Apple‘s new HQ build site opened this month, after some delays and quite some rise in costs. A lot has been written about it since Jobs gloriously unveiled the plans in Cuppertino last year, and all articles seem to gravitate towards one of the two conclusions:
- it’s going to be grand, beautiful, cutting edge office space for generations to look up to
- it’s a sign of the beginning of the decline of Apple, just like it happened to all other IT giants
Everyone agrees with the first point, but the cynical second point sounds like a stick in the mud. Sure Jobs wanted to build a monument for himself, but how can people possibly assume he was at the heights of his intellect, reinventing the whole home computing industry, and at the same his judgment clouded by a simple human sin of vanity. I don’t believe that Jobs would approve such an expensive project without a very deep and in Jobsian manner convoluted brilliant plan.
I was reading a very in-depth article covering more details of the story in Bloomberg Businessweek that exposed much more details than any before – about the builders, the challenges, the approaches. They even performed interviews with employees to shine some more light on how this spaceship is really going to be built and how it’s going to look like from inside. These interviews give a new clue about the possible real reason for the project that’s more expensive than WTC.
Supposedly all the insides will be assembled with a pre-fab modules for “bathrooms, utility closets, and banks of offices complete with carpets and window treatments”. nothing special, except that Jobs wanted high precision and attention to detail everywhere, so these pre-fab modules will be supplied by a purpose-built factories. At the same time, the building will have one of the largest private arrays of solar panels and a number of other technical advancements in construction and furnishing.
What if Apple’s new headquarters is not just a beautiful monument to the creator, efficient way to house 13000 employees and homage to HP labs and California, but also a pilot project for the next grand stage in Apple’s business expansion? After successful move-in, they will be left with a lot of public attention, a tested supply chain, solved first set of technical challenges to leapfrog one of the largest industries on the planet.
So to all you cynics out there, what do you think Jobs would do? Waste $5B and risk the success of his life work to build a building, or leverage it to expand business?