The Isolated-Suburban Edition Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Problem With Apple's Decision To Go To The Austin Suburbs, by Sarah Holder, Citylab

That means Apple is the latest example of like flocking with like—tech companies choosing to settle in places they’ve already identified as talent centers. “This just reiterates that big tech siting decisions are continuing to concentrate on a very short list of sizable, well-established digital centers that are not losing share but are gaining share of the industry,” said Mark Muro, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “While some may view Austin as a rise-of-the-rest story, I think it’s a rich-getting-richer story,” he says—or what CityLab’s Richard Florida calls “winner-take-all urbanism.”

In choosing not to locate at the heart of Austin’s downtown business center, Apple is also reinforcing another status quo: That of the isolated, suburban tech campus. The company’s Cupertino UFO has become the quintessential example of building an island of a corporate headquarters, largely disconnected from public transit and able to function as its own ecosystem. Apple’s planned 133-acre plot in Austin will be located more than 12 miles from the center of the city, adjacent to a highway. It’s sure to be a “sprawltastic, car-oriented project,” Yonah Freemark, an urbanist and the creator of The Transport Politic, wrote on Twitter. It will be an office park surrounding by office parking lots, and, according to Apple, “50 acres of preserved open space.”

Apple Computers Used To Be Built In The U.S. It Was A Mess., by John Markoff, New York Times

Today, Silicon Valley has retained a relatively small manufacturing work force, as electronics manufacturing has exploded globally, creating millions of jobs. The small amount of manufacturing still done in the Valley is largely done by specialized contract firms that focus on fast-turnaround prototype systems.

The challenge today is that an enormous manufacturing ecosystem is required to make products for mass markets, and that ecosystem has largely moved to mainland China, where some 450,000 people have worked at a single iPhone plant.

Apple's Big Campus Announcement Had A Very Specific Audience — Trump, by Kif Leswing, Business Insider

But saving billions on taxes was only one of Apple's two goals with its Trump administration outreach.

The second policy goal was to prevent Trump's penchant for tariffs from affecting the iPhone, which is primarily manufactured in China, although there are some US-made components.


The True Cost Of Rewrites, by Doug Bradbury

Your code is complex and working with it is difficult. Years of development and bug fixes have you ready to declare bankruptcy on your technical debt and start again from scratch. It feels so freeing to leave all your past mistakes behind and start over in a new technology and do everything right this time. Before taking that plunge, let’s take a careful look at what the actual costs of beginning again really are.

Open Source Confronts Its Midlife Crisis, by Bryan Cantrill, The Observation Deck

That said, it is possible to build business models around the open source software that is a company’s expertise and passion! Even though the VC that led the last round wants to puke into a trashcan whenever they hear it, business models like “support”, “services” and “training” are entirely viable! (That’s the good news; the bad news is that they may not deliver the up-and-to-the-right growth that these companies may have promised in their pitch deck — and they may come at too low a margin to pay for large teams, lavish perks, or outsized exits.) And of course, making software available as a service is also an entirely viable business model — but I’m pretty sure they’ve heard about that one in the keynote.


With Even Apple Now Offering HomePod Discounts, Should Its Regular Price Become $249?, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

The HomePod generally sells for $349, so a $50 discount from Apple brings it to $299. The third-party sales of $249 represent an almost 30 percent discount. Getting 30 percent off a less-than-year-old Apple product is pretty much unheard of. This raises the questions of whether or not Apple may have overpriced the HomePod from the start.

The Divide Between Silicon Valley And Washington Is A National-Security Threat, by Amy Zegart, Kevin Childs, The Atlantic

There is a yawning civil-military relations gap between the protectors and the protected. When World War II ended, veterans could be found in seven out of 10 homes on a typical neighborhood street. Today it’s two. Less than half a percent of the U.S. population serves on active duty. A senior executive from a major Silicon Valley firm recently told us that none of the company’s engineers had ever seen anyone from the military.

It should come as no surprise that when people live and work in separate universes, they tend to develop separate views. The civil-military gap helps explain why many in tech companies harbor deep ethical concerns about helping warfighters kill people and win wars, while many in the defense community harbor deep ethical concerns about what they view as the erosion of patriotism and national service in the tech industry. Each side is left wondering, How can anyone possibly think that way? Asked last week what he would tell engineers at companies like Google and Amazon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said, “Hey, we’re the good guys … It’s inexplicable to me that we wouldn’t have a cooperative relationship with the private sector.”