- Apple on Thursday announced it was spending $US1 billion on a new campus in Austin, Texas.
- Its stealthy process of selecting the campus contrasted with Amazon’s drawn-out HQ2 beauty parade.
- Apple CEO Tim Cook said he did not like the idea of creating a contest with bidders.
- Apple’s plan for new offices looks like another effort to paint the firm as the responsible bastion of big tech.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a habit of aiming thinly veiled barbs at his rivals, and his latest manoeuvre seems ripped from the same playbook.
With little fanfare, the company on Thursday announced plans to drop $US1 billion on a new campus in Austin, Texas. It followed a stealthy selection process, which Cook fired the starting gun on in January.
The difference between Apple doubling down on Austin, where it already has a reported 7,000 workers, and Amazon’s drawn-out beauty parade for its second headquarters, known as HQ2, could not be starker.
And while Apple would probably say its selection process had nothing to do with Amazon, Cook did make a point of outlining the differences in their approaches earlier this year.
“We’ve narrowed the list a lot,” Cook said of potential sites in a January interview with ABC News. “We wanted to narrow it so we prevent this auction kind of process that we want to stay out of.”
He later doubled down on his remarks, according to the CNBC reporter Paayal Zaveri. She quoted Cook as saying: “We didn’t want to create this contest, you wind up putting people through a ton of work to select one, that is a case where you have a winner and a lot of losers. I don’t like that.”
In an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, he added: “That’s not Apple.”
The resulting process was supremely hush-hush. The closest we got to a sniff of Apple’s plans included reports such as those indicating Cook met with officials in Virginia and had a secret sit-down with North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper. Apple also threw ABC News off the scent by saying its campus outside California was unlikely to be in Texas.
In contrast, Amazon’s process was a public spectacle that began in September 2017. In the 14 months that followed, Amazon received proposals from 238 locations, courted attention from governors, mayors, and bureaucrats in a reality-TV-style contest, and eventually decided to split its headquarters between New York City and Northern Virginia.
People were unhappy, and the process was branded a “sham.” One losing bidder said: “Big tech is at a pivotal moment, and Amazon is at the head of the class. It is time for them to aggressively think not just about their bottom line but about ways they can do right by the world.”
No such allegations are likely to be slung at Apple after its Austin announcement.
During a year in which Cook has consistently sought the moral high ground on issues including data privacy, Apple’s own HQ2 plan looks like another effort to paint the firm as the responsible bastion of big tech.
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