Apple’s New San Francisco Office Could Be a Tool in Tech Talent Wars

Apple's New San Francisco Office Could Be a Tool in Tech Talent Wars

From Apple’s earliest days, executives insisted that employees work from its headquarters in sleepy suburban Cupertino.

The thinking, championed by Steve Jobs, was that a centralized campus would put the CEO “within walking distance of everyone,” said Steve Wozniak, who founded the company with Jobs.

That stance may finally be softening as Apple prepares to open chic new offices in San Francisco’s high-rent South of Market neighborhood, which has spawned scores of promising startups.

Apple’s decision to plant a flag in San Francisco, 46 traffic-choked miles north of its headquarters, comes years after similar moves from rival tech firms such as Google and LinkedIn and marks a turning point in Apple’s willingness to accommodate workers, according to recruiters and former employees.

The move is one sign of the intensifying war for tech talent – and of the overwhelming preference of younger tech workers to live and work in the city, with its vibrant nightlife and public transportation. The two floors Apple has leased in a building mostly occupied by CBS Interactive offer abundant open space and exposed ceilings, the preferred tech aesthetic.

As Apple’s Silicon Valley rivals dangled perks to woo workers in the latest tech boom, the iPhone maker mostly held firm – the company still does not offer free lunch, and it was among the last companies to operate shuttles to and from the city.

Those company-paid charter buses to the valley appeased workers for a time, but the novelty has faded, said recruiter Andy Price of executive search firm SPMB.

With rising competition for talent from a new wave of private companies with sky-high valuations – such as Uber and Airbnb – Apple must do more, recruiters and former employees say.

“Apple’s attitude has always been that you have the privilege of working for Apple, and if you don’t want to do it, there’s someone around the corner who does,” said Matt MacInnis, a former Apple employee who worked on the company’s education business and is now CEO of Inkling, an enterprise technology company.

Now, MacInnis said, “they have to compete.”

Apple spokesman Colin Johnson declined to comment.

Urban outpost
Apple’s footprint in San Francisco until now has come largely through acquisitions of companies already based there, including Beats Music and Topsy Labs, a social media analytics firm.

After Apple acquired Topsy in 2013, workers were surprised that the company did not move those employees to the valley, a former Apple employee said. Topsy’s space was large enough for about 75 workers, but other Apple employees soon began dropping in to work from the city, crowding the office.

The iPhone maker’s new office will be in about 76,000 square feet of rented space at 235 Second St.

Apple’s presence in San Francisco will remain modest, especially compared to rival Silicon Valley firms such as Google and LinkedIn. The new office is big enough for about 500 workers.

Apple has said that it had more than 25,000 employees in the Santa Clara Valley, where it is headquartered.

Apple could opt to move some employees already in San Francisco into the new space, such as those from Topsy or Beats. The company has advertised for a variety of jobs in the city for workers in machine learning and big data – two of Topsy’s specialties – and digital music, Beats’ domain.

The space is currently under construction, suggesting Apple might be ready to move in late summer, real estate experts say.

Demand for desks there could be intense. After established tech firms open up shop in San Francisco, they often have more workers wanting space there than they can accommodate, said broker John Lewerenz of real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Google has struggled to keep workers from swarming its San Francisco office, particularly on Fridays. The company quickly leases additional floors in its main San Francisco building when they are vacated by other tenants, Lewerenz said.

Commuting and recruiting
Apple’s new San Francisco office appears to be “just a small adaptation” to some tech workers’ disdain for the commute of at least 90 minutes to the South Bay, said former company executive Jean-Louis Gassee.

But some former employees say an official Apple office of any size in San Francisco was once unthinkable – even though the city is home to 14 percent of its workforce, second only to San Jose, according to a 2013 company report.

Apple’s stance on centralization turns off some job seekers, said recruiter Amish Shah, founder of Millennium Search, who has run across some candidates who rule out the company because of the commute. Younger tech workers, he said, put a high premium on quality of life.

San Francisco residents now have more options to dodge the commute with a growing number of tech companies in the city, recruiters say.

“If companies want to stay competitive and have a shot at hiring the best available talent, they’re going to have to be flexible,” said Jose Benitez Cong, a former Apple recruiter who is now launching a startup.

Before leaving Apple in 2009, MacInnis spent three hours a day commuting from San Francisco to Apple headquarters. Now he uses Inkling’s location in the city to his advantage, systematically recruiting San Francisco residents tired of long commutes to the valley.

Russ Heddleston, co-founder and CEO of document sharing company DocSend, says he has also found an edge by planting his startup in San Francisco. He previously commuted to the valley to work for Facebook, a notable exception to the trend toward satellite offices in San Francisco.

“They have the social clout to get people to commute,” he said. “But if they weren’t as cool, could they afford to have their office in San Jose and get talent to come in? It’s a real problem.”

Suburban sprawl
Another factor may be that the company has little room left to grow in Cupertino: It occupies about 70 percent of the office space in the city of about 60,000, said Angela Tsui, the city’s economic development manager.

