How does Apple design and build so many products? Engineers. To be more specific, about 300 engineers. It might be 100 engineers. Based on how many new products Apple ships these days, I doubt if the company employs more than 300 engineers.
Why so few? Apple has over 130,000 employees, so why so few engineers? Well, most of the company’s employees are in Apple Stores; associates, Genius Bar geniuses, and so on. The company has many people in marketing, a number of designers, but why so few engineers?
And, how do I know?
First, I’m making an educated guess based upon some deductive reasoning. Except for iPhone and Watch, Apple isn’t very good at getting hardware updated regularly and it has been that way for years, so my theory is simple:
The same 300 engineers (or 100; you choose; it’s an imaginary number) bounce around from project to project over the course of a year, just to get new hardware out the door, and upgrade Apple’s own in-house software. The folks at one the country’s best Fiction Factory, the Wall Street Journal, reported on executive shakeups at Apple Inc, including resources being moved around to help prop up the only growing part of the company– Services.
A very limited number of highly qualified, well compensated, and productive engineers appear to be in charge of all of Apple’s profitable products.
Here’s how it goes. Every year at WWDC Apple introduces new versions of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. That effort requires a large number of engineers to ensure a launch in late summer or early autumn.
When done, what do most of those engineers do? Prior to WWDC’s announcements they likely worked on new iPhone models. Before that they worked part time on the Mac or iPad line, neither of which gets upgraded on any kind of annual basis, so while the top engineers might work on software that runs on all Apple products, other top engineers are assigned to the money-makers.
Apple is in the midst of adding new Services and that requires engineers. WSJ says Apple is making big changes among The 300.
The changes, which can be traced back to last year, have included high-profile hires, noteworthy departures, meaningful promotions and consequential restructurings. They have rattled rank-and-file employees unaccustomed to frequent leadership changes and led Apple to put several projects on hold while new managers are given a chance to reassess priorities, according to people familiar with the matter.
Of course, you can’t just walk down the street and hire a bunch of engineers and put them on new iPads or the upcoming Mac Pro, but turmoil suggests Apple struggles with personnel issues and might want to consider adding more engineers to the 300 that already are overworked.
Well paid, yes. Overworked, too. More engineers might be more products through the pipeline.