Say it ain't so, but then again is it really all that wise to question Mark Gurman of Bloomberg? According to Gurman, Apple's Bob Mansfield, heading up Apple's car aspirations, has drastically scaled back the program guiding it towards an autonomous only, software-based state. The project, running under the not-so-secret code name Project Titan, once on track to be a grand electric car, could realize itself as little more than autonomous driving software technology to be licensed to automotive manufacturers. Evidently, the door is open for the technology to be worked back into a fully developed Apple car in the far future. But currently any "Apple car or bust!" direction is now off the table. Or is it?
If Mansfield has indeed dialed back Project Titan, focusing only on autonomous driving for the time being, it would be hard to view it as anything less than a massive failure within Apple's leadership. We previously discussed how Apple has lost momentum in many categories, missing complete launch cycles due to Project Titan brain-drain. For the car program to be scaled back in this fashion, while hurting the company in other areas, will be utterly unacceptable from many within Apple's investment circles and beyond, striking another blow to Tim Cook's leadership abilities.
Apple has built an empire letting other companies dive into newly emerging markets. Apple's resolve has been to strike out at just the right time by leapfrogging misguided or stale offerings with a clear path of design innovation and direction. iPod, iPhone and iPad showed Apple's laser focus in what products should be, with consumers easily understanding and adopting Apple's vision.
It was thought Apple would do to Tesla what it had done to MP3 players, Blackberry, and the Netbook market – leapfrog Tesla's forthcoming Model 3 with superior mileage, technology and price, with the ability to deliver the car in volume once being released. It appears Mansfield sees no immediate way to disrupt Tesla or other automotive electric vehicles, which put an end to Project Titan the car. Apple cannot risk launching a vehicle that is nothing more than a "me too" offering. But Apple may have something else taking place under their cloak of secrecy.
Let me take a moment to suggest Gurman could be wrong, or misinterpreted his information. Bob Mansfield has never enjoyed working with large teams to develop products at Apple, and he has successfully taken over stumbling programs before. Mansfield grabbed the reigns from former IBM chip whiz kid Mark Papermaster, successfully bringing iMac and MacBook back to life. Papermaster was smart microprocessor guy, but couldn't fit into Apple's culture, nor lead product teams, but Mansfield got things done.
The former Project Titan leader was Steve Zadesky, an electric technology guru from Ford, who left Apple in early 2016, citing personal reasons. However, under Zadesky's leadership Project Titan was said to have added up to 3,000 employees working on the program. This model may have been familiar to Zadesky at Ford, but layers of management and a massive amount of bodies working on a product is an absolute culture clash in how Apple achieves it's goals. Mansfield is merely retooling his team.
Mansfield, may have very well held a team meeting in Apple's auditorium, while laying off hundreds of employees, but this may be misunderstood by many, or could be intentional misdirection from Apple.
Project Titan is at least two years old. With the pace at which Apple works the fundamentals of the car is likely well in hand. Mansfield is more than likely to be trimming the fat out of the program, crafting a tightly knit, focused, Apple-esque team. Smaller teams add energy and effort into a project, and Mansfield has previously shown the skill to know how this works within Apple's culture. This is not Bob Mansfield's first rodeo. While many may believe Apple is trimming back people to scale down the Project Titan program, it may be just as likely that Mansfield is sharpening the team and pushing to get the car completed and out the door, without anyone being the wiser.
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