Mark Gurman came out with a new report on Apple at Bloomberg a few days ago and it’s a doozy. I get that Apple is spending all kinds of R&D money on AR Glasses and even self-driving car tech, but satellites? This one is seriously out in left field, at least based on Apple’s current core businesses.
Based on the overall reliability of Mark Gurman and his well-established sources within Apple, this report can’t be dismissed as fantasy. There’s no way a guy like him would put information like this out without knowing that it’s valid up to a certain point. So the big question here isn’t whether Apple is working on satellite technology. I think we take that as gospel. The real question is why.
It’s hard to answer that in any detail because Gurman only knows, or at least reported, the vague details of the project. We know Apple has put a team of experienced personnel together to work on this possible venture. Gurman says there is a five year timeline to deliver something, which seems like a short leash considering the long line of failures when it comes to delivering anything profitable from a private satellite network. Most importantly, it sounds like this work has the specific approval and interest of Tim Cook, which is a very important detail.
So what can we gather from this? If there is a five year timeline, then Apple likely isn’t launching a fleet of private satellites right off the bat. However, it is quite possible that they could leverage existing infrastructure via partnerships and deals to start off some kind of dedicated communication service. If you read Gurman’s piece, it sounds like the people involved right now are focused on the device and network sides of the equation and that makes sense if the company is looking for results in the short term.
That still doesn’t answer why the company is looking into this. However, I think if you look at all of Apple’s moves under Tim Cook, you get a pretty good idea. They are developing products and services for right now that can sustain the company as it stands. These are your iterations on existing devices, the Apple Watch, more wearables, and their new services push. Then they are also looking for projects that expand into newer, greener fields of technology. You know- the next iPhone. We know about AR and automobiles, but there are certainly other projects and it sounds like satellite tech is one of them.
There is another important aspect of many of these projects, both current and future. Apple is using many of them to aggressively push for more and more control of its own destiny. Whatever they are planning to use satellite tech for, it will be in the interest of them being less dependent on other tech companies to run their business. Just like Apple getting into the chip business to gain more control over their supply chain and their integration of hardware and software, getting into the communications business helps to free them from dependence on the current wireless carriers.
We may not even be talking about total dependence from existing comm networks, either. When you have millions upon millions of devices today and a lineup that may include new wearables such as glasses and even cars in the future, a way to communicate with any and all of them independent of traditional cellular tech could be a very compelling feature. And who knows, maybe Apple does have long-term plans to become an fully independent Internet provider with its own satellites. I doubt it, but it could also open the doors to billions more in potential revenue. We all know Apple is really good at making money, so maybe that really is their endgame with this.
Whatever the grand plan for satellite tech is, it’s all about Apple getting into a new field that secures further independence and will generate revenue. Whether that last part would directly or indirectly remains to be seen. Of course, Gurman also gave the disclaimer that this whole project could go up in smoke. If the leadership at Apple determines that the goals at the top of this paragraph won’t be properly achieved, then none of this gets out of the planning stages. It will definitely be interesting to see where Apple heads with this if it does happen. If nothing else, it shows that they are willing to go venture outside of the boxes and device and service categories we all imagine them staying in.