What if Apple and Tesla joined forces to help us take down climate change?

GreenBiz collage

Apple and Tesla face each other at my local mall. The two brightly lit stores each exude shiny surfaces, smiles of helpful employees, the buzz of the new, new thing. Yet between them, other than a row of potted palms, there is everything and nothing.

Everything, because Apple and Tesla could do so much together. Consider the emerging home energy stack, in which devices mean anything with a plug, network means information flows and the underlying energy that makes it happen, and a unified dashboard harmonizes it all. Everything means everything is charging or discharging when it is best to charge or discharge. It means that electricity is bouncing from the car to the home to the battery and back again. Everything means everything runs on renewable energy, whether from on the roof, next door, or outside of town.

Tesla’s cars, batteries and rooftop solar panels or tiles lay the foundation. Apple could extend that reach to power all other devices (including, of course, its own), creating a comprehensive and integrated experience that just works and enables a truly zero-emissions lifestyle.

Nothing, because all of this happens only in my head as I stand between the two retailers. Each is minding its own business, literally, selling only the things they make (along with a few third-party accessories). Nothing passes between them. While Elon Musk articulates his vision of a sustainable energy future for consumers and takes critical steps along the path to get there, it’s incomplete without the in-home ecosystem platform that a company such as Apple — or others such as Google, Amazon, Samsung or IKEA — could bring.

End-to-end experience

Any of these leading brand companies stands to gain a lot — transformation of the energy sector is the next trillion-dollar opportunity — by not waiting for third parties to chip away at pieces of the opportunity, but instead radically pursuing an end-to-end renewable-energy experience for their customers.

This transition is familiar to me. When we launched iTunes at Apple in 2003, we could have taken a passive approach to building the ecosystem. We could have waited for developers and content providers to take the lead in making TV shows or movies accessible on smartphones. Instead, we aggressively pursued the media and content partners we knew needed to be in place to make a rich content experience possible, country by country.

In contrast, when we launched AppleSearch, Apple’s first end-user-facing product for the Internet way back in 1994, it ended up stalling out because our emphasis was strictly on selling hardware and not on the potential of this emerging thing called the World Wide Web. We struggled to see past the business we knew, to envision the business we could have grown.

Today, we need a one-click that takes billions of homes to zero emissions in order to take down climate change. And there is no company on earth able to do this alone, now or for the foreseeable future. Without enabling a whole system we don’t have a chance to succeed.

Perhaps next time I’m at the mall, I’ll connect Apple and Tesla, at least to wave to each store across the walkway that separates them. Let’s go further and connect on a shared vision, no longer of fragments but a cleaner, smarter integrated future that "just works" for everyone.

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