The tech world is buzzing about the rumor that Apple's plans to build a car. They bought Beats a while back because they needed talent that knows how to make things that people will wear (e.g. a watch). And now they're hiring talent from Tesla that knows how to build cars and software for cars. Benedict Evans had a great post on this topic on Saturday where he offered lots of ideas on the risks and benefits of such a venture. Please go read it if you're interested in this kind of stuff.
I wanted to point out two key points he made in the post here. From the post:
...can Apple create new value in the industry in the way that it did in phones? With the iPhone, Apple created a new price segment and (with Android following) made the phone industry's revenue much bigger - the average price of a phone sold has more than doubled since 2007. But cars are, pretty obviously, more expensive than phones. Many people can find $400 for a better phone or, this year, a smart watch, if they're persuaded that they really want one, but rather fewer can find an extra $40,000 for a better car, or to replace their car every two years instead of every 4 or 8. If you're in the market for a $20,000 car, there is very little that anyone can do to a car that will put you in the market for a $60,000 car. Cars do not come out of discretionary spending.
This is an important point. The iPhone was such a success largely because, in reality, they created a new (high-end) category that didn't exist before. The beauty of that high-end category is 1.) it's actually a mass market category because most people can afford a iPhone -- lots of people that make $50k a year have the exact same phone as people that make $30 million a year and 2.) people buy a new device every two years (that's a pretty nice recurring revenue stream for a hardware business).
Generally, neither of these factors have existed in the car business (most people can't afford high-end cars and the average driver replaces their car about every 10 years).
That said, these dynamics are changing a bit. Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio have been photographed driving around in a very affordable Prius (Frank Sinatra wouldn't have been caught dead in a low-end car). And while it's unlikely that the masses will start buying a new car every two years, it is becoming clear that fewer and fewer people are going to need to own their own car -- both because of the astounding growth of on-demand rides and the coming emergence of self-driving cars.
Benedict writes about this later in the post.
...self-driving cars might support both an on-demand model and an AirBnB model for cars - does your car drop you off at work and then roll off into the city to earn you some extra money driving other people around? Would people want to do that? Would that reduce the opportunity for 'dedicated' on-demand vehicles? Who knows. Of course, it's also possible that self-driving technology, said to be a decade away now, will remain a decade away indefinitely, as so many other AI projects have done.
In short, on-demand rides, shared self-driving cars and artificial intelligence are going to lead to massive changes in the way we get around and the way we manage our own personal transportation and the things that we do while we're travelling. And all of it -- I mean all of it -- is going to be driven by software that will become a large part of our day-to-day routine. Apple has to be in the middle of that. Apple has to make a car.