John Fenwick, who led Google’s spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of Google’s satellite engineering, both left the company for Apple in recent weeks, according to sources close to the matter. These new hires, who both report to Greg Duffy, another recent addition to the Apple team, are causing people to speculate about Apple’s plans. In particular, what the company’s plans may be with regard to satellite design and operation.
Chances are these plans will have something to do with the two primary reasons people invest in and operate satellites: collecting images and communications. There’s also a rumor that Apple’s new hires have something to do with Boeing Co.’s new plan to provide broadband access through low-earth orbit satellites.
While a deal is unconfirmed, we may be looking at a partnership between Boeing and Apple. Tim Farrar, a satellite and telecom consultant at TMF Associates Inc., wrote in a recent blog that Apple may, in fact, be funding Boeing’s project.
However, Farrar writes there is no guarantee Apple will end up investing in this project, if that is their current intention. The satellite industry has a well-documented history of failures and bankruptcies, which may make Apple skittish about this ambitious project.
That being said, a Wall Street Journal report says that Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has forecast $30 billion in revenue from satellite Internet by 2025. That may be incentive enough for Apple to dive in, despite the risks.
Whatever Apple’s intentions may be with the hiring of Fenwick and Trela, it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing something new from the tech giant moving forward. This may come as a relief for investors, who’ve watched the company struggle to grow and innovate at the rate that companies like Google, Amazon and HP have.