The sheer size of Apple’s work force has prompted the company to grab space in neighboring towns such as Sunnyvale and North San Jose.

The diffuse office structure has dimmed the allure of commuting to the South Bay, said one former employee, who requested anonymity to protect professional relationships.

“The old appeal was if you were an engineer at the mother ship, you could go to the cafeteria, and there’s Steve Jobs ordering sushi,” he said. “Those days are gone now.”

In Wozniak’s view, spreading out the teams could infuse new creativity into the company. In a recent interview, he recalled being a lonely voice of dissent on the company’s philosophy of centralization.

“I was the executive who always opposed that,” he said. “I felt that you should distribute your divisions… and let the teams think more independently.”


2016 Samsung Galaxy J7, Galaxy J5 Pass Certification Site; Design, Specs Tipped

2016 Samsung Galaxy J7, Galaxy J5 Pass Certification Site; Design, Specs Tipped

Until now, we came across different benchmark results, Bluetooth certifications, and other leaks for the unannounced Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) and the Galaxy J5 (2015) except any live images or press renders. However, the two smartphones for the first time have showed up in images as they have reportedly gone through Tenaa, a Chinese certification site. The listing also reveals some of the specifications.

Like the Samsung Galaxy J7 and the Galaxy J5 smartphones, the 2016 versions look almost the same but with different screen sizes. While the Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) is seen featuring a 5.5-inch full-HD display, the Galaxy J5 (2016) settles in for a 5.2-inch HD display. Both still sport a plastic body.

According to the listing, the Galaxy J7 (2016) will come in two variants – SM-J7108 and SM-J7109. However, they both differ only when it comes to processors. The SM-J7108 is powered by an octa-core processor clocked at 1.6GHz (said to be the Exynos 7870), while the SM-J7109 is seen featuring an unspecified octa-core processor (four cores clocked at 1.5GHz + four cores clocked at 1.2GHz).

The models include 4G LTE support, 13-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front-facing camera (with LED flash), 3GB of RAM, and 16GB expandable storage. The battery capacity has not been mentioned but latest rumours point towards a 3300mAh battery. It measures 151.7×75.9×7.6mm and weighs 166 grams.

On the other hand, the Galaxy J5 (2016) has a smaller screen with lower resolution and less powerful processor as mentioned above. The smartphone is seen featuring 2GB of RAM as well. Camera and inbuilt storage specifications stay the same as the Galaxy J7 (2016). The Galaxy J5 (2016) measures 145.7×72.3×7.9mm, weighs 155.4 grams, and will come in White, Gold, and Pink Gold colours. The listing also shows the two smartphones running Android 5.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box.

It is worth pointing out that the duo are seen featuring what appears to be a laser autofocus module along with the rear camera. If true, this would also make the handsets first from the company to feature such camera sensors. The laser autofocus sensor first appeared with LG G3 and later came as a feature in other handsets.


UN Human Rights Chief Warns of Implications of Apple-FBI Row

UN Human Rights Chief Warns of Implications of Apple-FBI Row

An FBI demand that Apple unlock an iPhone risks setting a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on human rights, the United Nations rights chief warned Friday.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s intervention came after Apple’s largest rivals backed the tech giant’s bid to resist the US government demand seeking to access the iPhone used by one of the attackers in a deadly rampage in San Bernardino, California in December.

“In order to address a security-related issue related to encryption in one case, the authorities risk unlocking a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security,” Zeid said in a statement.

He warned that the FBI order would “set a precedent that may make it impossible for Apple or any other major international IT company to safeguard their clients’ privacy anywhere in the world”.

The FBI wants to unlock the iPhone used by Syed Farook, who was behind the San Bernardino massacre along with his wife Tashfeen Malik that left 14 people dead.

(Also see:  What if the San Bernardino Shooters Had Been Using a Samsung Galaxy Phone?)

The agency has argued that by introducing encryption that can lock data, making it accessible only to the user, Apple and other tech companies are essentially creating “warrant-proof zones” for criminals and others that will cripple law enforcement and jeopardise public security.

Apple has in return said that the only way to unlock the handset would be to introduce a weakened operating system, which could potentially leak out and be exploited by hackers and foreign governments.

‘Gift to authoritarian regimes’
Zeid said the FBI “deserves everyone’s full support” in its investigation into what he described as an “abominable crime”.

But he added: “This case is not about a company – and its supporters – seeking to protect criminals and terrorists, it is about where a key red line necessary to safeguard all of us from criminals and repression should be set.

“There are many ways to investigate whether or not these killers had accomplices besides forcing Apple to create software to undermine the security features of their own phones.

“It is potentially a gift to authoritarian regimes, as well as to criminal hackers.”

Zeid said encryption tools were widely used around the world, including by human rights defenders, civil society, journalists, whistle-blowers and political dissidents facing persecution and harassment.

(Also see:  Apple Digs in for Long Fight, Lawyer Says ‘There Is No Middle Ground’)

“Encryption and anonymity are needed as enablers of both freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy. Without encryption tools, lives may be endangered.”

