What Apple And Tesla's Meeting Actually Means, Probably

Fan-kids of two of the most rabid and dedicated types, Apple and Tesla, must have experienced some swimsuit-area tingling Sunday, when SFGate revealed that the two were in talks last year. Of course, this caused many to speculate on Apple buying Tesla and the release of the mythical iCar, but I don't think that's what's going on here.

True, Apple did send their guy in charge of buying companies, Adrian Perica, to meet with Elon Musk, which certainly does send a message that they're doing some shopping, but Apple's certainly been just browsing before. Plus, there's actually a much better reason for Apple to be talking to Tesla other than looking to buy them: getting iOS into a very visible car.


The SFGate article speculates that Apple would want to own Tesla to diversify when iPad and iPhone sales start to slow, and while Apple likely has the money, it's not really clear what Tesla would get out of the deal. Apple hasn't strayed far from their core products of computers and personal electronics ever, really, and not all their forays into consumer electronics have paid off, either.

I don't really see Apple getting into the expensive and risky electric car business any time soon, but I do see them very interested to sell their mobile OS to as many car manufacturers as possible, with a very visible and worthwhile flagship position in Tesla's cars.


Right now, even with Apple developing iOS features to integrate it more tightly with automotive infotainment and nav systems, none of the built-in touch screens in any car made today use iOS as their operating system. Right now, there isn't really a true standard for in-car computing, and, if we're honest, the current crop of systems varies wildly in quality. Some are even still using those awful alphabetic keyboards.


The current Tesla Model S uses in-car touch screens in a more prominent way than almost anything available. There's two massive screens in the car, and the center one absolutely resembles a giant iPad, both in physical design and the overall design of the GUI, which certainly seems to have been at the very least inspired by Apple's iOS.


So, while there are lots of parallels between the two companies — very well-known and premium products, great brand identities, and a carefully-regulated, mothership-run dealer network — there doesn't really seem to be a good reason for Apple to own Tesla.

Now, getting some version of iOS on those screens in a Tesla and, after that, into as many cars as they can, that does make sense. Especially because all those Androids are eyeing those same cars.

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