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Apple reportedly letting select employees work on early-stage products at home

Apple reportedly letting select employees work on early-stage products at home


New Apple TV, HomePod, iMac, and other hardware due later this year

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

With all the uncertainty over when “shelter in place” orders will be lifted, Apple has recently been more willing to let early-stage products leave its campus for further development at the homes of its employees. This is according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who today reported about how Apple has been adapting to the work-from-home culture that’s now the norm across Big Tech and countless other companies around the world.

Apple is known for maintaining tight secrecy around unreleased hardware and software, and Bloomberg makes clear that employees must go high up the executive ladder for permission to take an in-the-works device home. A vice president must sign off, and the list of employees in possession of future products is regularly reviewed by the company’s most senior leadership.

Currently, Apple is at work on “new versions of the HomePod speaker, Apple TV set-top box, MacBook Pro, budget iPads, Apple Watch and iMac for as early as later this year,” according to the report. And the company is said to be on track for the usual fall launch of its next iPhones. These are crucial days if all of those things are going to hit their release targets. Bloomberg noted that “for some work that requires hands-on development, some hardware engineers in Silicon Valley are allowed into the office.”

Upcoming software releases are also under continued development, and Apple is similarly rigorous about keeping track of who’s got at-home access to iOS 14, the next version of macOS, and other projects. Those releases are said to be running on schedule, according to Bloomberg, despite the “difficulties of working from home” and “distractions” cited by some Apple software engineers.

Even with the company’s obsession with secrecy, sometimes things do still slip out. Early iOS 14 code recently leaked, spilling the details on new software features and corroborating some of Apple’s hardware plans like a lower-cost iPhone 9 and Tile-like “AirTag” trackers.

Earlier this month, Apple announced its first new products since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold — an updated MacBook Air and iPad Pro — and those devices are now shipping, even as all of the company’s retail stores outside China remain closed “until further notice.”

Apple has offered to cover home office costs (desks, computer monitors, etc.) as the quarantine stretches on, according to Bloomberg’s report, and has started up a contest that has employees showcasing their workspaces. “Whether you’re working at home or at the office, it’s always critical to keep confidential work confidential. While working remotely, use the same care and always securely store confidential items and documents when not in use,” the company said in a notice to staff. Work-from-home edicts in the Bay Area have been extended through May 1st at the earliest.