Three tech associations representing Apple’s main business rivals – including Google, Facebook,Microsoft and Yahoo – said Thursday they supported Apple’s efforts to challenge the order.

“If the government arguments prevail, the Internet ecosystem will be weakened, leaving Internet users more vulnerable to hackers and other bad actors,” said a statement from the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which announced the joint brief with the Internet Association and the i2Coalition of Internet infrastructure firms.

But relatives of some of the San Bernardino victims backed the FBI bid in a legal brief filed in the court where the case is being heard.

They said Apple wanted to portray the debate as “one in which the privacy interests of millions of Americans are at stake in order to obtain sympathy for its cause.”

“What is implicated here is the United States’ ability to obtain and execute a valid warrant to search one phone used by a terrorist who committed mass atrocities,” the brief said.

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Tags: Apple, Encryption, Facebook, FBI, Google, iPhone, Microsoft, Mobiles, Tim Cook, Yahoo

2016—the year of discounted valuations

The speculation is about which two will first join hands in 2016 to compete with the US leader—Amazon—that has doubled in market cap in the last year and remains the formidable force to reckon with. Photo: Bloomberg

The speculation is about which two will first join hands in 2016 to compete with the US leader—Amazon—that has doubled in market cap in the last year and remains the formidable force to reckon with. Photo: Bloomberg

2015 was the year of discounted products. 2016 will be the year of discounted valuations. When will be the year of discounted cash flows?

When I was in Silicon Valley in January 2015, the thought of Indian e-commerce companies skating on thin ice was dismissed off as unfounded cynicism. The e-commerce veterans in Silicon Valley could not get enough of the Indian e-commerce growth. The excesses were part and parcel of any early-stage winner-take-all network-effects business vying for the big prize in a hyper-competitive market.

I started the new year in Silicon Valley again this year and the outlook is different in January 2016. The scepticism around hyper-funded Indian e-commerce start-ups seems as pervasive as the exuberance a year ago. Their indefensible position against US or Chinese equivalents seems beyond reasonable doubt. The speculation is no more about who will be the first to the top, but about who will be the first to fall and how. The speculation is about which two will first join hands in 2016 to compete with the US leader—Amazon—that has doubled in market cap in the last year and remains the formidable force to reckon with. The speculation is about which one will be acquired by the Chinese equivalent who considers India as the extended Asian battlefield in the territorial war. There is agreement that something’s going to give in 2016, and the speculation of what and how has begun 10,000 miles away.

And it’s different from how Silicon Valley looks at itself. The Valley took responsibility for the dot-com bubble of 2000 and now knows better. Wall Street took responsibility for the 2008 financial crisis and now knows better. They are both ready to take responsibility for the way Nasdaq has begun in 2016—down 10% since the start of the year. Yet, there is a quiet comfort about business as usual. These are movies they have seen before. They are on an upgraded version of the old software called portfolio theory. A theory that is inseparable from the business of investing in innovation. Most start-ups will fail and some will gain so much that it washes off the losses of the failures and then some. So will be with the unicorns. Some unicorns will fail and some will change the world all over again. They just cannot agree on which unicorn is in which bucket. Yet, India is different. For those in Silicon Valley, India is like the Valley during the 1999-2000 dot-com bubble. The gravity-defying economics of India seems different from the portfolio chess of unicorns. Here’s how.

In The Golden Tap: The Inside Story of Hyper-Funded Indian Startups, I borrowed Peter Thiel’s definition of innovation versus globalization and labelled Silicon Valley tech start-ups as innovation plays and hyper-funded Indian start-ups as globalization plays. Uber invented how you can get a ride at the push of a button. Ola localized the idea to make it work under Indian conditions. During his visit to IIT Bombay last week, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick revealed an alternate way of looking at this. He conjectured that in the changing world order, the three Bs—Bay Area, Beijing and Bangalore—will be the hubs for innovation. And then he gave a backhanded compliment to the Chinese for inventing subsidies. By that token, Bengaluru borrows the product innovation of Bay Area and subsidy innovation of Beijing, and tops it off with local innovation for India. The heat that makes this soup boil is the money from global investors and public companies that believe in the innovations and that they apply to India at scale. The investment thesis is to keep burning money until you are the last man standing. All Indian unicorns belong to that bucket. And there is no portfolio theory about that.

When Silicon Valley used the same lens as it does for US start-ups, India looked awesome last year. When China used the same lens as it does for Chinese start-ups, India looked awesome last year. As they spot the differences, the lenses are slowly coming off and new beliefs are being formed. How these conglomerates and investors operate in India will depend on these new sets of belief. The trouble with Indian entrepreneurs and investors though is that we have been at the mercy of others’ beliefs. The quicker we are master of our own creations than followers of others, we can start to innovate beyond localization. Till then, the investors will enjoy the deep discounts that consumers enjoyed last year. Bring your popcorn and grab a seat.

Kashyap Deorah is the author of The Golden Tap: The Inside Story of Hyper-Funded Indian Startups. He is an entrepreneur and investor who shuttles between India and Silicon Valley.