How Can Apple Possibly Compete with the Tesla Model 3?

If Apple really is planning to sell an electric car in 2019-2020, the company now has its work cut out for it. Yesterday, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk introduced the Model 3 in Hawthorne, CA. This next generation electric car will go into production in 2017, have a range of just over 200 miles, and the price will start at US$35,000. However, expected accessories will raise the price several thousand dollars.

Image credit: Reuters, Tesla

The lower price is enabled by economies of scale. Reuters reports:

Tesla says scale from the massive facility [nearing completion in Nevada] will cut the cost of its battery pack by 30 percent to enable the lower-priced vehicle.

A boatload of people stood in line yesterday to pre-order, coughing up $1,000 to pre-order a Model 3, sight unseen in many cases. CNBC wrote:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company received 198,000 Model 3 orders in 24 hours. In a tweet Friday, he touted a 'bright' future for electric cars.

About half of those 200,000 pre-orders are expected to convert into a final sale. Even so, Tesla will be pressed hard to deliver all the pre-orders, according to the above reports.

The Model 3 forms the basis of Tesla's goal to sell 500,000 cars per year by the year 2020, the year Apple is expected to start shipping. (If rumors about Apple's "Titan" project are to be believed.)

Heretofore, electric cars have constituted about 1.4 percent of all new car sales in the U.S. Factors that have kept sales from taking off for pure electrics include limited range in most models and associated "range anxiety" which means fear of depleting the battery and getting stranded, the availability of charging stations and the added cost of the batteries.

Tesla will have competition not from Apple in four years, but from GM's Chevy Bolt this year. The Bolt will be similarly priced and have a similar range. Also, I expect the already modestly popular Nissan Leaf to up its game and better compete with Tesla and GM.

All in all, it looks like the pure electric car has arrived. Other car manufacturers, who were in planning stages or had first generation vehicles like the BMW i3, are probably more alarmed now than they were last week.

Tesla has built a strong brand, has garnered much public enthusiasm with its new technologies like Autopilot and Ludicrous mode, and has been stealing the news cycles more than any other car company. Some other car companies will move into a higher gear and some will try to rationalize their cautious efforts.

But with Tesla, today, it's game on. No pressure, Apple.

Next page: The Tech News Debris for the Week of March 28th. Apple needs to become its own bank.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of March 28th


There won't be any April Fools jokes in this column, but that doesn't mean I can't point to some classics. Our Kelly Guimont pointed me to this great collection of ThinkGeek's Product of Yore. Along the way, many have been turned into actual products. One I particularly like is the Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag.

The Tauntain Sleeping bag form ThinkGeek.

4K UHDTV won't arrive all at once, all wrapped in a nice package. Content and technology will continue to evolve and arrive on the consumer scene in phases. It's just a question of when one wants to jump in. Here's another data point. "Sony to Bow 4K Ultra HD Movie Streaming Service." Not next year. Not next month. Rather, Monday, April 4th. The service, called ULTRA, will be available for Sony 4K UltraHD TVs and...

ULTRA will offer Sony movies for purchase at $30, many with high dynamic range (HDR) and digital extras. The service is also compatible with UltraViolet, and users will be able to link their ULTRA profiles to their existing UltraViolet libraries and stream content they already bought or redeemed through UV-compatible retailers, such as Vudu or the Sony Pictures Store.

The bad news? Sony 4K UltraHD TVs use Android. The other bad news: the 4K service is tied to owners of Sony TVs. Baby steps to be sure.

You've heard of OS fragmentation in Android smartphones. If only Android customers would always buy the latest smartphone. But they don't. And that gets them into further trouble. Here's what's happening: "Samsung's biggest problem in a nutshell: Even when users upgrade, they upgrade to the wrong phone."

Ted Landau ponders: "Waiting for Apple’s 'next big thing' ” Can Apple keep producing the NBT?

So ... a 'next big thing' has two primary attributes: (1) it derives from a 'ground-up rethinking' of a product (or even the invention of an entirely new product category), rather than relying on incremental improvements to an existing category and (2) the resulting product becomes so successful that all competitors either imitate it or die — leaving the 'next big thing' as the primary or sole survivor.

Ted goes on to discuss the Apple Watch and the (rumored) Apple Car in this context. As always, Ted is analytical and thought provoking.

"Reddit's Warrant Canary just died." If that string of words is alien to you, just go read the article. Thank goodness, unlike in Australia, killing the canary is legal in the U.S. Tell me what you think.

I am a big fan of the science fiction writer Charles Stross. He got me hooked on his Merchant Princess series. The first book, if you're interested, launches with The Family Trade. Anyway, he's written an interesting blog item on the Apple vs. FBI affair in the context of Apple's huge financial holdings. "Follow the money: Apple vs. the FBI." Essentially, he writes, "When you're making $50-100Bn a year in profit, you can't put the money in a bank: you have to become a bank." He explains...

Here's my theory: Apple see their long term future as including a global secure payments infrastructure that takes over the role of Visa and Mastercard's networks—and ultimately of spawning a retail banking subsidiary to provide financial services directly, backed by some of their cash stockpile.

And this is why Tim Cook is willing to go to the mattresses with the US department of justice over iOS security: if nobody trusts their iPhone, nobody will be willing to trust the next-generation Apple Bank, and Apple is going to lose their best option for securing their cash pile as it climbs towards the stratosphere.

Oh, how far Apple has come. One might even ponder "Tim Cook’s Proposition: Apple Has Reached Childhood’s End."


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.