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Linked by Jason Snell

Bloomberg: Apple scales back car plans

Mark Gurman and Alex Webb, reporting for Bloomberg on Apple’s hard left turn in its car project:

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person.

I think it’s only right for Apple to investigate all sorts of areas that might fuel its future projects. Some of them aren’t going to pan out, but because of Apple’s size and notoriety, it’s going to leak out into in public view. In this case, it looks like someone decided that the best thing to do was step back from the idea of manufacturing an entire car and focus on the underlying hardware, software, and sensors—in other words, the stuff that’s closest to what Apple knows best.

In this scenario, Apple’s still free to buy or partner with an automaker, or even put a car of their own into production—but only after the company decides that it’s got something worth bringing to market. I don’t see Apple has being an OEM for car manufacturers, though—it’s far more likely that they’d buy or strategically invest in an automaker as a partner for building a car based on their technology.

But let’s keep in mind—this may also amount to nothing at all. Part of what Apple’s done already is take a step back and decide not to chase its sunk costs in a car-building project that it determined wasn’t the right direction. Choosing not to move forward on a project in which you’ve invested time and money and personnel is incredibly difficult. But it can be necessary.

It’s fun to speculate about what Apple might do in the car business, and I think Apple’s right to investigate this, but in the end the right answer might be “nothing”—and full credit to Apple if it eventually realizes that and kills the whole thing.