A drama has been developing in Israel over the past two months between Apple and Intel, reportedly battling it out to hire engineers who are shortly to be laid off from Texas Instruments (TI).
Apple may be winning the fight: the latest report is that Apple was ready to move ahead with an R&D facility built around the TI engineers. However, this could be just more spin, designed to convince the workers not to switch tracks and head for Intel instead.
Rumours have been floating around for months that Apple was planning to hire dozens of engineers in Israel, after Texas Instruments laid off 250 engineers in Israel last November. According to recent reports (which the company has not confirmed or denied), Apple is set to open an R&D facility in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ra'anana — the same area as TI's own R&D facility.
But don't count on anything until the ink is dry, because Intel is thought to be after those TI engineers too.
The story goes back to last November, when TI announced a major series of layoffs worldwide that affected all company facilities, including the one in Ra'anana, where 250 engineers were to be made redundant.
Just days after the TI news surfaced, Apple was said to be considering hiring at least between 50 and 100 of the engineers. And to make it even easier for the former TI staffers, Apple was reportedly ready to create a facility specifically for them — in Ra'anana, where many of them already lived, or were comfortable commuting to.
A source close to the deal told Israeli newspaper Calcalist that Apple "saw its opportunity and took it, hiring dozens of some of the most talented communications engineers in the world. They are bringing with them knowledge that Apple does not currently possess".
The source added: "It's part of Apple's new strategy of developing the technology it needs in-house, instead of relying on outside companies and contractors."
According to Calcalist, TI, at Apple's request, transferred over details of the laid-off workers for Apple's consideration. The TI workers were also contacted and encouraged to join Apple by the managers of the company's local operation, who were told by Apple in the US that the company would not open another R&D facility here unless a "critical mass" of engineers could be hired.
A rival offer
But Apple isn't the only tech company after the TI workers: according to the report, Intel has made offers to many of the workers, and is seeking to provide better compensation packages than Apple. Workers have been considering competing offers from Apple and Intel since December, when both companies began approaching the TI workers. (While TI confirmed redundancies are now underway in Israel, it would not comment on the Apple rumour. "We have been working to provide a range of assistance related to compensation, benefits and job search to TI employees affected by the redundancies," a spokeswoman said.)
Apple already has facilities in Israel and expanded its presence in the country when it acquired flash memory startup Anobit in 2011. While rumours of hirings may stem from Apple bulking up its existing staff by cherry-picking some of TI's ex-staffers, reports maintain that the Ra'anana R&D facility is still on its agenda after the company managed to attract the critical mass of TI engineers it needed to make the facility a goer. (Apple and Intel declined to comment on the rumours.)
But one industry source who is knowledgeable about the matter said that there was still a long way to go until Apple actually opens a facility in Ra'anana, if indeed that was going to happen at all.
"It could be that this is all spin designed to convince the workers to accept Apple's offer. Some TI workers have signed with Apple, others have signed with Intel, and still others have signed with other companies. It's not at all clear that 100 ex-TI workers are going to agree to go to work for Apple, although they were no doubt offered great packages. If it's true that Apple will not open a facility in Ra'anana without at least 100 new engineers, it might be a little while longer before this takes place."