Don't bet on an outright merger between tech giant Apple and electric carmaker Tesla Motors, a senior tech analyst told CNBC on Tuesday, but expect Apple to bank on more collaboration with innovators such as Elon Musk.
The Tesla CEO represents the kind of "genius" missing at Apple since the death of Steve Jobs, despite a strong level of talent at the tech company, said Peter Misek, a senior technology analyst at Jefferies. His comments come two days after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Musk met with Apple's head of mergers and acquisitions last spring, citing unnamed sources.
Shares of Tesla reached an all-time high of $205.50 shortly after trading opened Tuesday, before prices settled slightly lower by noon. (Check out Tesla's real-time prices here)
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"I would put zero chance of a merger," Misek said on "Squawk on the Street." "But I would put a lot of chance on collaboration. ... [Job's] departure has left a big gaping hole even now with all the talent they have at Apple, so they would certainly look to collaborations and Musk certainly fits that bill."
Will Power, an analyst who covers Apple's stock at R.W. Baird, also thinks it's unlikely the tech company will acquire Tesla. Then again, he thinks the global auto market could "really move the needle" for Apple.
"I think what they're focused on right now is trying to get themselves more deeply embedded into the car and I don't think that necessarily requires actually making an acquisition," Power told "Street Signs." "I think getting the iOS software more deeply embedded in the infotainment systems really helps a long way in terms of improving that usability and the customer experience in the car by itself."
Apple and Tesla could work together to provide back-seat entertainment options in the upcoming Tesla SUV, the Model X, according to Misek. That would provide a "nice, little incremental catalyst" for Apple shareholders as they look for the tech giant to delve into new product areas, he added.
"The bigger issue for investors of Apple, is that they get into a new category, whether it's the iWatch, whether it's more in-vehicle entertainment, whether it's updating the Apple TV set-top box," Misek said. "Investors are now hungry to see Apple get into a new category to try and restart growth."
(Read more: Apple, Time Warner Cable in Apple TV talks: Report)
Jon Steinberg, chief operating officer of BuzzFeed and a CNBC contributor, believes that an in-car entertainment collaboration between Apple and Tesla would have been too small a deal to make Apple send a high-powered M&A executive to meet with Musk. He also said Tuesday that a merger between the two companies remains outside the "realm of possibility."
What's left then? Steinberg believes it's all about batteries. The two companies could team up on a "giga factory" to develop lithium-ion batteries, which Apple would use in its devices and Tesla its vehicles, he said.
(Read more: The big bet that Tesla's upside is capped)
"My gut is that it's about the battery technology," Steinberg said during a later appearance on "Squawk on the Street." "You're talking about $25 billion for a company that has $150 billion in cash. It would be so outside the sweet spot for a company that generally doesn't do big acquisitions. The batteries make a lot of sense."
—By CNBC's Jeff Morganteen. Follow him on Twitter at @jmorganteen and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street." Reuters contributed to this report. CNBC's Drew Sandholm contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter @DrewSandholm.