These past few months have been tough on tech giants, but, somehow, Apple seems to be bucking the trend
It all seems so long ago
Apple prospered during lockdown, as did most tech companies.
As lockdowns of various severities were imposed, working from home became something of a norm. Suddenly, we all needed quicker connection speeds, and better tech.
Where once an old laptop would have done, people were suddenly looking to update their tablets & computers to help make their working days quicker and easier to manage.
Our tech not only affected our working days of course – as boredom, and sometimes solitude kicked in, we turned to streaming services such as Netflix and Apple TV, or podcasts for entertainment.
So, in times, that for many, were strange or stressed, for the tech giants, it was a boom time. But Apple, although benefitting, were more cautious than some.
Taking it easy
During the lockdown periods of 2020-2022, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft went on a hiring frenzy, they simply could not get their hands on enough manpower. All this, of course, was based on an anticipation that e-commerce, and the time spent online, would continue to grow post-pandemic. Amazon hired over 750,000 people during the pandemic. Microsoft hired nearly 80,000 staff, and Meta doubled its payroll headcount.
As for Apple – for all they are a massive $3-trillion company, only hired about 20,000 people.
With the bounce-back in the economy being slower than either hoped for, or expected, analysts believe, Apple are now reaping from their gently-gently approach of the past few years.
Although we were hit with a tsunami of products this time last week, in actuality, Apple scaled back their production plans during lockdown, whilst competitors took the opposite route. This helped Apple to keep their operating costs under control, which, in-turn, has made it easier for them to cope with the current slow-down.
CEO Tim Cook recently took a self-imposed pay-cut to ease his burden on the company – although this may be in equal part due to institutional investor concerns than merely the financial stresses.
It’s not all iPods
When we think of Apple, it is easy to think that their greatest achievements have been the Mac, iPhone, iPods, or Apple Watch. Single-handedly, they have changed how we consume, and buy music, and how tech affects our lives.
They have given us iconic moments such as the MacBook Air being taken from that manilla envelope, and the 1984 Super Bowl commercial.
Apple has grown to be an internationally cool brand, known by many, and desired by a loyal set of users. But, even withstanding last week’s slew of MacBooks, Mac minis, and HomePods, it is possible, that their greatest achievement, is happening now, subtly, before our eyes.
What’s that then? Well, I am speaking about Apple’s ability to hold on to staff, and avoiding lay-offs.
Taking care of business
Times are tough. We are all feeling it. Heading through a cold winter, the credit crisis has become real, as heating bills soar. Fuel, food and just living day-to-day is costing more and more.
Companies, even the big ones, are feeling it, just like the rest of us – make no mistake of it.
Over the past few weeks, the headlines have been full of grim reading regarding job culling at the major tech players. Amazon has let 18,000 staff go, Google (well their parent company, Alphabet) has let go 12,000 people. Meta, and Microsoft have both let over 10,000 employees go, and then there is Twitter too!
And this is where Apple caution, over the past few years, has now started to bear fruit. Apple, so far, have announced no major layoffs. In August 2022, about 100 recruiters were laid off, and there was a hiring freeze in November of the same year. That, though, has been about it – certainly there have been no mass-scale sackings, the like of which we’ve seen at the other tech companies.
Clearly, we are far from being out of the woods yet, and I guess Apple could yet be forced in to laying workers off, but so far, so good. The company has an earnings call coming up on 2 February, and for all we know, there may be some cutbacks in the report. Some analysts are predicting that supply issues and a global recession may have affected the company’s performance.
iPhone 14 sales have been slower than over past years, with the 14 Plus certainly not hitting its targets. But, with the release of all the gear last week, with Mac Pro, the AR/VR headset, and iPhone 15 still to come this year, it’s a fair bet that the wolves will be kept from Apple’s door for a while longer yet.
History repeating itself
We have had some good times of recent, so it is easy to forget that we’ve seen these scales of redundancies in the past. Mass redundancies in tech, at least, were last seen in the Dotcom bust era.
Around the turn of the century, Apple then laid off 4100 staff, whilst other large, online brands, folded altogether, never to be seen again.
Apple, it seems, has learned well from their history, and all at the company are now hopefully benefitting from it.
Apple will forever be synonymous with glittery, new tech. They have earned that position, too.
But, if Apple do manage to go through the next few months without huge layoffs, their contribution, to society, will be as great, if not greater, than the next product launch.
From a humanitarian, and social view-point, keeping people employed, and able to pay their mortgages, rents, and support their families, is as big a contribution to the economy that I can think of.
Apple is huge, and we know from the unionisation rows, not perfect to work for, but they are trying.
This may just be their, quiet, shining hour.
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