Google has historically been known for encouraging creativity in its employees by letting them devote time towards personal projects, and it appears Apple has adopted a similar philosophy. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that earlier this year Apple introduced a program called "Blue Sky," under which a select group of employees would be able to spend a few weeks of their time working on personal engineering projects. The Journal frames it as part of an internal shift in the way the company is operating under new CEO Tim Cook, who has made other changes since taking over the company — from touting the company's charitable activities to settling patent litigation outside the courtroom..
It's not clear what group of employees are part of Blue Sky, or if any Apple initiatives have stemmed from the program thus far (the WSJ does state that former iOS head Scott Forstall was involved with the program, though it's unknown if the recent executive shuffle Apple underwent had any impact on Blue Sky). As for Cook, the shift looks to be just one more slow and steady change the CEO has made as he continues to make the company his own.