In a Bloomberg opinion piece, early Facebook executive, founder and managing partner of the venture firm the Social Capital Partnership, co-owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, and Apple fan Chamath Palihapitiya says that rather than messing around with an iTV and/or an iWatch (like this writer, Palihapitiya says he prefers mechanical watches), or issuing bonds, a Steve Jobs-led Apple would be working on something grander, like an Apple iCar.
That’s not entirely a flight of fancy. In an interview with The New York Times’ John Markoff not long before his death, Steve Jobs noted that if he had more energy, he would’ve liked to take on Detroit with an Apple car.”
Palihapitiya ventures that the most important part of his life that Apple could meaningfully improve—and that he would want them to take over—is his car. He notes that people love cars, and an Apple iCar would be beautiful, connected, and intelligent, and do all the little things that delight you and make you fall in love with your car. And that he would buy one. Too bad Apple would rather sell him a watch or a bond. As a fellow crossover car aficionado and Apple product admirer, I totally get where Palihapitiya is coming from. Maybe an iWatch, if Apple does eventually make one, will be another market hit and paradigmatic game-changer, but the concept puts me in mind of erstwhile comic strip detective Dick Tracy’s science fiction wrist radio, later upgraded to wrist TV. It seems cartoonish.
Instead, Palihapitiya contends that Apple should buy Tesla Motors and make Elon Musk CEO. That notion isn’t entirely fanciful, either. Earlier this year, Automobile Magazine’s David Zenlea reported that Tesla Motors CEO and founder Musk refers to the Tesla Model S, which the magazine selected as its 2013 “Automobile Of The Year”, as his “Macintosh,” also observing that the sleek, all-electric Tesla sedan has a distinctly Apple-esque aura about it, with even the smallest details having been lavished with attention in order to be as distinctive and elegant as possible.
With Elon Musk and Tesla, Palihapitiya says Apple would be entering the $80 billion-plus global car market “… with a highly technical team that can build an amazing product at the high end of the market, and that’s run by a maniacal visionary with extreme ambition. Sound familiar?”
The right move now, he says, would be for Apple to enter the car space, buy Tesla, and make Elon Musk the CEO. But obviously this will never happen. “The market is too big. Tesla is too good, and [Apple CEO Tim] Cook is probably too weak to do something this radical.”
That’s a bit harsh, but the Apple iCar idea does entice and tantalize.