Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is pulling together a team of engineers and supply-chain managers in Taiwan and China in a bid to accelerate the development of new products and future iterations of iPhones, reports The Wall Street Journal. According to unnamed people familiar with the matter cited by the Journal, the California-based company has already hired over 600 new employees since the hiring push began in the middle of last year.
While the engineering staff will focus on speeding up the product development process by working directly with Apple’s suppliers in Asia, the managerial hires will keep closer tabs on the working conditions in the suppliers’ factories. Apple has been taking steps to improve working conditions at its suppliers’ factories following a spate of widely publicized suicides at some Foxconn facilities over the past years.
Per The Wall Street Journal, Apple used networking websites such as LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) to poach engineers from Taiwan-based companies such as HTC, Inventec, and Quanta Computer. Last year, VR-Zone’s Sam Reynolds reported similar rumors based on internal Apple communications that he was able to obtain. According to VR-Zone’s report, Apple was seeking engineers with particular specialties for its Taiwan development team, including audio, camera, battery, and display panel experts.
“Apple is building an engineering team in Taipei to drive new iPhone product development,” stated Apple in one recruitment email obtained by the Journal. Although Apple has recently made a push to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S. with a Mac Pro factory in Austin, Texas, and a sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona, the bulk of its manufacturing is still done in Asia.
Apple’s use of an overseas manufacturing base means there is an inevitable lag between the time that a product’s development is finished in Cupertino and when the manufacturers are ready to produce the product. However, Apple would presumably be able to shorten its product refresh cycles if it had an engineering team that could work more closely with the component makers in Asia. Despite the establishment of an engineering development team in Taiwan, core research and development activity will remain based in Apple’s U.S. headquarters, according to the Journal’s sources.
Apple’s recent hiring push in Asia may be related to the production of its next-generation iPhone models. Multiple media outlets have reported that the next iPhone will be available in two larger screen sizes. The South China Morning Post recently reported that the so-called iPhone 6 will be available with a 4.7-inch screen and 5.5-inch screen.
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