Google and Microsoft layoffs, plus new Macs and a mystery
Apple just keeps showing off.
Apple announced two updated Macs this week: the M2 and M2 Pro Mac mini, and the new M2 Pro and M2 Max-powered MacBook Pros. Technically, both updates are spec bumps, with the overall design staying the same. That, however, dramatically understates the significance of what Apple is doing. Also, there’s the interesting mystery of what Apple isn’t doing—at least, not yet.
Let’s start with the new Macs.
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What’s most important about these new machines isn’t so much that they are faster and better than the models they replace—what’s really important is that they are so much faster and better than everything else out there. Every Mac Apple has released in the past three years is basically just showing off at this point.
That’s a big deal because Apple has clearly demonstrated that its control over the entire process has paid off. It’s no longer at the mercy of Intel, which means it’s able to deliver the Macs its users want. Ultimately, that’s the key, and it’s why Apple Silicon matters. Over the past two years, Apple has been delivering the “dream” Macs that so many of its users have been asking for.
I suppose I should probably wait to test them out before I spend too much time talking about their performance, but if the M2 MacBook Air I use every day is any indication, the M2 Pro and M2 Max Mac Book Pros are going to be crazy good.
The same goes for the M2-generation Mac mini. Here, though, Apple did something else interesting—it lowered the starting price of the entry-level model. You can now get an M2 Mac mini for just $599. You probably shouldn’t, but you can. I’d recommend spending $600 to upgrade the storage (1TB) and the memory (16GB). If you do, you’ll have a Mac that can do basically anything you would want it to do.
As for the MacBook Pros, you cannot get one of those for $599, but if you’re willing to spent at least $2,000 you can get one of the most powerful Macs the company has ever made. As far as laptops go, they’re also the best anyone has ever made.
There are other benefits. As an example, Apple says the 16-inch MacBook Pro gets the longest battery life of any Mac, ever—up to 22 hours. Considering that almost everything else is the same, that means that Apple keeps squeezing efficiency out of its silicon, even while making it faster and more performant.
Of course, what’s missing from this announcement is the Mac Pro, which is officially late (at least, based on Apple’s self-imposed two-year transition away from Intel). We know it’s still coming because Apple said as much just last year. I suppose it’s possible the company changed its mind, but I think that it would want to get in front of the disappointment that would come from killing off a product that its most hardcore users care about.
Assuming Apple still plans to release a Mac Pro, it makes sense that it wasn’t announced in a press release. Apple surely will want to do some sort of event to announce the Mac Pro—perhaps this spring ahead of WWDC. Maybe it will release it alongside another missing product: the long-rumored headset.
Google and Microsoft layoffs
Google and Microsoft are the latest big tech companies to layoff a large number of employees. This week, Microsoft said it will cut 10,000 roles by the end of the third quarter.
Just this morning, Google said it would be laying off 12,000 employees. CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged the real problem:
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.”
I think it’s fair to ask whose fault that is, since none of the employees who were hired over the past few years caused the “different economic reality,” though they are the ones most likely to stop getting a pay check.
“I take full responsibility for the decisions that led us here,” Pichai said, though that’s not really true. Pichai isn’t losing his job. I’m not sure what “take full responsibility” means when you make the decisions to hire ahead of what you think will be continued growth, only to be wrong 18 months later and have to dramatically change course. To be fair, the same goes for Nadella.
To put it in perspective, 10,000 people is a little less than five percent of Microsoft's 220,000 employees. The 12,000 employees being laid off at Google are about six percent of its workforce. That's not a huge layoff in terms of its size relative to the overall company, but it's a big deal if you're one of those 22,000 people who won't be getting a paycheck in the a few months.
There seems to be some sort of condition that prevents people who lead large companies from doing layoffs well. Obviously, there's no great way to tell a bunch of people that they no longer have a job, but there are definitely bad ways.
For whatever reason, many of those people who lead large companies default to the bad ways. Look no further than Elon Musk's elimination of half of Twitter's employees by email. Part of that might be that if you're the CEO of a huge tech company with lots of employees, it can be easy to think of those employees more as a number than as, well, people.
Of course, Microsoft is not Twitter, and the company's CEO, Satya Nadella is not Elon Musk. Nadella seems to understand that it's possible to let people go with a measure of humanity that is too often lacking in these sorts of things.
Look no further than Nadella's statement announcing the layoffs, which does a great job explaining how to handle this type of decision. It's not complicated--in fact, it all comes down to just three words. Here's what Nadella said in a communication to employees that was published on Microsoft's blog:
"We know this is a challenging time for each person impacted. The senior leadership team and I are committed that as we go through this process, we will do so in the most thoughtful and transparent way possible."
Look, on some level, if I'm getting laid off, it doesn't matter how thoughtful you are about eliminating jobs if the result is that I no longer get a pay check. Except, on another level, it does matter because it means that you're far more likely to try to make it the least terrible you can.
"We will treat our people with dignity and respect, and act transparently," Nadella wrote. "These decisions are difficult, but necessary. They are especially difficult because they impact people and people's lives - our colleagues and friends."
What does that mean in practice? At Microsoft, at least, it means the company will provide employees with "above-market severance pay, continuing healthcare coverage for six months, and continued vesting of stock awards for six months." Contrast that with the fact that Twitter employees are still waiting for the severance they were promised when the company announced layoffs without any notice at all.
Twitter and third-party apps
Of all the petty things Elon Musk has done as the new owner of Twitter, this might be the worst. That's saying something considering he's laid off half of the company's employees by email, alienated advertisers, and banned journalists for posting content he doesn't care for.
Sometime over the weekend, Twitter shut off API access for third-party apps like Tweetbot and Twitteriffic. Not only was the move petty, but it was also totally classless since the company did it without informing developers or even making a statement. Instead, the apps all just broke as they were cut off from Twitter's platform.
It took the company four days to say anything at all about the move, coming in the form of a two-sentence tweet: "Twitter is enforcing its long-standing API rules. That may result in some apps not working."
That's it. Just two sentences. That's the only statement from Twitter after it killed all the major third-party apps. Of course it will result in apps not working. That's what happens when you revoke their authorization credentials. It doesn't even give any indication of what rule might have been violated to "result in some apps not working." Of course, it doesn't, because it's not true.
And, as you might expect, the internet called out the lie. The replies to the official tweet from Twitter's Developer account are full of people pointing out that apps like Twitteriffic and Tweetbot weren't violating the rules. They had been using Twitter's API for decades, creating apps that provided a better experience than Twitter's stock app.
What they were doing is allowing people to use Twitter without seeing Twitter's ads, meaning the company wasn't able to monetize users on those apps. That, of course, is the problem. So, Musk summarily killed them off. It’s not even surprising at this point, which isn’t saying anything nice about Twitter.
Twitter’s revenue is down 35 percent this year. (The Information)
The “26 words that created the internet” are headed to the Supreme Court. (The New York Times)
MailChimp was hacked. (TechCrunch)
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