The recent rumours and intrigue around Apple looking to invest in Formula One although out of character for the Californian based tech giant, should be a surprise if you look at the last couple of years in the sport.
Apple is an inspirational brand. Really you would have to class them as a hardware company, who make money on the back of selling iPhones, iPads, Macs and other recent devices such as the Apple Watch and the updated Apple TV. In fact, the company makes the majority of their fortune with the iPhone, with an approximate 40 million sold in the last quarter alone. Unlike its two closest rivals Google and Microsoft they are not however known as a software or services company, with a couple of exceptions.
iTunes is the biggest service the company offers, with a large collection of music and video, along with books and educational content. They don’t offer an email service, and none of their core apps (apart from iTunes on Windows) are offered on rival platforms, it is in main a closed network boosted by its appeal within wealthier markets.
It ties in nicely with the Formula One ethos. Bernie Ecclestone has already reaffirmed that the sport should attracts a wealthier fan base, with a number of upmarket sponsorship deals such as Rolex, Johnny Walker and Emirates. Tightly controlled by Ecclestone, TV and publication deals are strictly enforced and recent trends in social media have challenged the accepted way of doing things within the sport. Apple is also very controlling, iOS is the most locked down mobile computing platform, while it has long accepted that it is either the Apple way or no way when it comes to their user experience.
Apple under competition from rival platforms are making a play in a whole new area, the automobile industry and a tie-up within a motorsport would be a logical move. One on the world stage would be the icing on the cake, and despite Formula E making small waves, Formula One is still the big fish in the sea.
A long term ploy is the living room, and one of the big talking points of the moment. The Apple TV has just received a large overall, but it faces completion from Amazon, Google and Microsoft in the space, and a big name exclusive would enhance their sales, and the chance of pulling people into their ecosystem. With the move already looking like people streaming content rather than a traditional television, you would have to think Apple would be well placed here, and have a huge asset in controlling the broadcast, just as Apple likes to do. It would be logical for them to have a partner though, one who has broadcasting experience and given the long term commitment they have recently made to the sport, you would have to wonder if there is any other option than BSkyB.
Over-the-top broadcasting is going to be the next big thing, and following the flop of the revised Top Gear with Chris Evans on the BBC, the Clarkson/Hammond/May combination on Amazon Prime will be the real test if such a concept is viable.
We are heading into unchartered waters and what better than the most technologically advanced sport in the world leading the way?