When Apple made a phone, it turned out it wasn’t really competing in the handset business; it was competing for the next dominant personal computing platform. The more I think about an Apple car, the more I think that it might be the basis of their future “computing environment”: a space that is completely aware of and responsive to its occupant(s). In that sense it might be more of a long-term competitor to the Amazon Echo (and whatever Android variant Google is pitching at the same space) than to Tesla’s cars.
From this perspective, maybe the thing that’s kept the AppleTV on hold for so long is that they were trying to go down this road, but they kept failing to pull it off (to their standards) in the living room. Perhaps they learned a few things along the way.
Just a thought.
Three points for clarification:
I’m actually not claiming that an “Apple Personal Space” is either the focus of any initial product or any concrete long-term plan. The iPhone almost ran the iPod operating system, and it doesn’t seem like Steve envisioned the success of the App Store (and thus iOS as a platform). I’m pointing out that Tesla focuses on cars, Uber focuses on transportation, and Google focuses on technology, while Apple focuses on experiences. If they trap a user in a physical bubble, it’s in the company’s DNA to turn that bubble into the world’s most carefully studied and controlled experience.
Obviously the iPhone upended the incumbent handset industry, so Nokia certainly saw Apple as a competitor. But I doubt Apple ever viewed Nokia that way, because they never saw Nokia as competing in the personal computing business. The competitors were Microsoft and Google: Apple was after the growth of a new industry; the sales in an existing one were collateral damage.
If Apple’s first offering is disruptive, it will most likely be due to innovations they bring to the auto manufacturing process (and are thus relatively invisible to consumers). Any truly compelling mass-market “computing environment” would evolve iteratively over years.