Tesla's Elon Musk Rant at Apple Means He's on to Something Scary

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, has had some sharp comments to make about Apple recently, but the underlying message is that while Tesla has merely set the stage, it will be Apple that eventually shakes up the automobile industry. Big Time. And that's what, I thnk, has Mr. Musk worried and snarky.


The sensational, on the surface, news is what Elon Musk said about Apple hiring away his important engineers. Forbes told the story.

Important engineers? They have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make at Tesla, you go work at Apple.

However, all that is just a diversion. The deeper story is that while Tesla has been shaking up the automobile industry in terms of what we expect from a modern car: the buying experience, the electric car experience, the removal of "range anxiety," and the reduction of on-car emissions, it'll be Apple's turn next.

Early engineering schematic of Apple's secret electric car.
(via Shutterstock)

If you look at the new Tesla Model X, you'll see that, even though that model is rather expensive, Tesla is reimagining how a car should operate. See: "Tesla Model X: Getting behind the wheel of an all-electric, high-performance SUV." As with any expensive product, the new technologies work their way down to less expensive models in time.

But now Tesla is in a race against time.

If Tesla can achieve what we've seen so far with limited R&D funds, just think what Apple can bring to bear with its virtually unlimited resources and ability to attract and hire the best minds on the planet.

Tesla: a Glimmer of Things to Come

I suspect the new Tesla Model X (model P90D) is just a glimmer of what Apple will be able to achieve in a 2019 or 2020 rollout. What I believe is that there is a shift about to happen. It's no longer a matter of automotive experience by either Detroit, Germany, Japan or even Tesla. Rather the next generation of successful electric cars will be built by the company with the best engineers, best computers and software, best A.I. talent and the most amount of R&D money to spend.. Apple has all that.

That's why, in my opinion, Apple didn't buy Tesla. Why be shackled by a limited upstart who merely sets the stage when Apple can reach further, higher, and break onto the show with a much grander vision.

And that, ultimately, is why Elon Musk is so cranky lately. He knows the end is near. He launched the prospective next generation electric car with fanfare and class, but he was too early in time and too limited in what he could achieve. Now, he see's the handwriting on the wall, and it's called Tim Cook and Titan.

I'd be cranky too.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of October 5. Much more on Apple and 4K UHD.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of October 5


Has Apple Music failed? It seems to me that those who claim that Apple Music has failed are people who have had some technical issues. Or they haven't taken a liking to the spectrum of features contained in Apple Music, such as Beats 1 and Connect. Or they're upset about missing features like Home Sharing. Or they haven't read up on how to handle the service nuances. Or they just don't like Apple. Often, reading about why someone thinks Apple Music has failed tells you more about the author than the service.

The fact that Apple Music even raises issues like this suggests that major services like Apple Music may just be too complex in their design and implementation. I hesitate to link to this, but I think the narrative is instructive. Read with open eyes and knowledge that Forbes likes to publish articles like this. "Apple Music Has Failed."

I would love to see Apple update the 2013 Mac Pro, lest it fall into that dreaded category of languishing Apple products. Without an update 2.3 years after it was announced at WWDC 2013, it feels like the product is in some peril. E. Werner Reschke has some thoughts. "Updated Mac Pro's at Apple October Special Event?" Hope springs eternal.

The 4th gen Apple TV (1080p)
Image credit: Apple

There will likely never be another set top box (STB) announced by any company that doesn't have 4K UHD support, even if it's just plain-jane 4K UHD without high dynamic range (HDR). Amazon announced the new Fire TV with 4K on September 17. And on October 6, Roku announced its new Roku 4 with 4K UHD support. It includes Roku OS 7.

One theory about why Apple is dragging its feet relates to the fact that the mechanism for HDR in streaming hasn't been nailed down, HDR enabled 4KTVs are still expensive, and, for now, when you by a certain brand of STB, you may also be locking yourself into that company's content.

To help you wade through all this, here are some good explanatory articles.

  1. Amazon's "4K Ultra HD Guide". - "There is no formalized broadcast standard yet for delivery of 4K Ultra HD to the home."
  2. "Apple TV and the 4K Dilemma" - "So the answer may well be that Apple wants the Ultra HD/4K situation to stabilize more before adding the feature to an Apple TV."
  3. "A Theory: Why the New Apple TV Will Ship Without 4K UHD" - "...it's the splintering of the industry around the emerging High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology. And Apple, I believe, is waiting for the dust to settle."

It's one thing to perceive, as former CEO Steve Ballmer did, that because Apple is doing well in a market, all Microsoft has to do is enter that market and believe that success will follow. It's quite another to back that up with great products. That's what I think Microsoft is starting to do under CEO Satya Nadella. Here's part of the emerging story. "How the Surface Book compares to the iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, and Surface Pro." Notable:

Still, the point stands that it's getting really weird to compare these products on specs alone, simply because the way that you use them is really, really different. But more and more, these devices are advertised on an evolving continuum.

Speaking of Microsoft, one reason people gather in Apple stores is to see great hardware in action. And so, without great hardware, one would naturally expect that... "Microsoft's retail store chain flounders in stark contrast to busy Apple Stores." Better, cooler hardware in the Microsoft stores will make them far less of an embarrassment. It all ties together.

If one were to speculate on how the tech giants line up as allies and enemies, one could make a strong case that Apple and Microsoft have a common enemy in Google. It makes sense to me. "Apple And Microsoft Enlist Each Other To Fight Google."

There are a couple of notable entries in the Apple Pay realm this week. The first is Graham Spencer's "The State of Apple Pay." The second is re/code's interview with Apple's VP of Apple Pay, Jennifer Bailey. It's great to see Tim Cook and other execs out and about, talking.

If you want to read a little of the news instead of listening to the re/code interview, here are some of the tidbits. "Apple Pay to Hit Starbucks Stores This Year." Also, Best Buy is now on the Apple Pay bandwagon.

On the other hand, we've already heard some disturbing news about Samsung Pay. "Chinese Hackers Breached LoopPay, Whose Tech Is Central to Samsung Pay." Samsung just can't catch a break.

Finally, as we've seen all along, the global sales of PCs are in a continuing slump. Here's the data from IDC. Even though Mac sales were also down globally, slightly, Apple continues to fare well, boosting its market share against the PC competition. I present the data here above; analysis will be elsewhere.


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.