i-Scoot: The Apple of His Eye

By Bill Moore

Posted: 18 Jan 2012

Apple Computers changed my world when I bought my first Macintosh 128 computer back in the summer of 1984. I have owned Apple products ever since that time, with only brief flirtations with Windows-based machines; but always there was a Mac running somewhere in my house. Today, n iMac sits on my desk, an older Macbook laptop rests to my right and somewhere nearby is my iPad. If I could afford the monthly service charges, I would also have an iPhone. My daughter does, so maybe that counts.

With that original Mac 128, I launched a freelance copywriting business called Wordwright. That led to jobs writing promotional copy for local businesses, even the odd industrial video script for the Portland Cement Association. One of the brochures I wrote even won an Addy award. It also landed me a job that would eventually lead to "discovering" the Internet and launching another business, this one building websites for local corporations and government agencies. I built the first web site for Ameritrade. I should have taken payment in stock instead of cash. The owners and a few employees cashed out multi-millionaires.

It was because Apple announced it was abandoning the Macintosh operating system around 1997 that I started looking for another web-based business to take on to replace my Macware.com domain, which I was planning to use to sell software and books through. By chance, I became intrigued by electric cars, the EV1 in particular, and thought I'd launch a magazine devoted to EVs. EV World.com went live on January 1, 1998.

Of course, Apple didn't abandon the Mac, as the two machines next to me testify. In fact, they not only continued to pump out evermore powerful computers, all of them brilliant pieces of design and functionality, but they also came to dominate the digital music scene with iPods and iTunes. Next came iPhones and then in 2010, iPads. Each a stunning blend of great industrial art and technology; and each, in its own way, turning their respective industries on their noggins: music, telephony, publishing.

So, what might Apple do next? What industry is ripe for revolution?

May I humbly suggest the electric two-wheeled market.

Now, admittedly, I am not the first to suggest this. Brighter lights have also espoused similar ideas; the most recent when Apple filed patents for a battery charging system, which ostensibly is intended for its electronic devices. However, as we starting to see, the gap between the iPhone and the iCar, or more specifically, i-Scooter has narrowed significantly in the last couple years; so much so that car companies are now opting to unveil their newest creations not in Detroit each January, but in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. Ford started the trend last year. This year Fisker followed suit, as did Kia, which debuted two new all-electric cars: the Ray and the Naimo. Manufacturers of EV charging stations also used the CES venue to introduce their wares now that there are real cars on the road to plug them into.

We used to kid about what would happen if Microsoft built cars, about how they'd crash all the time. But Apple building electric scooters with all its super cool navigation, music, and telecom capabilities incorporated, along with classic, clean, high-end industrial design, marketed and serviced through Apple i-Scoot Stores, doesn't seem all that farfetched to me now.

The company already has most of the skills and supply chains in place to make this not only feasible, but pretty easily doable, if they set their minds to it. Most of their hardware is now built in Asia, which also happens to the world's biggest market for scooters, bicycles and motorcycles. According to Ed Benjamin, writing in the latest edition of EV World Insider Illustrated, 150 million people already use battery electric vehicles on a daily basis, most of them two wheeled electric bicycles and scooters. In 2010, 29 million electric bikes were sold in China. He predicts that volume sales of electric scooters will hit 130 million a year by 2025. Compare that to Apple iPad sales, which are estimated at 25 million iPads in 2011, and they are now sold in 92 countries.

Apple has a huge following in China, as the near riot outside the Apple Store in Beijing last week demonstrates. A thousand people gathered outside the store waiting to buy the latest iPhone model, the 4S. The waiting customers became so unruly that the police asked the store not to open, while they used strong arm tactics to break up the crowd.

It could be argued that an electric scooter is a far cry from an iPhone or iPad, and there is some merit to that perspective, but given that Apple has more cash and securities than the U.S. Treasury ($76.156 billion vs. $73.768 billion), it can easily buy what expertise it lacks. Add to this recent revelations that they are about to introduce fuel cells to power their portable electronic devices, and suddenly -- from my perspective -- a fuel cell hybrid electric scooter with an Apple logo on the side seems like a sure bet. The talent is there, the technology is there, the market is certainly there, especially in Asia.

What's keeping them out of the market? Perhaps the realization that building really cool, smart portable electronics is one thing, motorized vehicles, regardless of how much electronics they incorporate, is quite another, as an acquaintance of mine with lots of expertise in the two-wheeled scooter and motorcycle business reminds me. Best Buy tried to sell Brammo motorcycles and failed. Motorcycle people sell motorcycles, he told me not long ago. That may be, but once upon a time the only place you could buy a phone was from the telephone company. How the world has changed.

If Apple does someday announce it's going to sell something like i-Scoots, it could be the best thing to happen in our EV world. Look how their other products not only changed how we communicate, when and where we listen, and what and how we read; but they also exude a kind of seductive 'must-have' coolness that drives sales at an exponential rate. Think what that could do for EV mobility around the planet.

Will they do it? Who knows? Should they? Absolutely!

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