Beach Buggy, Tesla Arcade and Automotive Network Effects

Beach Buggy, Tesla Arcade and Automotive Network Effects

In a recent interview, Musk made reference to the possibility of an app store for Teslas. Tesla also recently announced Arcade, a new game hub and essentially a mini “app store” of classic games. With Arcade, Tesla already has the seeds of an App Store.

Adding an App Store to Tesla OS and ultimately making it a platform for 3rd party developers is a pivotal move. Historically, major platforms like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google generated incredible value, scale and defensive position (a moat) by leveraging a network of 3rd party developers to build for the platform. It’ll be fascinating to see how such dynamics play out in the emerging arena of automotive OS’s.

There are large implications if we frame automotive as a platform similar to PCs, smartphones and TVs. Duopolies tend to emerge for networked platforms. Those duopolies eventually drive the overwhelming value in those ecosystems. Microsoft & Apple for PCs. Apple & Android for smartphones. Roku and FireTV for TVs. (Yes, the last is still debatable.)

What if network effects eventually take automotive in that direction too?

The obvious response... “There’s no way GM, VW, or Toyota would ever cede their position to a 3rd party.” That may be true. Nonetheless, Nokia, Motorola and RIM were all dominating leaders in smartphones with a similar stance before things headed toward iOS and Android. (Notably, neither Apple nor Google had an incumbent position in the industry.) And, while the future may not be written for TVs and Samsung, LG and Vizio, a trajectory is emerging around Roku and FireTV, also two non-incumbents.

Network effects tend to seed quietly, take root without fanfare and then scale very fast. The hockey stick.

Read the rest of the article on Medium...

reed_lewis | June 28, 2019

Tesla has been promising an ability for third party software to run in the car for a long time. I would love to be able to load software that I write into the car to be able to display stuff I want to display, play music from a USB with a real music player, and even have a streaming capability for other sources. I know that anything that uses data would probably require a user provided cell subscription, but if I could insert software of my own design into the car, I would gladly pay for the cell data.

Of course all apps would need to run in a sandbox to not allow any nefarious operations in the car, but that has been done in other cases before so it should be possible.

BuffaloBillsFan | June 28, 2019

Interesting thought. There are so many things that people want/don’t want wrt Tesla software. It would be pretty cool if we could cherry-pick apps to enhance the Tesla car app, for instance . . .

blue adept | June 30, 2019

Likely any app development will be conducted by Tesla itself, afterall Musk did start out writing his own code for his own video game, plus, in-house development would circumvent the potentiality for some heretofore unrevealed third party with less than the best of intentions establishing an exploit that could lead to system corruption for Tesla's functionality.

So, nice spiel, but I don't think so.

blakamp | June 30, 2019

It isn’t ultimately scalable (or economically sound) for Tesla to take on development for all apps and functions that will be demanded in a future heading to autonomy... where attention cycles are freed. Yes, security is certainly an issue that needs to be considered deeply and addressed with increasing focus in any scenario.

Mike83 | June 30, 2019

An automotive vehicle has many rules and regs and something that could interfere with driving safety must be well vetted. Tesla has enough enemies(ICE makers, gas/oil makers, insurance firms, etc.) to give them something else to nitpick.

blakamp | June 30, 2019

I am relatively familiar with the complexities and constraints of deploying automotive integrations. Regardless, nothing suggested breaks a threshold not already crossed by Slacker or Beach Buggy integrations.

Mike83 | June 30, 2019

Beach Buggy cannot be used while car is driving. Great ideas that aren't so great often miss the obvious.

blakamp | June 30, 2019

If you read the article, you'll find that is exactly what is outlined... 3rd party "App Store" apps that are only usable in non-driving scenarios.

blue adept | July 1, 2019


As you've already agreed "security' IS the most tantamount consideration when it comes to application integration, especially in a platform involving the potential for risk to human life, and the best 'security' is had by those with a vested interest in ensuring that it remains intact and uncompromised by some third-party interest intent only on making a buck by gaining a degree of notoriety from being in the spotlight of controversy, intrigue and envy, you know, like Tesla is.

No thank you.

blue adept | July 1, 2019


Also, who better than Tesla to "take on development for all apps and functions that will be demanded in a future heading to autonomy...", they ARE the ones pioneering the transition to full autonomous driving afterall?!

It's like what @Mike83 alluded to, some things should just be..."obvious".

blakamp | July 1, 2019

I buy the premise, but not the conclusion. Security is indeed central, but that doesn’t mean that no 3rd party apps should be allowed. Beach Buggy is a 3rd party app. And, Musk has alluded to an App Store anyway.

In an autonomous world, users will eventually clamor for all manner of apps on the big beautiful screens in vehicle. There’s no way Tesla could ultimately keep up with that on it’s own for all the functionality that will be demanded... productivity, communications, informational, gaming, entertainment, social, etc. I already can imagine big value to having Slack, Skype and Salesforce available in larked scenarios for executives.

Better to invest $$ in 1) separating the security surfaces of infotainment systems from automotive control systems and 2) advanced vetting and oversight teams, than to try to take every hill themselves. To that point, even Apple knew it couldn’t do it alone for smartphones.

blue adept | July 1, 2019

I find it interesting how you're championing the position of ICE auto manufacturers who've chosen to pursue the inclusion of mere apps specifically designed to grab your attention over any actual technological shift in the automotive paradigm, preferring instead to forestall the transition by distracting the driver from the fact that they're still pushing the same 125+ year old, antiquated technology by outfitting it with some newfangled frills and whistles to occupy your attention and keep your mind off the fact that you're tooling about town in a toxic fume spewing piece of obsolete tech.

Tesla doesn't have a need to engage in such trivial nuances just to maintain an ultimately insignificant degree of relevance in order to hock their wares since they're the one settings the bar that everyone else has yet to even come close to grasping/reach.

There is no need for the inclusion of 'apps' for Tesla to maintain its position of dominance in the automotive/commuter world and can easily afford to pursue such a secondary concern while they remain focused on forging the path ahead that everyone else will be following.

blakamp | July 2, 2019

It’s not clear to me what counterargument you’re really making here. You’re also inaccurately asserting my rationale behind positions.

A quick summary of my positions:

1) I believe Tesla needs to extend support for at least a couple prominent audio services in the audio experience. I recommend that they not do that as “apps”, rather natively under a consistent, unified, distraction-contained approach.

2) Tesla released Beach Buggy, a 3rd party app, and Musk made reference to an App Store. I didn’t make that up, nor is that a “championing of an ICE legacy”. If you really believe apps represent an “championing if ICE ”, I suggest you take that up with Elon.

3) Tesla’s huge screens and fast growing strength toward autonomy offer an opportunity to start adding new value. It starts in parked scenarios and migrates to scenarios where the car is in motion as autonomy develops. Again, Tesla is already heading down that road with Beach Buggy.

4) Games are great, fun additions, Per Musk’s reference to an App Store, it sounds like Tesla is mulling steps beyond just games.

5) An App Store presents an opportunity for Tesla to add new types of value to “users”... an opportunity that has historically cemented the dominant position of emerging platforms, as well as generated significant economic returns (e.g. Windows for PCs, iOS for smartphones.)