Apple’s $5 billion ‘spaceship’ campus is ready for takeoff — but some employees will be left behind

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Apple

  • Apple employees are currently moving into Apple Park, the company’s new $5 billion headquarters.
  • However, not all Apple employees will move into what’s called “the ring” by insiders.
  • The campus will hold 12,000 employees. Apple has 25,000 employees in the Bay Area.

Apple’s new $5 billion “spaceship” campus has captivated the world’s attention. But even as Apple celebrates the opening of its gleaming UFO-like headquarters, many company employees are coming to terms with a hard truth: There’s not room on the ship for everyone.

Who gets a ticket and who gets left behind has become a subject of speculation, conversation and some grumbling at the world’s largest company.

The new building, which Apple insiders refer to as “the ring” rather than the spaceship, is about three miles from Apple’s current Cupertino, Calif. headquarters at One Infinite Loop. The fact that the new building can’t house everyone isn’t exactly a surprise to anyone who did the math: Apple says the new campus will hold 12,000 employees. Apple currently has 25,000 in the Bay Area, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

But in keeping with its penchant for secrecy, Apple has not widely discussed its plans for the move internally, leaving many employees in the dark. Some groups at Apple know they’re moving but are still waiting for their move-in date; others suspect they’re not getting an invite to the “ring” simply because they haven’t been told of any plans to move.

“You don’t get told things here unless you need to know, and if you aren’t moving, you don’t need to know,” one Apple employee told Business Insider.

Employees who know they’re headed to Apple Park excitedly chat about the perks awaiting them at their new home, while others commiserate about being excluded, according to Apple insiders Business Insider spoke to.

Apple's not rolling out the green carpet to all of its employees.

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Apple’s not rolling out the green carpet to all of its employees.
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Matthew Roberts/YouTube

Haves and have-nots

Apple's former headquarters, 1 Infinite Loop.

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Apple’s former headquarters, 1 Infinite Loop.
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Henry Blodget / Business Insider

The split between the movers and those left behind has also created a sense of two classes within Apple.

Apple’s most valuable talent will be moving to the ring, including executives like CEO Tim Cook, teams full of software developers, and Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive’s design teams, which will get one of the nicest spots on the fourth floor of the building.

But less important divisions, like App Store workers and retail operations, are expected to remain in satellite offices scattered around Silicon Valley. This means those people will often have to travel using Apple’s shuttle service to another office just to attend meetings.

“The rest of us will still be taking silver van after silver van from building to building for all of our meetings, wasting time, gas, and space,” the Apple employee told Business Insider. “You would think one of the main points of a $5 billion campus would be to bring more people together in the same place.”

As it is, some Apple employees already take an Apple bus to headquarters, and then have to take a second shuttle to their offices. In Cupertino you can regularly see silver Ford and Toyota vans traveling the roads, ferrying Apple employees from one building to another. (There are some white Lexus SUVs in the shuttle fleet, but those are currently for testing, and are part of Apple’s self-driving car project, as first reported by the New York Times.)

Apple executives have previously cited the constellation of scattered offices as one of the benefits of consolidating into new headquarters.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the new campus move.

“We didn’t make Apple Park for other people”

Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, who spearheaded the construction of the campus.

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Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, who spearheaded the construction of the campus.
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Hirshhorn

There are other reasons some groups are excluded from the ring, or Apple Park, as the facility is officially known. Many of Apple’s “special projects” groups, working on technologies in health, augmented reality, and robotics, are housed separately from Apple headquarters, most likely for security and secrecy reasons.

And Apple’s online services group, under senior vice president Eddy Cue, has opted to take over Apple’s old headquarters, Bloomberg reported in 2016.

The 2.8-million-square-foot ring building was the final project of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, who envisioned it as ” best office building in the world.” The circular, open space and massive windows are intended to foster collaboration and innovation among employees.

Not all Apple employees are fans of the new set up though. Some Apple engineers, accustomed to working in small offices, fear the open floor plan will be too loud and distracting, the Wall Street Journal reported in July. And Apple blogger John Gruber relayed a rumor earlier this year that one group at Apple insisted on having its own, more private building, adjacent to the ring.

Apple’s Ive, who spearheaded the construction of the new headquarters, has expressed bewilderment that the company’s new offices have been criticized by outsiders.

“We didn’t make Apple Park for other people,” Ive said in interview at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC earlier this month. “So I think a lot of the criticisms … are utterly bizarre, because it wasn’t made for you. And I know how we work, and you don’t.”

Fruit trees, theaters and buzz

Gwen Stefani performed at an Apple special event at 1 Infinite Loop earlier this month.

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Gwen Stefani performed at an Apple special event at 1 Infinite Loop earlier this month.
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Apple

Among the perks for employees at Apple Park are new food and gym facilities, a state of the art theater for on-campus presentations, and a giant garden stocked with fruit trees. At some satellite offices, by contrast, the only lunch options are from vending machines.

Special events, like Apple’s semi-regular “beer bashes,” will take place at Apple Park, meaning that employees at satellite offices have to travel to take advantage of some of Apple’s best perks.

“Obviously very first world problems, but having such disparities in quality of workplace environment across the company creates an awkward hierarchy and lack of a unified company culture,” says the insider. “Facebook, Google, Airbnb (magnitude smaller, I know) crush Apple on this front.”

A prestigious address.

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A prestigious address.
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Kif Leswing/Business Insider

Apple continues to build in Silicon Valley. It’s building a “second spaceship” in Sunnyvale, and has been buying and developing a lot of properties. And Apple has grown rapidly since 2011, when the plans for Apple Park were completed.

But as rivals and neighbors start to build their giant new campuses, the competition for top talent in Silicon Valley will heat up. It’s undeniable that Apple Park is a huge perk – for the employees who get to work there.