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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

November 3, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Confirmed: Apple opening Seattle software office

Apple is moving into enemy territory and has started an engineering office in Seattle, its first in the Northwest.

Like other California companies setting up shop in the shadow of Microsoft, Apple is attracted by the area’s software talent, particularly engineers with expertise building online infrastructure.

The nucleus of the Seattle office is a group of former F5 engineers working on network infrastructure. That may be just what Apple needs to accelerate its cloud offerings and narrow the gap with leading cloud services, which were largely built in Seattle.

An Apple spokesman confirmed that the company has indeed opened an engineering office in Seattle, but declined to provide further details. It is the company’s first engineering office in the Northwest and is likely to continue growing. The company has had a scattered presence in the region over the years, including a productivity apps team in British Columbia and a business-development office in Kirkland that closed 20 years ago.

The nucleus of the Apple engineering office is a group of employees who had worked at Union Bay Networks, a cloud computing startup near Google’s Seattle campus in Fremont. Union Bay’s information email no longer works, and at least five of its employees have changed their LinkedIn profiles to say they began working at Apple in September.

Seven of the startup’s nine employees became Apple employees and are working at an undisclosed office location in the city.

Most of the Union Bay team came from F5 Networks, including Benn Bollay, a former principal engineer at F5 and chief technology officer at Union Bay, according to his LinkedIn profile. Bollay now describes himself as an Apple manager and on Friday posted a notice on LinkedIn saying that he’s hiring for the Seattle office.

The post’s headline — since removed — said:

“Ever wanted to work at Apple, but didn’t want to live in Cupertino?”

Bollay wrote that the company is “looking for talented multidisciplinary engineers to design and develop the core infrastructure services and environments driving every online customer experience at Apple ranging from iCloud to iTunes.”

One of Union Bay’s backers, Madrona Venture Group, was unusually tight-lipped about its investment and declined to say whether the company was sold to Apple.

Apple’s spokesman would say only that the company “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Bollay’s post and hints of Apple’s Seattle office were noted earlier by Geekwire.

Apple joins a parade of California tech companies that have set up engineering offices in Seattle in recent years to take advantage of the region’s talent pool.

Google is the most striking example. It opened a small office a decade ago and now has offices in Fremont and a large campus in Kirkland that’s doubling in size to accommodate 2,000 employees.

“This is great,” Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, said of Apple doing research and development in Seattle.

The addition of a company known for merging first-rate engineering and design will round out the region’s capabilities while further diversifying its economy, he said.

“Having Twitter and Facebook and Google and Oracle and all these other people up here, it’s a big plus for the economy of the region,” Lazowska said.



Comments | Topics: Apple, economy, Microsoft


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