Apple turns to cars and banks for its next big thing

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At its recent developer event, Apple showed plans to dramatically expand its CarPlay platform to include every screen in the driver’s cockpit.

Courtesy of Apple

Apple

must think big these days. Really big.

In addition to retailers

walmart

and

Amazon.co.uk
,

Apple (ticker: AAPL) generates more revenue than any other US company. This year, the total is expected to approach $400 billion. The company generates huge amounts of cash and increasingly returns it to shareholders. But investors have made Apple the most popular company in the country, thanks in large part to its ability to innovate, coming up with new ideas that can generate even higher revenues.

The math is daunting. To increase revenue by 10%, Apple needs to find $40 billion in additional annual sales. That’s roughly the size of the company’s Mac business, which has been around since 1984, or its entire “wearables, home and accessories” segment, which includes Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePods.

Last week, Apple showed off some of its new ideas at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC. His nearly two-hour keynote actually seemed light on game changers. But beneath the surface, there were hints of where Apple might find the next big thing. Here are the options:

Augmented reality: There have been many reports that Apple is about to launch glasses for augmented and virtual reality. The latest leaks suggested that this year’s WWDC would finally deliver the big reveal. If Apple is going to launch a platform for AR/VR experiences, it needs its software developers to play along. But the company hasn’t said anything. Nothing.

Although frustrated, Wall Street still believes it. “Something big is coming,” says Gene Munster, investor, former analyst and longtime Apple watcher, now at Loup Ventures. But he concedes that “the silence was deafening”.

Munster points out that Apple has addressed AR every year at WWDC since 2017, when the company launched its first AR tools for developers, called ARKit. Munster says Apple is ending its AR ambitions or “someone missed a target and had to wait.” He thinks the latter is more likely. Munster’s revised guess is that we’ll hear the Apple AR/VR story at WWDC 2023.

A slew of other large-cap tech companies are betting that augmented and virtual reality can become huge business. Mark Zuckerberg is so convinced of the power of the so-called metaverse that he changed the name of his company to

Metaplatforms

(META).

Microsoft

(MSFT) is developing a version of its HoloLens smart glasses for commercial and military applications. If this turns out to be a huge opportunity, Apple will want to be there. But there is not yet a big market and previous experiments have failed. (Remember Google Glass?) The market once thought Apple was going to build TVs. This has never been the case.

Cars: While an Apple Car remains pure speculation, there was a new wrinkle at WWDC. Apple plans to significantly expand its CarPlay platform to include all driver cockpit displays, including the speedometer and climate controls. Apple said the first cars with this more comprehensive version of CarPlay will debut late next year. It’s unclear if the demo signals the arrival of a full Apple Car or if Apple has instead decided to be an ingredient brand in other cars. CarPlay is now available on almost all cars (

You’re here

[TSLA] being the main exception).

The car market is such a size and scope that it would move the needle on Apple’s revenue, but the company outsources all of its manufacturing and it seems unlikely to start building car factories. Munster puts the likelihood of Apple actually producing a car at 45%. “The ambition is to have a car,” he says. “Whether they get there or not is another question.”

The new version of CarPlay “puts the Apple ecosystem at the center of the automotive software experience like never before: it feels more like a carOS than a single app available on a center console screen,” the analyst said. Morgan Stanley, Katy Huberty. written in a research note. “We believe this is likely part of Apple’s path to developing an automotive operating system and could be a small taste of what’s possible with a potential Apple Car project.”

Meanwhile, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi sees risks for the auto industry in the spread of CarPlay. Consumers love CarPlay – Apple said 79% of consumers would only consider buying a new car if it had CarPlay. In other words, Apple might not have to make a car – it could just squeeze more automotive functionality into its own platform, much like the iPhone replaced digital cameras, music players and maps.

Finance: During the keynote, Apple announced the launch of Apple Pay Later, a buy-it-now and pay-later service similar to those offered by

Affirm Assets

(AFRM) and other companies. The service will allow people who use the company’s Apple Pay to split purchases into four installments, with no interest charges. It’s the latest addition to the company’s growing portfolio of financial services, including the Apple Card, which is actually issued by

Goldman Sachs
.

While Pay Later transactions will go through Goldman Sachs and on the

MasterCard

network, Apple will bear the financial risk associated with the service. The move poses the intriguing idea that Apple could leverage its massive cash pile to become a bigger player in financial services – and there aren’t many bigger markets than that.

Call it Apple National Bank.

Write to Eric J. Savitz at [email protected]