Monday, April 24, 2017

Apple Recruits Google Satellite Executives for Its New Hardware Team

After revolutionizing phones, Apple Inc. is testing self-driving cars and exploring augmented reality. Recent hires suggest the company is now also looking to the skies.

The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.’s 
Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. 

They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about Apple’s private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Google. Fenwick, Trela and Duffy didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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With the recruits, Apple is bringing into its ranks two experts in the demanding, expensive field of satellite design and operation. At the moment, these endeavors typically fall into two fields: satellites for collecting images and those for communications.In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It’s unclear if those talks will result in a deal.

At the annual Satellite 2017 conference in Washington DC last month, industry insiders said Boeing’s project was being funded by Apple, Tim Farrar, a satellite and telecom consultant at TMF Associates Inc., wrote in a recent blog. A Boeing spokesman declined to comment. “It’s not hard to discern why Apple might want to consider a satellite constellation,” Farrar wrote, noting a Wall Street Journal report that Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has forecast $30 billion in revenue from satellite internet by 2025.

A lure for technology companies like Apple, Google and Facebook Inc. is to connect billions of people who don’t have internet access yet. The broadband services being explored by Boeing and others would feature low latency and faster speeds than existing cellular systems. “You have a new wave of enthusiastic people who aren’t inhibited by the hard knocks of the past,” said Roger Rusch, who heads satellite consulting firm TelAstra Inc.


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