Apple Hires Satellite Experts away from Google

1 minute read
| Analysis

Apple has hired away a pair of Google’s top satellite experts, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Citing unnamed sources, Mr. Gurman reported that Apple hired John Fenwick, who previously led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering at Google. They are part of a new hardware team at Apple headed by another former Googler, Dropcam cofounder Greg Duffy.

Satellite with an Apple logo

Apple in the Skies?

Apple Hires Satellite Experts

The first question you might have is why Apple would want to make satellites. The answer to that could be in a recent Boeing regulatory filing. According to Bloomberg, Boeing is working on plans for a network of 1,000 satellites that would provide broadband internet access. That service could be offered anywhere, including areas with no wired or wireless telephone infrastructure.

Boeing has reportedly talked to Apple about being part of the project. Whether or not that’s true, and whether or not Apple is going to work with Boeing, it’s easy to understand that Apple could be interested in offering that sort of service.

Opening up the third world to high speed internet access is a goal of many tech giants, and that would certainly include Apple. The company could also turn such an operation into a direct revenue generator in the developed world. Bloomberg noted that Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. forecasted $30 billion in satellite internet revenues by 2025. That’s serious money even for Apple.

Apple could also use a satellite fleet for multiple purposes. The company could take its own photographs for Apple Maps, and sell those images on the open market like Google. Apple could also contribute to or compete with existing global positioning systems. Perhaps most importantly, Apple could use satellites to augment its own data distribution for iTunes and the App Store.

Or Maybe Not

Apple has tons of projects, most of which get killed along the way. Just because Apple hired two satellite experts and has them working in a new hardware team doesn’t necessarily mean Apple will ever be involved with satellites. In addition, just because these two folks are satellite experts doesn’t necessarily mean this team is even working on satellites. They’re reporting to someone who isn’t a satellite expert, for instance.

But, it’s interesting news no matter how you slice it. I think many Apple fans would love for Apple to launch its own ISP, especially if it was dedicated to Apple’s existing commitment to privacy and security.

3 Comments Add a comment

  1. “I think many Apple fans would love for Apple to launch its own ISP, especially if it was dedicated to Apple’s existing commitment to privacy and security.”

    That would be out of this world.

  2. Bryan:

    As you’ve averred, there are a number of potential roles that satellites could play in Apple’s orbit (I know, lame, but irresistible).

    There are several amongst the low and middle income countries that have made hard target deadlines for rolling out internet access to their remotest regions, some of which will be satellite dependent. If Apple want to have access to these markets, and provide their services and platform, then engaging with Boeing or anyone else in that space (pun not intended), makes strategic sense.

    This also may provide Apple with an escape route around infrastructure controlled by a hostile or competing interests, be they government or private sector, as the privacy, censorship, and service wars continue to rage without sheriff or shepherd to serve as honest and empowered referee.

    There is little doubt that Apple have a longterm plan for the further development and consolidation of their platform, which will be dependent on an infrastructure that is future-proofed and option-rich.

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