vehicle CPU would have to be able to handle hundreds of thousands of microsecond spaced inputs from multiple types of sensors all around the car, including video, mapping, and even human ones too. In an ICE system, the engine itself has its own CPU brain to control engine and transmission parameters so quite a bit is relieved in an electric to be replaced with up to 4 wheel drive electric motor management and active suspension settings.

    Anybody know where Apple could get a CPU/SOC chip like that?? 🙂

    4
    December 22, 2020
  4. Martin Beutling said:
    “Apple TV, a cautionary tale For years, we predicted Apple would launch an Apple-branded television. All of the markings were there. The TV experience was broken, an Apple-branded TV fit nicely within the company’s product road map, and Apple hired people from the TV panel industry to build a prototype. To cap it off, Steve Jobs even mentioned “an integrated television set… I finally cracked it.”

    In the end, I was wrong. Apple never did a TV. As talk of Apple Car gains momentum, I’m reminded of a valuable lesson I learned the hard way: just because Apple is working on a product doesn’t mean it will see the light of day.”

    I absolutely value Genes opinion, someone who gets Apple right….but when it comes to a TV, a respectfully disagreed.
    I was sure that Apple would never do a TV, because its ecosystem would stand in contrast to everything Apple learned and loved about iPhone/iPad/iPod: short replacement cycles, easy to transport, easy take away from a store, easy to bring in to get it repaired and so on.

    With a car, it will be different because people will compare it to other cars when it comes to maintaining, other than with a TV, when people would have expected the same service they got with an iPxxx-device.

    3
    December 22, 2020
    • Bart Yee said:
      Agree Martin! IMO, biggest hurdles for large Apple TV displays is logistics, inventory, physical or online sales, management & repair issues. That’s just the physical side. Then pricing, panel yields, partner production, quality & standards adherence.

      Apple TV box became Steve’s foray into improving interface & streaming ambitions – hardware/software were a step up from dismal text, hunt/peck UI, overly buttoned remotes & interfaces in most TV, Blu-Ray players, & set top control boxes thought up by mostly engineers, not UX experts!!

      Content providers would not cooperate back in 2010. Cable, Hollywood Studios & TV production was (and is) still tied into old White CEO/mogul/power broker systems tied into big money, big deals, old style distribution. That has slowly changed, hastened by cord cutting, streaming, self-created streaming channels. Steve could have had that integrated much faster 10 yrs ago but none willing to play, especially after seeing what Apple did to/for the Music Industry. Today, content providers are falling all over themselves to highest streaming service bidders if not keeping it for themselves; Covid pandemic really accelerated this move. Can Apple TV still create mini-skinny-bundles that people would subscribe into + smoothly integrate video/TV streaming w/much improved user interface/remote/even gaming system for home consumption? Whether the market, infrastructure, and content providers will all align, that is the question.

      1
      December 22, 2020
  5. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Well, the positive news has helped.
    🙂

    Repeating:
    “ I had a limit sell order for a squirt of AAPL shares from last month for 130 that just executed at 131.61 (pre-split 526.44) at the opening bell this morning.

    I only sell when it climbs & never below a previous sell I’ve made.

    Fun! “

    1
    December 22, 2020
  6. David Baraff said:
    I agree with the above. I’m going to go out on a limb and make a claim: Apple is not going to enter the business of making a car. They’ve got too many other interesting things to do.

    Time will tell if I have to eat those words.

    2
    December 22, 2020
  7. Gregg Thurman said:
    I’m torn on the subject. A car doesn’t fit the consumer electronics/software ecosystem focus of Apple, just as an actual TV didn’t.

    But there were so many “clues” that suggest otherwise, from auto industry hires to a several hundred acre test track.

    I going to chime in with a big I don’t know. However, if Apple does build one, I’m confident it will be designed to compete with Infiniti, Benz, etc., and it will do something the others don’t, and do it in a magical way.

    Oh, and I wish I had bigger gonads and had purchased yesterday after dropping as AAPL did. But then my biggest losses were caused by gonad logic, at least this way I’m not going to lose on a bigger drop.

    0
    December 22, 2020
    • Martin Beutling said:
      Gregg, I respectfully disagree….

      First, an EV would fit PERFECTLY into Apples Ecosystem, think of CarPlay or the new CarKey for the Wallet. Additionally, EVs are all about sensors and software and so absoluletly in Apples area of expertise.

      Second, they would be stupid to try to compete in the high-end sector. They wouldn’t need much time to construct a car, but it would take decades to reach such a level of quality that Mercedes or BMW is offering its customers.

      From my opinion, they would gain much traction in the small- to midsize section.
      It is a completely different task to design and create a good looking tech-toy (especially when the competitors make only ugly devices) or to design a 5-digit car with leather interior and wood-finish on the dashboard.

      2
      December 22, 2020
  8. Thomas Larkin said:
    I could easily picture Apple being intimately involved in the design details of the frame, body (including passenger compartment safety), drive train, suspension, etc., of the physical vehicle, into which its brain and software will be put, and integrated with.

    1
    December 22, 2020
  9. scottdclarke@gmail.com said:
    Apple already sells a product that kills people. How many people wearing iPods died walking out in the streets not hearing the vehicle about to hit them

    0
    December 22, 2020
  10. Dan Scropos said:
    Apple Car is the new Apple TV. No way they’re making a car. They’re going to sell the software and battery technology to an existing high end manufacturer. They’re not going to own assets for automobile manufacturing. They’re going to own the experience in someone else’s automobile. And they’re going to make a LOT of money doing so.

    1
    December 22, 2020
  11. Ralph McDarmont said:
    As another commenter mentioned, Apple is a consumer electronics marvel. I always viewed the car idea as a side gig, probably driven by Sir Ives, a guy in the same league as Jobs. Apple has the brains and technology to make anything better, even cars. Plus Apple has a lot of cash, which would allow the outright purchase of Ford, Nissan, or both. I say let Apple steer the design, technology and marketing, while an established car builder does the assembly. IMO Apple has never placed profit as the primary focus. Profit is a consequence of innovation. Apple focuses on perfection. They grab a good thing and make it infinitely better.

    1
    December 22, 2020
  12. Steven Philips said:
    @PED
    “He’s a mensch.
    He’s a MUNSTER Mensch!
    He caught on in a flash.
    He’s a Munster mensch.” 🙂

    Also, FWIW, I think with government standards the software and sensors on self driving cars will become commoditized. Too low priced to make significant $$ on. And new battery tech is still open to competition so I don’t see a long term benefit from a recent “breakthrough”. AND, I think current manufacturers want the same structure of putting together these commodity parts bin parts.I don’t think they’ll rush out to get in on an all Apple system that may be one-upped the next year. Sooo, I think APPLE just MAY make the whole widget. Use their own parts and design and interfaces and add the ecosystem, services, add ons etc.Like they’re doing now with their other products. I just don’t see them as a parts (systems are parts) supplier to others.

    1
    December 22, 2020

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