It's going to take absolute perfection for Apple to make a vehicle that everyone wants. But even then, it's doomed.
I've been a proponent of Apple marketing a large-screen TV set for probably five years or more. People would pay a premium for its built-in features and design, and it would help spruce up the Apple Store sales engine.
An actual Apple HDTV set would also prove once again that the company can revitalize a moribund category of consumer electronics. But no, the little set-top box called Apple TV$134.97 at Pricefalls.com looks like all that's forthcoming in this category.
Instead, according to seemingly reliable rumors, prepare for the Apple Car, which is mind-boggling when you consider the possibilities. Let's speculate together.
My thinking is centered around the Apple Store chain. If you have been in one recently, what you see is a large floor plan with far too many tables, each strewn with a bunch of MacBooks or iPhones or Apple Watches.
Apple isn't going to build out large car dealerships with a bunch of models on the floor. Existing Apple stores have more than enough room for one car to be on display. This would draw curious shoppers into Cupertino's stores and easily top any interest in a 4K TV.
I'm sure that the newer stores are built to make it easy to get a car inside. It would be placed near the back so the public would have to walk by all the shiny iPhones and MacBooks. You'd have a couple of dedicated Apple employees there to sell the car, which would be delivered individually.
The next thing to consider is what kind of car Apple would design and build. Car design is tricky. It would have to be one of the best looking cars out there. One false move and Apple could squander billions and negatively affect its overall image.
If the design is too weird, or subject to ridicule, or if it picks up a derisive nickname such as "the dildo," "dog poop," "the dung beetle," "the pickle jar," "lightbulb with wheels," "the rolling toaster," or "the dork mobile," then it will be D.O.A.
Size is another consideration. How big or how small should the vehicle be? Since the car is part of the luxury marketing generally employed by Apple, it cannot be the size of a diminutive Fiat 500. But should it be the size of the Tesla Model S? Or even the clunky Tesla Model X?
The Chevrolet Volt is the ideal size; a perfect mid-sized car that is very roomy. In fact, Chevy Volt should be a design target in more ways than one, including the hybrid approach. I have tested most of the electric cars available and prefer the Volt because you never get nervous about the battery dying. The white-knuckle fear that you'll run out of juice is real.
The Volt, meanwhile, is about the right size for the Apple Store. A 3-series BMWwould also be a good target size, as would the Lexus RC 350.
What else would make this car a winner? It would have to be well-made, self-driving, and modern, if not futuristic.
While Apple has a captive market with its phones and computers, these luxury items are luxury for the masses. While a high school prom queen can own an iPhone, so can the rest of the class. Who is going to buy what will probably be an overpriced car? Will someone who would normally buy a Lexus, Audi, Mercedes, Tesla, or even a Cadillac decide to buy an Apple instead? I can see them buying a wall-mounted Apple TV...but a car? This would require a sociological and attitudinal change in the public's vehicular taste. I'll have to see it to believe it.
John Dvorak is a columnist for PCMag.com and the host of the weekly TV video podcast CrankyGeeks. His work is licensed around the world. Previously a columnist for Forbes, Forbes Digital, PC World, Barrons, MacUser, PC/Computing, Smart Business and other magazines and newspapers. Former editor and consulting editor for Infoworld. Has appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, Philadelphia Enquirer, SF Examiner, Vancouver Sun. Was on the start-up team for CNet TV as well as ZDTV. At ZDTV (and TechTV) was host of Silicon...MORE »