Steve Jobs’ last great product: Apple Park

“Steve Jobs’s vision for Apple’s headquarters was to stay close to home, in the low-density suburbs that form Silicon Valley, rather than embrace a more high-density, urban environment. Apple’s never been a city company, from its very start in that suburban garage,” Jason Snell writes for Macworld. “Using that as a given — Apple’s a company that isn’t going to stray too far from its suburban roots — Jobs envisioned a hub of activity surrounded by a tranquil park of hills and trees that are reminiscent of the area when it was mostly fruit trees and fields, before it became a major hub of American innovation.”

“Apple’s decision to make Apple Park a ring will be a convenient metaphor for those who wish to criticize the company for being secretive, insular, and arrogant,” Snell writes. “There will be more, and worse, when the campus opens and in the years thereafter.”

“Take those criticisms as you will, but anyone who’s visited Apple’s Infinite Loop campus — constructed in 1992-93 — will tell you that Apple’s been [setting] buildings… in a ring with a large private space in the center for 25 years,” Snell writes. “Building oases in the middle of South Bay suburbs— this is in Apple’s DNA.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, Apple is very focused on fulfilling Job’s vision for the company’s headquarters, as they should be. Steve’s last product should be as perfect and as true to his vision as possible, regardless of size or cost.

As for the criticism of the time spent on the project, it’s coming from the same vein as coffee-table books, co-chairing Met Galas, Christmas trees, and other extracurricular activities.

None of them are bad things to do per se, but these things open you up to very easy criticism when you fail to execute on your core products and services.

So, when you produce a $300 coffee table book with 450 painstakingly shot photographs on “specially milled German paper with gilded matte silver edges, using eight color separations and low-ghost inks” and even trumpet that it “took more than eight years to create,” but you can’t make or even bother to update the Mac Pro for over four years… Hey, you deserve every single bit of criticism and then some, if not for your horribly misplaced priorities and blatantly obvious mismanagement, then for your abject tone-deafness alone.

In other words, doing your real job first grants you the ability to screw around on some vanity projects without criticism.


  1. “This land was kinda special to me. Right around that exact moment in time when I called up Bill Hewlett and he gave me a summer job, Hewlett and Packard themselves were walking on some property over here in Cupertino in Pruneridge, and they ended up buying it. They built their computer systems division there, and as Hewlett-Packard had been shrinking they decided to sell that property and we bought it. We bought that and bought the adjacent property. It all used to be apricot orchards and we got about a 150 acres. And we would like to put a new campus on that, so we can stay in Cupertino. Our plan is to basically take down all the buildings, and put up some more efficient structures, a campus basically, and build something nice.
    We’ve hired some great architects to work with, some of the greatest in the world I think, and we’ve come up with a design that puts 12,000 people in one building. We’ve seen these office parks with lots of buildings, and we think they get boring pretty fast, so we like to do something better than that. It’s a circle, and so it’s curved all the way around, there’s not a straight piece of glass in this whole building, it’s all curved. We’ve used our experience in making retail buildings all over the world, and we know how to make the biggest pieces of glass in the world for architectural use.
    Today about 20% of the space is landscape most of it are several big asphalt parking lots. We want to completely change this and we want to make 80% of it landscape. The way we’re going to do this is we are going to put most of the parking underground. The building is four stories high, so there’s nothing high here at all. We want the whole place human scale. There’s an energy center, we deal with people sitting at computers all day writing software. And if the power goes out on the grid we get to send everybody home, so we have to have backup power to power the place in the event of brownouts and stuff. I think what we are going to end up doing is making the energy center our primary source of power, because we can generate power with natural gas and other ways that can be cleaner and cheaper, and use the grid as our back up. We’ve got an auditorium, because now when we put on presentations we have to go to San Francisco to do them.
    I think we do have a shot of building the best office building in the world, and I really do think architecture students will come here to see this. I think it could be that good.”

