Navigating The Road Not Taken By Apple

Posted by

It’s not easy to start a car company… even if you’re Apple.

In the shadow of Silicon Valley’s relentless ambition, Apple’s Project Titan emerged as their moonshot to create an Apple Car.
Spanning a decade of development and absorbing $10 billion in research, Apple’s secretive car project aimed to redefine mobility.
From visions of rivaling Tesla to aspirations of pioneering autonomous vehicles akin to Google‘s Waymo, Project Titan symbolized Apple’s drive to explore uncharted territories.
It made perfect sense: If they can own your attention on mobile devices, laptops, computers, TV, home automation and headphones – the car is the next logical frontier.

The path of innovation is fraught with complexities.

Leadership changes and conflicting visions often clouded their journey.
The project’s evolution – or its deviation from their core – mirrors the challenges inherent in steering innovation outside a brand’s established domain.
It’s a narrative not just of technological ambition but also of strategic vision in the face of shifting realities and sourcing new forms of revenue that can really scale.

How would Steve Jobs have handled an Apple Car?

The influence of Jobs loomed large over Project Titan.
Jobs was known for his ability to foresee and shape the future of technology, leaving many to wonder if Project Titan’s fate might have been different under his guidance.
It’s a fair question, but there’s another truth: Apple’s revenue and market share have leaped to remarkable heights under the leadership of Tim Cook (and in the thirteen years since Jobs has passed).

So, what are the lessons from Apple’s road less traveled?

I’d argue that the project was far from a failure.
The knowledge, talent and startups acquired and cultivated throughout its development are invaluable, offering Apple a rich reservoir of insights that can fuel future innovations.
The project’s end marks a new beginning, with potential applications spanning AI, mapping, and beyond.
Apple has navigated the battle for the car dashboard (with CarPlay) emphasizing seamless integration and user experience.
And maybe (just maybe) a refocus on CarPlay and other market disruptions reflects where Apple can best influence the automotive industry and (more importantly) the drivers of tomorrow.
The tale of Project Titan will be an interesting business case study in Apple’s storied history of innovation.
It will serve as a reminder of the challenges and opportunities that accompany the pursuit of groundbreaking ideas.
The project highlights the importance of adaptability in innovation (the good and the bad), the value of learned experiences and the enduring quest for innovation at scale.

Some will (rightfully) see this as a failure.

Most of those people are not entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are very confident in the reality that what they’re trying to build might not work.
That’s the risk and reality.
Apple (and entrepreneurs) can admit failure, while also understanding the power of exploration, learning, and strategic agility in the pursuit of innovation.

Ultimately, the most significant advancements (also known in the startup world as “the pivot”) stem from the roads not taken.

This is what Elias Makos and I discussed on CJAD 800 AM. Listen in right here.

Before you go… ThinkersOne is a new way for organizations to buy bite-sized and personalized thought leadership video content (live and recorded) from the best Thinkers in the world. If you’re looking to add excitement and big smarts to your meetings, corporate events, company off-sites, “lunch & learns” and beyond, check it out.