Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, is due to visit Israel for the first time this week and open the company’s new research-and-development center in Herzilya Pituah, sources said.
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Apple spokespeople declined to comment on whether Cook would indeed be arriving and opening the R&D center Tuesday, saying the company does not respond to rumors.
Sources said the ceremony would be open only to invited guests, including leaders of Israel's high-tech industry. Cook is also expected to meet with the heads of the company’s Israel development team as well as former President Shimon Peres.
Apple was a late arrival to the Israel tech scene, buying its first company only after Cook took over from the legendary Steve Jobs in 2011. In January 2012, the company spent $390 million to acquire Anobit, a startup that was making a critical component for Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
Anobit’s 200 employees became the basis for Apple’s local R&D center, which has since expanded through recruitment and acquisitions of other Israeli startups. Apple's most recent Israeli acquisition came in November 2013, a $350 million purchase of PrimeSense, a maker of 3D sensors that employed about 150 people.
Today the U.S. company employs hundreds of Israelis working on hardware and semiconductors. The Herzliya Pituah Center is Apple’s biggest R&D unit outside its headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Apple has also launched a second R&D center at Matam Park in Haifa, which took on 100 engineers laid off from Texas Instruments’ Ra’anana R&D center.
Apple has rented some 12,500 square meters of office space in Herzilya Pituah, enough room for as many as 1,200 employees, an indication of how much Apple expects its Israeli operation to grow over the next few years. It will link up all Apple Israel people in one location.
The facilities are part of giant complex of 28,000 square meters being developed by the property company Gav Yam in Herzilya Pituah, a key center for Israeli high-tech. Apple has an option to rent space in the second phase of the project, suggesting that even bigger expansion plans could be on the way.
Apple’s Israel team has been developing Anobit’s original flash-drive memory technology to be used in smartphones, tablets and media players. In Haifa, the focus is on processors. Buoyed further by Intel's R&D center, the city is a world center for semiconductors.
Although Cook had a hard act to follow after Jobs, he has presided over record growth at Apple. Last month the company reported $74.6 billion in revenues and $18 billion in net profit, the largest corporate quarterly earnings of all time. Revenues grew 29.5% and earnings per share nearly 50%.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, launched under Cook, were the major reason for the growth spike, alongside a continued expansion in Mac sales. This year the Apple Watch is expected to take center stage.