According to Bloomberg, Apple is getting involved in launching satellites that would beam down broadband Internet access. Recently, Apple poached two Google satellite executives to form a new hardware team within the company. John Fenwick led Google’s spacecraft operations and Michael Trela was head of satellite engineering.
The report adds that Fenwick and Trela will now report to Greg Duffy, the Dropcam founder who joined Apple earlier this year. Presumably, they will be working on a secret project to design and develop Apple’s own satellites.
Another recent development that points to Apple’s growing interest in this area is a partnership with Boeing to launch more than 1,000 low-orbit satellites. Apple has held discussions with Boeing about being an investor/partner in the project, according to Bloomberg. Furthermore, aerospace insiders believe Apple is helping fund the Boeing satellites.
“It’s not hard to discern why Apple might want to consider a satellite constellation,” wrote Tim Farrar, a satellite consultant at TMF Associates. “SpaceX alone could generate $30 billion in revenue from satellite Internet by 2025.”
Why this matters: A world with better access to faster, low-latency Internet will definitely help Apple’s future. It would help increase the demand for the iPhone in emerging markets, and also help make connected homes the next big thing.
There are a few caveats, however. Satellite-beamed “Internet from the sky” has long been a dream for major tech companies, including Google and Facebook, which would also benefit from a more-connected world. But launching a fleet of satellites has proven to be expensive and risky, and many satellite companies have gone out of business as a result.
It’s entirely possible that Apple hired the ex-Googlers to work on a project that’s more down to earth. Duffy’s experience is more in consumer products and image-capturing, so perhaps Apple’s new hardware team could be creating drones for improving Maps, and thus replacing the camera-equipped minivans.
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