Apple and the mysterious case of the as yet missing moonshot

“When John Morrell left his post at Yale University last year and decamped to Apple, some members of the robotics community were perplexed,” Ashlee Vance reports for Businessweek. “Morrell, a robotics whiz and one of the leading engineers behind the Segway, had been tapped as director for Yale’s newly opening Center for Engineering Innovation & Design… Morrell had been overseeing research around how robots climb stairs and open doors, and how humans generally interact with machines. And then—poof—the superstar director bailed on the project.”

“Since Apple discloses very little about upcoming projects, it’s anyone’s guess what Morrell is actually working on,” Vance reports. “My roboticist friends think he must be working on something pretty fantastic to have quit the Yale post. My great hope is that he is indeed building a robot that transforms health care, or crafting the first mind-bending consumer 3D printer, or devising something far more spectacular.”

Vance reports, “It’s quite possible, though, that Morrell has become just another member of a giant consumer electronics company… As Apple’s share price plummeted, people have been grousing that the company saturated its core markets and failed to come up with the next big thing. For the most part, they seem to be awaiting some new consumer electronics gizmo that will blow everyone’s minds—and carry Apple into an untapped market in which it can hoover up all the profits. That’s fair enough. But at this point, it seems as if Apple could benefit from something even more daring: what Silicon Valley folks call a moonshot.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Patience, padawan. Always in motion the future is.


  1. I am SOOOOOO tired of everyone demanding Apple come up with the “Next Big Thing”. How many companies even come up with one Big Thing?!? When was Sony’s last Big Thing? Microsoft hasn’t had a Big Thins since Windows (some may argue Xbox, but still . . . ). Has GE had a Big Thing since the light bulb was invented? Ford’s Big Thing was assembly line production of the Model T, and since then what has the entire car industry done to create a Big Thing? Has Exxon Mobile created a Big Thing since it learned to pump gas?

    The fact is Big Things come along very infrequently. Apple has actually had far more than its share: The Apple II, Mac OS, iPhone, iPad.

    The Next Big Thing may simply be the continued evolution of Apple products and remaining one of the world’s most valuable companies. That seems to be enough for Wall Street when talking about other companies.

  2. I love how everyone is crying for the next big thing. When Jobs first showed the world both the iPhone and iPad, a hell of a lot of people thought they sucked. Remember how they said the iPad was just a big IPod touch??? They didn’t even know know what the next big thing was till a year after it had been introduced and sold millions of units!

  3. I would love to see apple buy a piece of Telsa. They could use the money and joint battery development. Telsa’s gorgeous car and technology is the future of cars, a perfect pairing. Heck Tessa’s showrooms already look Apple-esque.

  4. As I recall Steve Jobs was quite enthralled with the Segway when it was still known as Ginger. Maybe Apple is going to step in and finish the job of developing an actual viable consumer product. The Segway was a great idea that was never brought to the market place as an affordable, useful addition to the users life.

    1. The problem with the Segway is the same as the problem with Google Glass. Its users look suspiciously like dorks.

      Yes, dorks will buy and use such devices, but in order to catch on with the general public, the products need to attract ordinary people.

      Google’s royal hierarchy are dorks at heart. They are imperious, aloof, separate from the riffraff. These dorks are anointed; gifted messengers from other dimensions of imagination; bent on enlightening H. Sapiens with each of their grand experiments.

      The single error in their reasoning is that what they want, and envision, must be what all people want, or should want. Many of us, however, wish to be excluded from their infantile conception of human wants, and especially from their fin de siècle morality that discards privacy like an outgrown stuffed animal, and seeks to commoditize everyone’s personal style and dignity for their own gain, all the while wearing a cardboard halo to fool us, as they know they can.

      1. I am no fan of Google. I don’t trust them and try not to use their “products”. But what does Google have to do with John Morrell or Segway? I’m just entertaining the possibility that he is at Apple to bring a Segway-like product to fruition.

        As far as looking like a dork while riding a Segway, it’s kind of true. I think that comes from the helmets and knee pads and the occasional face-plants, but as dorks we need to accept that there is envy in the world and people will try to emulate us. Being accepting is part of what makes us good people.

  5. Wall Street Manic Depression (aka ‘bipolarism’) again in evidence:

    As Apple’s share price plummeted, blahblahblah. For the most part, they seem to be awaiting some new consumer electronics gizmo that will blow everyone’s minds blahblahblah. That’s fair enough.

    No, it’s not ‘fair enough.’ It’s MANIC.

    Again I have to ask:
    Is Wall Street collectively addicted to cocaine? Once again I’m reading Wall Street blethering that sounds exactly like someone high on coke. NOT GOOD. Not sane.

    Wouldn’t it be fascinating in the future to discover that all the economic insanity that drove us into the 2007 worldwide economic depression, and all the continuing lunacy, has been due in large part to the deranged actions of drug addicts?

    Whatever, the cause of this behavior, it’s NOT rational. It is self-destructive. History will tell.

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