Apple is to open two additional research and development centers in China. This follows a pattern the company has been engaged in for months, that of opening an international chain of R&D centers as it seeks to put together the knowledge base for its Next Big Thing (NBT). This growing network is so vast, it’s reasonable to assume that whatever the NBT is…
Think about it. Apple China this morning confirmed the company plans to invest half a billion dollars in R&D in China, and that it will soon run not one, not two, but four R&D centers there, in Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, and Shenzen. All four are expected to open for business this year.
You could dismiss these new R&D hubs as business as usual, and with its highly-educated population and extensive network of well financed university research centers, it is easy to see why Apple wants to make sure it can work with the best minds there.
The fact is that Apple strives to work with the best minds everywhere, and its new Chinese R&D centers are just the latest in a long line of recently revealed research hubs, including:
- A center in Grenoble, France
- A center in Yokohoma, Japan
- A center in Naples, Italy
- Two centers in Java, Indonesia, set to open in the next two years
- Several in India, including Bangalore and Hyderabad.
These recently announced R&D centers join an increasingly internationalized selection of such places, also including sites all across the U.S., Israel, Sweden, and the U.K.
What’s the plan?
Some of these sites (specifically Sweden and Hyderabad) are apparently focused on developing Apple Maps.
The opening of the Swedish office followed Apple’s acquisition of C3 Technologies, while in Hyderabad it is thought to be working in partnership with local mapping service, RMSI.
Its offices in the U.K. are thought to be hubs for Siri and A.I. research, while other locations are dedicated to component, processor, and process development.
The company needs these hubs because it has a growing focus on developing unique technologies to underpin its product designs: A-series processors, W-series wireless chips, unique production and materials expertise, voice recognition, machine intelligence and so much more..
These are complex technologies, and to get them right Apple’s decision to open multiple R&D centers is a tangible way to invite the world’s leading experts to work with the company where they are, rather than endure the growing indignity of U.S. immigration control.
How the company invents
Apple has a long-practised modus operandi for product development.
Software teams may not know much about the hardware, hardware teams may have little insight into the software, component developers may have no idea how their invention will be deployed. This is how the company has invented everything it makes.
The decision to create new hubs across the planet means the division between teams developing ideas can grow larger, reinforcing manifest secrecy and enabling the company to dribble what little insights it chooses to share.
This approach also means that the company could be developing a car and few within its teams would really know for sure. Despite claims the company recently rebooted its car project, it continues its close association with Didi Chuxing, for example.
Whatever it is exploring it is investing bigly. Apple in 2016 spent $10.39 billion on research and development in FY 2016, its highest investment ever.
In the first quarter of 2017 the company has already spent $2.8 billion, and the wave of recent announcements suggest Apple is increasing its R&D spending as it seeks to put international teams in place to create its next big thing.
Human innovation is, after all, international. Apple hopes to harness the world’s best thinkers for its next inventions.
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