Apple seeks to expand its new Israel R&D center

Apple seeks to expand its new Israel R&D center

Tech giant’s Herzliya space is set to get bigger and new hires may follow to work out kinks in its smartwatch

Apple's new Herzliya R&D center (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Apple's new Herzliya R&D center (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Just months after its opening, Apple is set to expand its R&D center in Herzliya in order to give workers more space, a company source told the Times of Israel Wednesday.

“The company leases a portion of its Herzliya R&D center, and it is going to lease more space in the same building in order to make it easier for the engineers there to work,” the source said.

The source also said that, unlike the news reports that appeared in the Israeli media Wednesday, the company was not quite ready to go on a hiring spree. Apple is still absorbing recent hires, particularly the staff of Linx, the digital photography start-up it acquired in mid-April.

“That said, we can’t rule out the possibility that the company will be hiring in the future,” the source added.

In fact, it’s not just a likelihood – it’s almost a definite, given the company’s voracious appetite for engineers. Currently, the company is placing an understandable focus on its newest product, Apple Watch, as it seeks to iron out some of the kinks users have complained about, among them a somewhat confusing user interface, and short battery life. Software and hardware engineers, Apple hopes, will help solve those problems.

The Apple jobs site lists 73 open positions (out of some 600) for hires to work on the Apple Watch project – and most of those jobs are for engineers. Almost all the open jobs listed on the site are in California, but it’s more likely that Apple would seek Israeli engineers through local Israeli sources, either online or by word of mouth, as most other multinationals in Israel do.

On a visit to Israel in February to inaugurate the Herzliya R&D center, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his admiration for Israeli workers – and told hundreds of Apple employees that it was the engineering skills of Israeli information technology industry workers that brought Apple to Israel in the first place.

“Apple is in Israel because the engineering talent here is incredible,” Cook told employees at the meeting. “You guys are incredibly important to everything that we do and to all the products that we build.”

Prior to opening the facility, Apple hired dozens of engineers, the company source said. The engineers “bring with them knowledge that Apple does not currently possess, and they will get a finished product almost specifically made for them. It’s part of Apple’s new strategy of developing the technology it needs in-house, instead of relying on outside companies and contractors.”

It’s not clear when the expansion will take place. The company is likely to want to prepare its new space to match its commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

According to the company, the new building is one of the most environmentally friendly ever built by Apple – and one of the “greenest” in Israel. Solar panels on the roof provide enough energy to supply the entire building’s hot water requirements, and a smart lighting system reduces electrical usage by 25% compared to buildings of similar sizes. The same for the air conditioner system, which consumes 40% less power than comparable systems.

The building is a candidate for a US Green Building Council LEED certification for best in-class green building practices.

Apple’s R&D relationship with Israel goes back to 2012, when the US tech giant bought out Haifa-based Anobit, a maker of the flash memory controllers used in many Apple products, and in 2013, the company again expanded in Israel, buying motion tech firm PrimeSense.

Apple now has about 700 employees in Israel, Cook said on his February visit – but works with many more Israelis. About 6,000, said Cook, are part of Apple’s developer program, helping to develop apps. A recent estimate by app industry research firm Vision Mobile says that at least 20,000 jobs in Israel’s app economy are directly attributable to iOS.

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