Why Tesla need Apple and Apple need Tesla

Tesla are losing money at an incredible rate. According to The Verge, they lost around $785 million in the first quarter of 2018 and are down to cash reserves of only $2.7 billion, after starting the year with $3.4 billion. If they carry on at this burn rate they will run out of cash and have to file for protection by the close of 2018.

Apple, on the other hand, are making money like it’s going out of fashion. In the last quarter of 2017 they made a profit of $20.1 billion. This leaves them in a position where they have retained profits of $91.9 billion.

But when did Apple last create anything that was truly disruptive? The iPod, the iPhone? maybe the Apple TV?

All of their recent lunches have been derivations, not innovations.

Their launches over the last number of years have been dull to say the least. But there’s little doubt they design some of the most sought-after products in the world that carry an incredible premium price.

On the surface this is similar to the Tesla.

It was a disruptor in the passenger car market and their Semi is sure to disrupt the market for Heavy Goods Vehicles. If you’ve ever driven a Tesla, it’s hard to argue that they are anything other than quick, but their fit and finish is poor. It’s nowhere near as good as the products coming in from the German manufacturers Audi and Mercedes and a long way behind the British designed Jaguar iPace – All of which will match the Tesla for range in the next few years.

The Jaguar iPace at the Electric Innovation Centre in West Bromwich UK
The Jaguar iPace at the Electric Innovation Centre in West Bromwich UK

When these products hit the mainstream market, they will have a serious impact on Tesla sales. The competitors’ products just look and feel better. The one area Tesla continue to lead is in their battery technology – which for me as an iPhone owner, is another serious Apple weakness.

So Tesla need design input, they also need cash – desperately if they want to continue to compete. The interior of the Tesla is just plain bland and for me, cars like the Model X are different, but ugly and overcomplicated. The gull-wing doors are schoolboy stuff, designed by someone with a Countach poster on their wall as a kid. For me, they have no place in the real world.

Apple need to advance their battery technology and look for an outlet for their cash that is going to give their shareholders a long-term return. We know Apple are working on a car, it’s been leaked all over the place. When Apple do eventually launch, are they really going to be satisfied with the standard charging system available to everyone else?

The answer has to be no.

They even had to design their own charging plug and headphone socket for their phones!

The Tesla charging network is already worldwide and can deliver charge at exceptional rates.

Tesla Model S recharging

We know that Dyson, who have some of the most advanced motor technology, are working hard to produce a car too. Autocar have produced their own drawing of what this may look like here. It’s quite cool and they could again come in as another disruptor to the car market.

Dyson car by Autocar

So for me, Apple and Tesla throwing their technology and design together will be the perfect match. Working together with Apple’s cash, will leave them both in a considerably stronger position than the sum of the parts.

I’m not sure which of the stocks to advise investing in, but maybe wait until Tesla tanks a little further and then swoop in, as if Apple come to town with the Tesla, it is going to be a world beater and every major car manufacturer needs to take note.

They are two brands that have made their name for innovation. Their brand values overlap in almost every way and there doesn’t seem to be anything that would stop them working together apart from some bloody-mindedness from Apple because the existing Tesla model range wasn’t their initial concept. To me though, it seems like their innovation and their organisational culture – such as single-minded strong leader, obsession with detail, being a massive disrupter in new markets – are completely complementary and both need each other to grow to the next level.

So, watch this space. It’s going to happen.

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Wanting for nothing and why brands have a crisis coming

Brands have got a real problem coming. It’s also going to have a huge effect on some of the biggest economies around the world too.

We all have enough stuff.

Back in Spring 2008, my favourite brand Howies sent a card inside my quarterly catalogue asking if I’d fallen out of love with them, or maybe whether I just have enough clothes for the time being. It has been something that has stayed front of mind for nearly ten years now as I think we are at a stage where we probably all have enough stuff.

I just have enough stuff thanks
I just have enough stuff thanks

I have a newish computer, my car is fine (even with 130,000 miles on the clock) and I have quite a few watches. My Phone is reasonably recent and I really don’t need an Apple Watch, a new TV or another bluetooth speaker. In fact we have TV’s all over the place, bluetooth speakers all over the place and a lovely old valve amp for playing proper music.

I have outerwear coming out of my wazoo, at least six pairs of jeans, two gilets, jumpers, shorts, socks and shirts in every material for every eventuality.

I have access to almost every song ever produced with Spotify and every film ever made, with a combination of Amazon Prime, Netflix and a mildly chipped Firestick.

I adore Oxford United and should make more effort to see them home and away. That’s tribal, it isn’t about the brand. This is an opportunity for tribal experiences like football and they will be one of the few areas to do well out of this.

I love holidays, exploring new places and going to the pub. In fact, probably my favourite thing to do is walk to the pub with the dog, have a few pints and walk home again.

But in effect, I want for nothing.

Which is the problem that any brand faces.

We all have too much stuff.

There is no consumer good that creates real desire, real anticipation and a real need to have it in your hands.

