In Letter, Apple Confirms Layoffs in Autonomous Vehicle Team

Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle:

Apple will lay off 190 employees in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale in its self-driving car division, the company said.

The layoffs were disclosed, along with new details, in a letter this month to the California Employment Development Department. CNBC reported last month that layoffs were occurring in the self-driving car division, known as Project Titan. Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, confirmed that the letter to the state referenced the same layoffs.

Most of the affected employees are engineers, including 38 engineering program managers, 33 hardware engineers, 31 product design engineers and 22 software engineers. The layoffs will take effect April 16, according to the filing.

That’s awful for those employees, who I hope will quickly find work again doing something they love.

Here’s where the reporting of this breaks down for me, though:

The layoffs coincide with falling iPhone sales, with revenue dropping by 15 percent in the last three months of 2018. An economic slowdown in China is also hurting Apple’s business.

“A sudden and significant shortfall in iPhone revenue is causing a level of distress within Apple that is forcing it to make hard choices,” wrote Lynx Equity Strategies in an analyst report last month that speculated that the self-driving car division could be shut down.

What a load of nonsense. Companies that are apparently in “distress” don’t make over $23 billion in three months — profit. It is ridiculous to connect these layoffs to reduced iPhone sales, especially as the company’s research and development spending continues to climb, including $500 million more in Q1 2019 than in Q1 2018. Also, there are about 2,700 employees working on this project; laying off 7% of them, while terrible for those employees, indicates nothing specific about the health of the project itself or Apple.