For some time now, and despite the occasional partnership, the biggest fights in Silicon Valley have been between Apple and Google.
It seems now though that the next battleground could be on the lawn of automotive upstart Tesla's Palo Alto headquarters.
From vehicle program president Doug Field, whose five-year tenure with Apple included leading design for the MacBook and iMac, to staff in areas from engineering and law, Tesla has hired more than 150 of the tech giant’s former employees.
Tesla employs more than 6000 workers in all, but according to business paper Bloomberg, Apple has been its leading source of talent - and it seems Apple workers considering a spin in the automotive world aren’t all that interested in the ‘old’ brands.
"When you talk to people in Silicon Valley, there’s a totally different mindset. They look at Detroit as old,” AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan told Bloomberg, adding that he knows of very few former Apple alumni working with the larger car brands.
It’s little wonder then that Tesla has established a theme of clean, modern and premium design with its Model S sedan and coming Model X SUV - not to mention that giant iPad-like tablet display that dominates the dash of both.
“From a design philosophy, [Apple] is relatively closely aligned,” Tesla found Elon Musk told the paper in an interview this week.
As for those that choose to ‘cross over’, Musk’s vision and Tesla’s ‘startup’ style are understood to be the major draws - just as the once Steve Jobs-led Apple had likely been for many of Tesla’s recruits.
The old guard is learning, however: Ford has opened its own new Silicon Valley research hub this year, and it’s hired ex-Apple engineer Dragos Maciuca to lead the show.
Other carmakers will undoubtedly follow Tesla and Ford into ‘the Valley’ as buyer expectations for advanced in-car technologies gathers speed.
As for Tesla pinching its brightest players, Apple isn’t sitting still. But, if Musk is to be believed, it will have to work a lot harder to keep talented staffers in the future.
“Apple tries very hard to recruit from Tesla,” he said, describing $250,000 signing bonuses and huge pay increases, “But so far they’ve actually recruited very few people.”
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