What if Apple invented propane?

November 20, 2017 By    

Apple would hone in on propane’s expanded uses, such as autogas, outdoor rooms, housing and businesses. Photo courtesy of the Propane Education & Research Council

Last month, on the 10th anniversary of the first iPhone, Apple announced the release of iPhone X with the headline, “Say Hello to the Future.”

The iPhone X is loaded with new technology and features previously unheard of in the smartphone space. It comes with a price tag that is double what that original iPhone cost, but there was not a trace of an apology from Apple for the price. I predict the marketplace will determine the value is there.

What if Apple had invented propane instead of the iPhone? How would propane be competing in the energy space? Smartphones provide communications in a lot of different ways and propane delivers energy to be used in lots of different ways. Think about how Apple would position propane in the energy marketplace.

With its cellphone technology, Apple ignored the fact that conglomerates like AT&T had sewn up the market on telephone communications through vast landline networks.

When the cordless phone, the big innovation with landline networks, allowed consumers to take their phones across the room to talk, Apple and other companies developed cellphone products that you could take anywhere. Since then, Apple has been a leader in taking mobile phone technology to new levels with its smartphone approach. Consumers across the United States and units of government are now dealing with the issues of companies withdrawing from the landline market because iPhones and other smartphones have taken over communication needs in more effective ways.

If Apple had invented propane, it would look at natural gas in the energy marketplace the same way it looked at AT&T in the telephone communications marketplace. Apple would observe that, though the natural gas industry has a vast underground network of gas pipelines that seem to dominate the residential and commercial markets in most parts of the country, the pipeline network is old and fragile, with overwhelming maintenance issues.

Apple would also recognize that the public utility family of companies is a slow-moving behemoth that takes its place in the energy market for granted. The natural gas version of mobility is adding a rubber hose to the pipeline network to reach a grill on a patio. It reminds me of that cordless phone that allowed us to take our telephone across the room to talk, but wouldn’t allow us to take it outside.

Apple would then zero in on the opportunities that propane offers because it is mobile gas energy that can be used virtually anywhere. It would also hone in on its expanded uses, such as autogas, outdoor rooms, housing, businesses and anywhere beyond the natural gas mains. Mobile propane leads to mobile energy apps, much like having a smartphone leads you to a whole new world of communications apps. Propane comes with the freedom and mobility of leaving that aging natural gas infrastructure behind.

If propane were Apple’s invention, we would be on offense and could position “smart” propane as the mobile leader in the energy space. We would be open to and supportive of technologies and applications for propane, especially those that reflect the mobility and versatility of propane gas. We would do all of that and, like Apple, not apologize for the price.

We spend too much time wringing our hands and trying to figure out how to reach younger generations when we have the “smart” energy product and innovative technology and applications to do so.

Several years ago, the consultants started telling us how to reach Generation X consumers and workers. Time has passed, and now I have a granddaughter who is a part of Generation Z, also known as the iGen, and we have to figure out a way to reach that generation. We can reach all of those generations and advance the use of “smart” propane if we just ask ourselves, “What would Apple do?”


Tom Jaenicke is vice president of propane marketing services at Warm Thoughts Communications. He can be reached at tjaenicke@warmthoughts.com or 810-252-7855.

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