    Excerpt from: “Steve Jobs: The Unauthorized Autobiography”

    1. Too bad he did not live to see many things- like his Son graduate from Stanford and other life events, but I think he would have really enjoyed seeing this project completed.

      Tim, the One More Thing at WWDC could be insanely great if you would close the circle- so to speak- and license H-P to build us Workstations running Mac OS. Keep the consumer stuff for Apple, but let us have a serious workstation. EFI is the only thing between today and getting it done and the clock is running.

  2. “In other words, doing your real job first grants you the ability to screw around on some vanity projects without criticism.”

    And that is the crux of Apple negligence and incompetence, as far as the Mac Pro is concerned. But as soon as people depend on you you cannot ignore them or risk losing them – forever. We KNOW when we aren’t being cared about. It’s the height of corporate arrogance not caring about your customer’s needs or bothering to update the tools regularly on how many of us make a living in an acceptable form that works for many, not just a select few.

    1. I agree that Apple has failed to live up to reasonable expectations in recent years and I also understand your level of emotionalism, but threats to ditch Apple “forever” is somewhat histrionic. Some pros have undoubtedly already switch, and more may follow. Some of those pros originally left Wintel for Apple and have now completed the cycle. But you are talking about time frames of a few years, certainly less than a decade, in which Apple has evolved from a pro favorite to a favorite for pros to bash. That cycle might very well reverse over the next few years – diamonds may be forever, but computers, software, and processes are not. If Apple continues to rapidly advance its A-series processors and begins to offer high-performance computers using 8, 16, 32 and larger multi-core systems with extreme number crunching and graphics performance, then pros will return. Those who hold a grudge against Apple and stick with Wintel will not prosper.

      There are short term and long term cycles and plans. If you conflate the two, then you made decide…poorly.

      1. My feeling is whatever Apple comes up with next may also prove unsatisfactory and excessively priced for what you get. Plus prove more unwieldy to upgrade. So Apple might have to learn again to design the machine most pros want taking even more time.

        You bring up a lot of “if’s” and nothing would give me more pleasure then giving the thumbs down to Windows users with Macs that are superior in every way. But Apple by it’s actions have proved creating a superior experience in every way is not on their agenda. And nothing really suggests it ever will be here on out. By recent events they’ve proven no one was watching this particular store, let alone formulating a future strategy.

        I am as fervent a Mac fan as you can imagine and when you alienate guys like me who are pros, well, it’s a pretty sad day indeed. To ever be in a position where you don’t have a wonderfully competitive machine at any one moment of availability is pretty unforgivable. Outrageous really because there is only one supplier of official Macs.

    1. I too sense a difference in character and motivation; It’s less attention to creative vision and more attention to Wall St.-based quotidian production pushed into the pipeline.

  3. I’ll posit that Apple Park is in fact a “core product” and may very well serve Apple for the next hundred years or so. Enough about the Mac Pro. No other product is as important as Apple Park, not even the iPhone. It is in fact Apple’s future.

    1. As if the technology being used, elaborated upon, and developed anew to erect the building and its infrastructure is the basic foundation for a future-focused Apple in the areas of emerging technologies outside of its current focus on what it and everyone else is focused upon – apps, stand-alone computers, networked computers, music, and OSes which, as a group of current technologies, future history books might regard as cute, quaint, a precursor, a mere step.

      What that future development could offer exciting possibilities, a fundamentally higher and more ambitious shift toward where “the hockey puck will be.”

      If true, then we understand what Apple’s vanity projects, pipeline promises, and inattention to pro users, might reprsent: A nostalgic summation and evaluation of its present location in preperation for a glorious future at which old hands wanting less change, more ports, and more of what is normally expected from a Silicon Valley Co. shudder and rail against.

      Therefore, the architecture is a signifier to the unwary and the stable but rigid that Apple will leave old attitudes, people, and devices behind just as with FinalCut Pro and MacPro.

    2. I could not agree more.
      The required efforts to put into place Steve’s vision for creating an astounding environment for attracting and keeping astounding talent to create astounding products is will prove to be Steve’s greatest accomplishment.

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