New products are all derivations. Small but barely discernible differences that the brands create to try and make us want them. But the differences aren’t real enough. They don’t add value to our lives and as such, they just become normal, within a moment of owning them.

Social media makes things worse. You can now see that everyone owns everything and we are all bored of this. It’s why so many people are turning away from Facebook and it’s dying on its arse. No-one lives that perfect a life and we can all see through it for what it is.

Showing off.

But if everyone has everything anyway, who is there to show off to and what with?

It’s also why everyone needs to pay less than full price for anything. Why else do you think the outlet villages and discount sites are so prevalent? The only thing left to give you a buzz is the bargain, rather than the brand you’ve bought.

So what do brands do to overcome this?

The answer is to fulfill something deeper than a need to own something. My clever friend Leila pointed out that this is why there’s a huge rise in Mindfulness and Wellness. We are all searching for something more than just the diminishing thrill of owning things. I know with the challenges I’ve been through in the last year, I couldn’t care less about material things, I’m quite pleased to be vertical and pretty much pain-free again.

That’s one hell of a challenge and one thing I can say is that not all brands will survive this imminent crisis.

You can summarise it all very easily in just one line.

If there is no actual need, then the only way to sell is by creating desire.

maybe that is what marketing is all about. Creating desire. The issue I have is that we are all losing our desire for material things and therefore selling anything material is just going to get harder and harder.

It’s a self-imposed austerity that could run for quite a while. With an economy built entirely on buying such things and a Chinese economy built on making these things, I suspect things are going to get a little rocky in the manufacturing-based economies.

Why I won’t be buying an Apple Watch

This is why you don't need an Apple Watch - The DeTomaso Matera Automatic watch

I am a big fan of Apple. I have been forever and at 49 years old, one of my claims to fame is that I have never owned a PC of any description. I had a few Nokia phones in the early days but that’s about it. I have been Apple through and through since around 1989.

But I won’t be joining the masses in buying the rather overpriced Apple Watch. I simply can’t see the point. It alerts you to what your phone is doing in your pocket and you’ll look like a dick if you talk to it (who really uses Siri other than to make it tell you jokes?). You’ll very quickly give up checking all of the notifications as they are so frequent anyway with five email and even more social media accounts on my phone. What’s compounds the misery is that being on Bluetooth all day will only make the battery life even more useless again. It’s bad enough having to charge my iPhone twice a day, but my watch too?

No, sorry Apple. This is a step too far for me. It’s not making my life easier. I’ll stick with my simple mechanical watch that tells the time. It doesn’t try and multi-task or be my personal assistant and it manages to wind itself just by being on my wrist. No batteries, reliable as you like and it glows in the dark so I can read it at night.

Thanks Apple, but no thanks.

Steve Jobs – by Walter Isaacson – One of the best books I’ve ever read

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

I am a bit of an Apple fan, so when my good pal Andy Hanselman bought me this giant book as a gift, I was looking for the right time to sit down and get started on this 600 page monster. As it happened, this time didn’t seem to be materialising, so I sat down to read it anyway and I’m extremely glad I did as it is completely brilliant and inspirational, if not a little sad. You can buy it here. I recommend you do.

What it does is go through the history of the way the business developed as well as give a real warts and all account of the man himself. there’s no doubt he was a completely obsessive and extraordinarily odd man, but he was also driven by passion for detail and a search for quality like we’ve never seen before.

I advise anyone who ever asks that you have to focus on quality to build a brand, but this is what Jobs did everywhere – throughout every single aspect of the business. And, I’m convinced that this is why Apple has been so successful. That and the fact that he had an amazing design partner in Jony Ives and between them they had incredible vision too.

A few highlights for me.

1. As an understanding of why differentiation is critical – “It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy”. Most products that come to the market do so in flocks, following a market leader. Apple deliberately and methodically went the other way.

2. On having an enemy for the whole team to focus on – “Throughout his career, Jobs liked to see himself as an enlightened rebel pitted against evil empires, a Jedi warrior of Buddhist samurai fighting the forces of darkness. IBM was the perfect foil. He cast the battle not as mere business competition but as a spiritual struggle”

3. On why the little things matter too – Jobs father had taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship, even for the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design as the lines weren’t straight enough”. This point is again critical. Most businesses do the big things just fine. The ones that go onto become great brands care about the little things too, as this is where differentiation and ultimately, perfection lies.

Anyway, enough from me. read it. It’s an amazing and beautifully written book.

This is why the Apple brand is still world class

Sometimes I fall right out of love with Apple, mainly because it isn’t individual or special any more, but this just reaffirmed why Apple is still an astonishing brand with a stunning eye for detail.

I asked Siri a simple question “who let the dogs out?” and this is the conversation we had.

 Apple Siri - Who let the dogs out? Who, who who, who who

Apple Siri – Who let the dogs out? Who, who who, who who

Apple as a brand has always had it’s own little quirks and one of these is Siri. Apple have pre-programmed jokes into it that we slowly uncover as we use it. One of my other favourites happens if you tell Siri you are a little drunk.

