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

| Particle Debris

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.

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Interesting article.
Apple, of course, don’t need Tesla’s best, only those with reasonable competence in Tesla’s technology and timelines.  They can cherry-pick others from right around the auto industry worldwide and come up with how to develop their business plan to meet market expectations, but with the novel features that we expect from Apple. They appear already to be talking with players such as BMW about production of such a vehicle.


Tesla will be to the Apple Car what Apple was to the IBM PC?  Or worse, the Stutz (of Bearcat fame) to the Ford Motor Company.  You can’t blame the guy for turning bitter now, can you?


Damn I thought Martellaro was off the Kool-Aid - apparently not.
Elon has Space X, Solar City and Tesla. What has Apple besides an ancient phone desperately trying to stay hip? I’ve seen no car. Have you? You have a timetable with no car? Tesla had a car- you see, I actually drove it before they went public. All Apple sheeple talk about is vapor, pure and simple. The stock is down, the watch is a failure, and despite iPhone sales - nobody on Wall St. cares. Elon’s not worried John, if he was he wouldn’t have MADE PUBLIC FOR USE BY ANYONE his patents relating to his electric car tech. The only thing working against Elon is TIME, not Apple because Porsche just showed a killer electric and BMW of course is already selling many i3 plug-ins - the writing is on the wall but Apple is not even a factor, not a player in this game - just a rumor. Fully electric w/autonomy is DONE and Apple is too late to matter. Shoot, Apple couldn’t even re-imagine a watch for cryin’ out loud. Meanwhile I hope Apple gets some use from Tesla’s scrap employees - I love that.


@Cudaboy. I think you are missing the point. Elon Musk talking like that—that’s not the talk of someone who is secure in their position, who doesn’t really think they have nothing to fear. It’s the talk of someone who has an inkling of something coming. He’s repeating the comments made by predecessors in various other industries who dismissed Apple before Apple steamrolled their business. Whether he has reason to be worry or not is another matter. He scents something, and is responding to that.

Personally, I think it’s entirely possible for Apple to enter this market and disrupt it. And the more that people dismiss them, the greater will be the perceived conquest. It would be foolish to write off Apple’s chances at this point. As for the watch… I think it’s still a bit soon for that, don’t you? You may not like the post-Jobs Apple, but there are still elements in the company that are waiting, IMO, for the right product or concept. Apple is obviously quite committed to reducing emissions, and a car is something that could/would be huge in disrupting the control of the fossil fuel-run industry. I’m no eco-terrorist, and don’t really think it’s all that “important” from a carbon-footprint point of view, but it is exciting to me to think of an electric car, solar power, etc. If Apple were to truly enter this field by way of a car, it would only be exciting to watch, and potentially take part in. Right now, I’m bored with computers, tablets and phones. They all do what I want, regardless if I purchase a Mac, Android, Windows or Linux (although Linux could only do about 98%—2% is my need for Creative Cloud, and only Mac or Windows offer that). All of them are copying and repeating everything that has been done before—in some cases, 20 years ago (I had a Newton and Duo w/ dock back in the mid 90s). And we still have the same split between truly portable, and truly functional. Why? But with cars? I’m tired of pumping fuel, dealing with ridiculous mechanical breakdowns that are linked to that internal combustion engine. I’d love to see a simplified, electronic car that actually gets me places, and does so with comfort and speed, and without making my asthma act up, or interfering with others’ lives and health negatively—something I, with my lower income could afford. Apple may not meet that last point, but without them I don’t see anybody getting us there. The Elon Musks of this world seem to be content with offering luxury car prices to get there. That’s not the future. IMO


News folks there is little specialize technology coming out of Tesla Motors.

Even the motor is purchased from a tiny company called Fukuta and anyone interested in looking at the schematic for a Tesla Motors Model S and X motor can find it here:  http://www.nwtlimited.com/images/download/pdf/908354137Fukuta_Motor Catalogue_2014.pdf

Porsche is about to IPO and Porsche can only justify a valuation of $9 Bil - $11 Billion - how is it possible that TSLA is worth 4 x the market value of Porsche (the company that first marketed electric cars in 1899??).


Mr. Martellaro, I would also like to see Apple not let the Mac Pro languish. Even if we’re at a point with desktop machines where there is no longer a need for annual “keeping up with the Jones’” upgrades - and the Mac Pro is powerful enough that it should be useful for years, for most people - my feeling is that it’s something they’d want to keep relatively current.

But that begs the question: Even though the most recent model is two years old, what can be done with it? Sure there are probably faster Xeon processors out there (or soon will be), faster RAM, newer connectors like Bluetooth 4.2/USB type C etc., but at a minimum $3000 a pop, what would be enough to entice existing owners to re-up? It just seems like there isn’t much to gain by dropping specs that would be minimally beneficial to new/existing customers, and whatever they DO include with Mac Pro 2, it’s going to have to be pretty significant.

Jak Keyser

I am writing this on October 10th re link to “Updated Mac Pros at October event”. I suspect no event this month at this late date, for the Mac Pro.  Apple wants to skip to next generation Xeon.  The Xeon chips Apple is waiting for Intel to make available are late. 

Also I don’t expect a lower price MacPro. iMac production is high enough for economies of scale, whereas the Mac Pro does not enjoy those numbers nor the cheaper labor of overseas manufacture, hence a high price to maintain margins. Yes, the MacPro is produced with a lot of automation hence likely lower proportion of labor, so my emphasis is on economies of scale.

