A pair of new Apple hirings may hint that the company is setting its sights on the sky.
Two of Google’s top satellite executives have reportedly left the Alphabet-owned company in recent weeks and were hired by Apple. What they’ll be working on isn’t clear, but their experience indicates Apple could be getting serious about satellite internet.
According to a report from Bloomberg, the lead of Google’s spacecraft operations, John Fenwick, joined Apple along with Michael Trela, who was the head of satellite engineering. Both Fenwick and Trela came to Google in 2014 when the company acquired their startup Skybox Imaging.
Shooting for the stars
Apple has the two working under Greg Duffy, another former Googler. Duffy co-founded Dropcam, which was acquired by Google and then put under the Nest team. He left the company last year and was hired by Apple in January 2016. Duffy is rumored to be leading a special project that is operating like a startup.
Fenwick and Trela developed satellites at Skybox Imaging that were about the size of a refrigerator and could take near-constant images of Earth’s surface. Bloomberg postulates that the pair may have been brought on to work on a satellite internet project with Boeing.
Last year, Boeing revealed its plans to create a global broadband network that can be accessed through 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. Apple was rumored to have had talks with Boeing about becoming an investor and partner in the project.
Providing satellite internet to regions of the world that have yet to get broadband could be a highly lucrative market for Apple. Space X is expected to generate $30 billion in revenue from satellite internet by 2025.
The company could also be using the satellite experts to design drones that can provide mapping data faster than vans. Or they could be working on something else entirely. Apple declined to comment on the new hires.