When giant automaker Ford says the future of its business is not about vehicle ownership but “miles travelled”, you know change is coming, and that change is amply described in Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report.
[Also read: ‘What we think we know about the Apple Car’]
Sure, reports this morning are dominated by over-simplified analysis of the analyst’s smartphone predictions (they miss that iPhones don’t matter anymore), but those are just a fragment of over 200-pages of information-packed slides. I’ve been through them, there’s a story in each one, but here are a few ideas about the future of the car:
Lifestyle habits are changing. Not only is GDP in free fall across the planet, but the new Millennials are digital natives who want a better work/life balance. They are early adopters and chat on WhatsApp, rather than using the phone. They are happy to share, they embrace new technologies and are entering their peak earnings decade. They also understand the need for greener solutions, are more willing to car share, and less interested in learning to drive. 46 percent of them expect car technology to do everything a smartphone can, the report explains.
Voice is key. The drive to achieving 99% accuracy from voice control is incredibly important (why else do you think others in the industry fear Apple’s acquisition of VocalIQ?) Where we are now we have around 90-95% accuracy, but the move to 99% will make a huge difference in use. Natural language processing combined with server-based data analysis will open a ton of opportunities in an increasingly connected age.
Where do we use our voices to control things? Well, according to the report, we mainly use voice in transit (19%), in the car (36%) and at home (43%). The main reason we use voice is because we’re doing something else with our hands. (And we don’t use voice at work).
The Mac you have everywhere. Apple, Ford, Google and others are already building sophisticated in-car solutions like CarPlay, but that’s just paddling in the ocean. Why? The car is becoming a computer. Think about it – already when you pull your iPhone out your pocket the least likely thing you’ll do with it is make a call. That’s a change in use. Cars are changing too: as more intelligence is pumped inside them it’s possible the last thing you’ll be thinking about doing in them is driving anywhere.
You might sit in them to create video.
The future workplace
Cars may become office space. The report doesn’t claim this, so I will: Office real estate prices could collapse as millions of connected workers choose to work from their car, engaging in video conferencing using their increasingly powerful and regularly updated UC communications tools. Why not? The views will be better, office politics lesser and when it comes to comfort, car seats are way more comfortable than most office chairs. Autonomy, mobility, connectivity – these are the forces that define the new digital enterprise. Road speed will become less important than processor speed. Perhaps the new Mac Pro will be a car? Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as Meeker’s report (p.135) suggests China and India may be the key markets in which the future of the car is defined (are you really surprised?).
Proliferation of the hub
I mentioned the shortsighted focus on smartphone market weakness and forecasts of iPhone sales decline earlier. One of the reasons this is shortsighted is because the mobile market is transforming. It isn’t just about iPhones and iPads, but also about wearables, televisions, coffee pots and vehicles. Anything that’s connected becomes part of the paradigm.
Within this, each platform informs the other – one great example of this being the Apple Watch app that controls a Tesla. Think about it: In future you will summon your Apple Car using your Watch. Ride sharing services like Didi and Uber hint that you may not even need to own the car, just ask for an autonomous vehicle to come pick you up; Services like iCloud suggest you’ll be able to access everything you can on your home or office computer using any other available device, so long as your biometric Apple Watch ID says you are who you say you are.
Why else do you see Touch ID on future Macs?
Apple has a lot to offer here, and that’s why Tesla’s Elon Musk sees Cupertino, not Google, as the big competitor in the space, though he warns scaling vehicle manufacture may be a problem (which is why Apple’s reportedly working with Magna).
What’s important is that the car will be connected, not just to you as the passenger, but to smart city infrastructure, road transit systems, and the vehicles surrounding it. Cars will even park themselves for you. This is the proliferation of the hub.
OK, I’ve vastly exceeded my word count today, but do take a look at Meeker’s report, it will definitely provide food for thought across a range of topics – and yes, I agree that these suggestions will inform the future of every connected car, not just Apple’s.
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