Plus the MacPro market will bear the price—the Mac Pro has a longer refresh cycle since they are more upgrade-able, hence those power users extend the life of their Mac Pros.

Yes it’s been a long overdue time, but Intel’s upgrade schedule put Xeons at the tail end of their already much delayed schedule—with priority going to consumer laptop and consumer desktop chips that have much higher volume.

Does that make sense? Comments are welcomed.


<<Mr. Martellaro, I would also like to see Apple not let the Mac Pro languish. >> Her, here, xmattingly !!
  Sorry, but you can’t invent disruption whenever you feel like it; timing and society are important, too - just take the Newton for example, or Mac Portable, Quicktake 100 Camera etc. The Auto Industry disruption has started and autonomous cars and trucks as an extension - has begun. Google has been in this space for years with real cars and technology - so far Apple has flapping gums - and the flapping gums aren’t from Apple so to think Apple is a player is “ludicrous” (tesla pun intended)
Re:TSLA - I believe Tesla’s crazy market cap is based on the disruption they already have caused vis a vis 3 unbelievable new cars (with the affordable one to come in 1.5 years) and a Free charging infrastructure, the Home Battery PLUS the future tech and obvious seachange away from fossil fuel explosions. It’s obvious all bets are on Elon. He makes no bones about sharing the tech as well as the Supercharger network, Like Apples toys, he attracted rich people first to spread the word on the new gadget though Elon’s ALWAYS said that his goal is to make the electric car affordable to everyone. Elon is not AFRAID of anything as he embraces the spread of his mission and says so all the time. Apple simply doesn’t enter into his mind, maybe Porsche - but not Apple. Apple markets basically one toy in permutated shapes and sizes and clearly Wall St. and the competition aren’t impressed anymore as the market is now Old and Saturated. I wish all this malarkey would have Apple re-focusing on the Mac Pro and a new OS - don’t forget what brung ya, Apple.



The discussion of Elon Musk’s sour grapes whinging about Apple taking only Tesla’s rejects and Jacob Kastrenakes’ piece on MS’s Surface Pro and building a suite of hardware offerings to take on Apple provide a telling contrast in how high end predators compete at the top of the food chain, and how those that cannot or will not compete get shown the door to extinction.

We have seen, time and again, when Apple is even rumoured to be investigating a new product line, with the potential to enter/disrupt an entirely new industry, the established pillars of mediocrity responsible for that industry’s often lacklustre status begin to chatter and immediately bifurcate into one of two groups; those that oppose Apple’s potential entry and predict dire consequence, failure and a painful death for Apple and those who welcome Apple’s entry and predict that it bring needed fresh blood, and wind into the sails, of that industry to the benefit of consumers and competitors alike.

The distinction in this bifurcation has everything to do with the intuitive recognition by those companies and their CEOs of their team’s capacity and readiness to compete with a top end competitor. Those who feel ready for that challenge will welcome the competition, even if they engage in the banter of the competitor and predict victory for themselves (this is what competitors do) and those who do not feel up to the challenge will wallow in the puddle of woe, complaining that nothing can be done to improve the industry, and/or that Apple have nothing to bring and should stay out of it - not unlike a barking beta dog banking that it’s bark alone will see off the advancing alpha - with about as much success.

That Mr Musk has done a little of both of these responses is interesting, but not aberrational. He’s simply now feeling the heat, and, as you’ve alluded, is grousing just a bit. He’ll get over it.

Beyond that verbal and attitudinal bifurcation is the action response. MS’ recognition (and Google’s), albeit unspoken publicly, of the advantages of Apple’s whole widget model, and adoption of it to come out with products of their own, in addition to the other prong of their response to provide their software solutions to their competitors’ platforms and benefit from that free momentum, is the response of a first class competitor and augurs well for their continued survival and evolution into a still stronger beast.

At the level of the consumer there is still another phenomenon in this evolution. I commented on last week’s PD that the products on which companies compete underscores which of these products is potentially the future, and certainly is viewed as such by the competing companies. Importantly, the consumer has the opportunity to weigh in, and by adoption, help select for those traits and products that will progress into the future and against those that will not. However, there is another dimension to this; namely that where you have quite distinct products, as we have with the iPad Pro and the Surface, despite any superficial similarities, (the one being a mobile device with expanding desktop capability, the other being a desktop CPU with limited mobile capability) how users exploit these devices, and the use cases for them, will decide not simply which solution survives, but could have transformative effects on both, and will definitely shape the ultimate configuration and capacity of the surviving device.

In any case, competition is healthy and necessary for the maturation of all of these new products and for the strengthening of industries still languishing under 19th and 20th Century models that no longer apply to the present.


Cudaboy, He’s giving the same response that all the other industry doubters did from the MP3 player world straight through to the watch world. They gave the same “oh Apple can’t do that” lame speeches. Apple has proved every industry leader wrong. Musk says Apple has no manufacturing experience. Bull! All of Apple’s products go through a manufacturing process and Apple dictates how that process is to be accomplished and sets it all up.
Apple engineers work closely with the hardware, software, manufacturing down to every detail. This is how Apple can make there products great because they control every aspect of there products and they back there products up with the best services. Whether it is hardware or learning how to use a product. The car is just a bigger product but Musk’s denial is just plain dumb and he’s scared just like all the others before him.

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