The idea of an Apple Car continues to get a lot of attention. Part of that is because the next and the unknown is always more tantalizing than the last and already known. The other part is a general sense that we're at an inflection point in the automotive industry where electricity and automation are opening doors to new new entrants with new and potentially revolutionary ideas.

Neil Cybart, writing for Above Avalon:

It was recently revealed that Apple has set up a web of Project Titan buildings and infrastructure spread across Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and San Jose. This means that it is incorrect to think of Project Titan as just being about one product or one feature. Instead, Apple is building an entire start-up focused on the electric car industry, giving me a high level of confidence that Apple's efforts will lead to products. When diving deeper into Project Titan, this is where there is greater unknown as to whether a certain technology will ever ship, such as various autonomous driving features, different features for new internal passenger compartments, unique car materials, and the list goes on. Each one of those items should be thought of as an individual project that may not see the light of day.

Here's the thing: I think it goes beyond electric cars. Rather, electric cars are the manifestation or the project used to pull Apple further into the future.

iPhone—Project Purple—used mainly internal talent and still ideas that started with it, including the App Store and new architectures for security, privacy, and extensibility have rippled through the product line and shaped Apple's destiny ever since.

What would a project run by Apple but just outside of Apple, with a mix of internal and external talent, and the willingness to test old assumptions and try new ideas mean for the company? And not just for the atoms, but for the bits?

Apple never made a typewriter, they made a computer for your desk. Never a phone, but a computer for your pocket. Never a watch, but a computer for your wrist. Each took and used a familiar form to make them understandable and approachable, but each also pushed the state of the art of Apple forward.

Likewise, not a car, but a computer for your roads. It'll use a familiar form to make it understandable and approachable, but it will similarly push the state of the art of Apple forward. Perhaps far more than a phone or watch, by virtue of how they were developed, ever could.

Beyond an Apple Car—and I'm excited for one to ship—the processes and technologies that come from projects like Titan will also ripple throughout Apple and redefine the company for the next decade, and perhaps in ways more profound than any before.

And that's the true value of all that R&D spend.