By Dan Moren
October 31, 2016 2:35 PM PT
The Back Page: Project Titan memo from Bob Mansfield
From: Bob Mansfield
To: Project Titan team
It has come to my attention that you have been working very hard for the last year on a project of the utmost importance to the future of Apple. I want to applaud your dedication, the long hours you’ve put in, and your determination to create a product that lives up to the high standards of our company.
Then I discovered that this project was supposed to be a car.
So, let me ask, in all seriousness—are you nuts? Have you totally lost it?
No, that is not a rhetorical question, Colin. What the hell made you think you were qualified to build an automobile? Let’s be serious for a second: who was going to go out and buy two tons of glass and steel brought to you by the same folks who created iCloud?
Tell me the truth: Eddy put you up to this, didn’t he?
Look, I get it. You were riding high on the success of the iPhone and the iPad. Hell, you went out and proclaimed that you’d improved gold, a material that has a literal standard named after it. Didn’t seem like you could do any wrong. But going into the automobile industry? You’ve fallen prey to one of the classic blunders. Did somebody replace the fine coffee in Caffé Macs with sapphire crystals? Have you been inhaling the fumes from the smooth top-grain Granada leather of the Apple Watch’s Modern Buckle band?
Yes, we may have just walked in to the smartphone industry and shown them how things are done, but that trick isn’t going to work everytime. Just try walking in to that locally-sourced organic Italian bánh mì food truck you’ve all been raving about and to which none of you have ever asked me to go to for lunch even though my love of fusion cuisine is well documented, sorry, where was I—yes, just trying walking in there and insisting that you know how to construct the perfect veal provolone sandwich with spicy slaw.
Simply put, you’ve flown too high on wings of diamond-chamfered aluminum and glass—and NO, Melissa, I can already see you thinking it: that does not mean we should pivot to making planes instead.
I don’t know, maybe this all started as some elaborate prank on Google. Hey, I can get behind that! In the heady days of 2013 I had ninety-seven cases of Kit Kats delivered to Larry’s house with a note saying they were from Sergey. Nobody loves a good prank more than Bob Mansfield! But just because those Mountain View schmoes are trying to build a self-driving car doesn’t mean we should drive off the cliff after them—that’s not a metaphor, by the way, in case you haven’t tried Apple Maps lately.
Anyway, long story short: making a car is out. Making software for cars is in.
I’m not going to lie: this won’t be easy. Look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. One of these people is not going to survive this transition. Especially if one of them is Kevin. But I know we can do this as a team—we can transform Project Titan into something to truly surprise and delight our customers, to reinvent the automobile industry from the inside out without even having to build a car that would probably have made Elon Musk giggle. And we can do this. Because really, it comes down to one word: cour—
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]