Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared on CNBC last week to deliver some big news: The Company That Steve Jobs Built is placing $1 billion into a fund, which will then be invested in advanced manufacturing companies in the United States. This will presumably help Apple source more components for its computers and phones here.
“We can be the ripple in the pond,” Cook told Jim Cramer. “Those manufacturing jobs create jobs around them, because you have a service industry that grows around them.”
Yesterday Apple announced a new $1 billion fund to invest in “advanced manufacturing” in the U.S. (CNBC). Though CEO Tim Cook didn’t come out and say it, the move is in line with many other U.S. companies’ efforts to appease President Trump, who has made reviving domestic manufacturing one of his most loudly proclaimed goals. (Vanity Fair: “Apple Just Handed Trump a Billion-Dollar P.R. Win.”)
Trump pines to revive the 1950s golden age of great factory jobs for high-school grads. But that word “advanced” before “manufacturing” is a tip-off that Apple, like everyone else, is going to be looking to hire people with training and skills.
Tech-industry workers outraged by President Trump aren’t just protesting and signing petitions: They are volunteering their time and skills to candidates who oppose the Trump agenda (Lauren Smiley in Backchannel). As with so much of the “resistance” movement in tech-land, this is a bottom-up phenomenon, with impassioned employees stepping forward to take action on their own and pressing their companies to live up to their values.
Protest and political action groups continue to emerge, including a plan for a one-day walkout on March 14 — Pi Day (the walkout will be on 3/14 at 1:59 p.m.). The wave of concern and activism isn’t limited to trendy startups and household-name consumer service firms; it’s spreading to “the older, stodgier, less glamorous part of the tech universe,” too, writes David Streitfeld in The New York Times. At companies like IBM, Oracle, Qualcomm, and Cisco, top executives may be working closely with the Trump administration, but workers are pushing their employers to state clearly what ethical lines they will not cross.
While Apple, Tesla and Salesforce don’t quite share identical industries, they do share one thing in common: they are all built on a strong founder-led culture. It’s a similarity that has led these tech behemoths to create products that have transformed markets, industries, and our lives. They show just how successful an organization can be if it’s built on a strong founder-led culture.
Most of us know that Apple, like many global corporations, has a ton of profits that it has parked overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes. But we might not have been aware that Apple takes mountains of this cash and plows it back into U.S. Treasury bonds — collecting interest from the U.S. government on the money that it has stockpiled far away from the tax collectors, under a 1962 IRS loophole. That interest totals “at least $600 million and possibly much more” over the last five years, according to a Bloomberg investigation.
Bloomberg dug deep into Apple’s regulatory filings to trace this financial shell game. Apple, of course, is hardly the only player, and there is nothing illegal or even that unusual about the investment. The lesson, as Bloomberg puts it, is in the sheer opacity of global operations today: “The purchases reflect how the distinction between what’s foreign and what’s not for multinationals often exists only in the world of accounting.”
Apple’s retail stores are in the midst of a fundamental shift. Is this the start of a more open, less insular Apple?
Just this past April, the world’s favorite brand turned 40 years old. To celebrate, the company announced its first disappointing earnings in well over a decade, and its first iPhone sales decline in nine years, sparking speculation that perhaps the world’s hippest company was starting to age. It’s been nearly four years since Steve Jobs passed, goes the logic — at some point the company has to fall back to Earth.
Maybe, but what I’ve heard in the company’s more recent announcements don’t sound like the protestations of a has-been hiding a middle-age bulge. Instead, they indicate a more fundamental change in posture, one that has the potential to reposition the famously secretive and — let’s admit it — rather arrogant company as humbler convener of community, a better corporate citizen, and a more reliable business partner.