Apple and Tesla might be best known for their significant contributions to the tech world, but could a new health opportunity develop after the coronavirus outbreak passes?
As the world struggles to deal with Covid-19, Apple and Tesla are stepping into the breach. Tesla is building ventilators that can be used to save lives and Apple is making face shields to protect healthcare workers.
"Our design, engineering, operations and packaging teams are working with suppliers to design, produce, and ship face shields for medical workers," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a tweet this week.
In an accompanying video, he said teams that typically work on building Apple products are making face shields. He touted the shield's design, saying it's fully adjustable and that 100 can fit into each box. Apple is shipping a million shields this week and plans to ship a million each week going forward. Cook added that Apple plans to launch the shield around the world in the coming weeks.
If you read that again, you get the distinct feeling that Cook's comments sound far more like an iPhone launch than a medical supply announcement. And that's telling.
Tesla and CEO Elon Musk are similarly bullish on playing a role to help Covid-19 patients. And the company is using its technical and manufacturing know-how to deliver ventilators to save lives.
Now the question is what happens after the first coronavirus wave passes and the world tries to get back to normal. For Tesla and Apple, of course, their focus will center on their core businesses. But is there a possibility they'll become health care device makers?
In Tesla's case, there are longer odds of that happening. But with Apple, it seems possible.
For one, Cook seems quick to draw a distinction between his company's face shields and those hospitals would otherwise use.
More important, Cook has been mulling the idea that Apple could become a health-first company at some point in the future. Indeed, he said last year in an interview with CNBC that health, and not iPhones, will define Apple well into the future.
"I believe, if you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, 'What was Apple's greatest contribution to mankind?' it will be about health," Cook said.
So far, that health focus has centered on Apple Watch, pulse monitoring, and Afib detection. But the coronavirus outbreak has created a new reality, and Apple is adapting.
Of course, there are plenty of things medical professionals need besides face shields and ventilators. And medical device companies shouldn't be too concerned about Apple just yet. But Apple has a tendency to enter markets, make an impact, and continue to expand its reach. It's entirely possible Apple does the same in health equipment.
After all, with a vast manufacturing network, an outstanding supply chain, and boatloads of cash, what's really stopping Apple from doing whatever it wants?