‘Neither of us is driving home then’ comes back as an answer with a button to press to call a taxi.

That could have been done in a totally boring way or ignored as a valid question/statement, but Apple, in the search for the tiny details that really make a brand special, have hidden these beautiful brand quirks all over the products and I love them for it.

The beginning of the end for Apple

iPhone 5 is almost here, but does anyone really, really care?
iPhone 5 is almost here, but does anyone really, really care?

I was asked by my good friend Simon Egan today to comment on what I thought about this article on the BBC about Apple, which basically says they are no longer innovative and have become merely followers. And, despite being an Apple user for well over 20 years (before it was this widespread) I have to say, I agreed with it.

In fact, I completely agree. Apple is no longer special or surprising. It’s too ubiquitous to be different or sought after.

iPhone five with its new dock will annoy masses of people as it will render all their own kit worthless. I have a beautiful Valve based Amplifier that was totally designed around that very connecter. Admittedly I use it with my old style disk based chunky iPod and not my iPhone, but it means the end is nigh.

My sixteen year old daughter broke her iPhone (by dropping it down the toilet) and moaned for a few days but it’s all gone quiet. She is now using my old Nokia and has just stopped complaining because it’s a better phone and you can still text. The rest is a waste of time done better by other devices. I experimented a few years back and lived without my iPhone for three months. I enjoyed it and may well go back there.

Unless apple do something truly radical it will begin to fail. The new Televsion they are due to launch will give them a big positive blip but I can’t see them being able to do much after that. Most of our tech is covered and unless they invent a new category like they did with the original iPod, they may well be left high and dry.

They could obviously extend into Domestic appliances? But for me, that really will be the end. Look at Bugatti, Dualit and the other once great brands that have gone into pastiche brand extensions. That’s where apple will arrive soon enough unless they go back to where they should be and innovate.

Microsoft copies Apple (again)

There has been some debate about the new Microsoft logo and the specifics of typography, but for laypeople, it looks very much like the new Microsoft logo is either derived from, or very closely related to the Macbook Pro logo by Apple. I’ll show you the argument, you decide whether they have learnt from Apple.

Branding is far more than just logos, but in my eyes, there’s a real case of one looking very much like the other. I still wouldn’t want to own a Microsoft product though.

New-Microsoft-looks-like-Apple-corporate-font

 

Thanks to Andrew Brett Watson for the image (and for leading the debate)

Start with Why – By Simon Sinek

This is a TED lecture by the amazing Simon Sinek That my friend and former colleague Hannah Pearce pointed me towards.

I sat and watched this on Sunday and ignored everyone who tried to talk to me whilst it was on. It’s 18 minutes very well spent and will change the way you look at creativity and designing brands, businesses and products.

His belief is that all innovators think in the same way. They start with the ‘why’, rather than start with the ‘what’. So in effect, they design the idea or the reason before they begin to design the product or service that comes out of the process.

A few highlights.

1. Apple Computer are a company that start with why. Their ‘why’ happens to be to challenge the conventional way of doing things. Their ‘how’ is by designing beautiful intuitive products and their ‘what’ is computers, MP3’s, phones and all sorts of electronic gadgetry. Perhaps this is the reason I have my doubts about Apple at the moment, maybe they have been focussing a bit too much on the ‘what’ and not enough on the ‘why’.

2. If you hire people for the ‘what’, they will work for your money. If you hire people who believe what you believe, you are hiring the ‘why’ and they will work with blood, sweat and tears. This backs up what I said back here completely in my John Timpson book review.

3. When Martin Luther King had 250,000 people to hear him speak, you will notice that it was his ‘I have a dream’ speech, and not his ‘I have a plan’. Modern politicians with their twelve point plans for success seem to get it wrong  time after time after time, because it is never about the why, always about the what.

It’s really worth a watch. But do it with a notebook, like I did.

Safari, Firefox or Chrome

Google Chrome - Better than Firefox and Safari? - certainly less crashy and slow
Google Chrome - Better than Firefox and Safari? - certainly less crashy and slow

 

I’m a bit of an Apple fan and believed they could do no wrong, but their battle with Adobe over Flash is killing them slowly and by a thousand small steps.

I don’t want Flash on my iPhone as I agree it may well slow it down even further, but I do want a browser that works.

I have had so many hanging pages in the last few weeks from Safari that I have completely switched to Google Chrome as my default Browser.

There have been a few of the most committed fans getting twitchy. Not least Tim Garratt when he got stiffed over his .mac account.

I do use Firefox as one of my browsers, but only so I can keep my shared Google calendar open as it uses a different user name and password to my other accounts. Maybe it comes back to connections again, but I never really connected with Firefox.

But Chrome is good. It is now much faster than Safari, allows clever plug-ins and seems to never crash. Even with sites that have Flash embedded on their front page.

Is Apple losing their grip? or is Safari due a major upgrade.

If you want to see a brilliant Google funded experiment with the power and processing of Chrome, have a look at this site. Put in your home Postcode, wait a few minutes and sit back and enjoy. The first few minutes are dull and then it will stagger you.