Tim Cook at an Apple event in 2012 Tim Cook at an Apple event in 2012 Tim Cook at an Apple event in 2012. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Why is Apple opening a third office in Israel?

Tech giant sets sights on Israel to develop faster, smarter devices.

In addition to its main headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., and European headquarters in Ireland, Apple is now opening a 180,000 square-foot office in Herziliya, Israel. In fact, It is Apple’s largest center outside of its home base and will initially be home to 800 employees, mostly engineers working on flash memory and 3D technology. Apple boss Tim Cook is in Israel this week to formally open Apple Israel's new office as well as visit another of Apple’s research centers in the Israeli town of Haifa.

Apple’s interest in the Israeli hi-tech scene began shortly after Cook took over the company from an ailing Steve Jobs in 2011. With the purchase of two Israeli companies – Anobit, in 2011, and PrimeSense, in 2014 – and the recruitment of more than 1,000 Israeli engineers, it has pivoted toward Israel as a base to continue research and development of hardware and semiconductors. This is essential for a company that relies heavily on smaller and more powerful processors that allow for the sleek and minimalist design of its products. Israel has proven an elite breeding ground for such technology. Anobit was purchased due to its innovative flash-drive memory technology, and its 200 employees make for the backbone of the new center in Herzliya.

Flash memory is an important piece of Apple’s technology puzzle as well as its long-term strategy for attaining a sustainable technological advantage. The company has been moving away from hard drives for years, starting with the iPod, then the iPhone, the iPad, and now its MacBook Air laptops, none of which have hard drives any longer but rather flash memory chips. Removing the hard drive is what allows these devices to be so thin and run on less power. Any technology that improves the performance of flash memory, such as Anobit’s, is critical.

Apple's Macbook Air benefits from Israeli technology. Apple's Macbook Air benefits from Israeli technology. (Photo: Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

While the acquisition of Anobit made complete sense, Apple's most recent Israeli acquisition of PrimeSense is a bit more mysterious. A maker of 3D sensors, PrimeSense was an integral part of Kinect for Xbox One. No one is quite sure what Apple has in mind for the company, but rumors are rampant, with TechCrunch suggesting that the acquisition is indicative of Apple’s desire to enter the consumer’s living room.

With this expansion in Israel, it should come as no surprise that last summer, Apple also moved to shore up its corporate connection to the country, appointing Israel-born Johny Srouji to vice president of Hardware Technologies. He will be leading "all custom silicon architecture and development," and will be responsible for "many of Apple’s industry-leading devices," according to an Apple news release.

Back to the new center and its impressive size: it will hold as many as 1,200 employees, an indication of how much Apple expects its Israeli operation to grow over the next few years. This is the third office for the tech giant in the country – all established within the last three years. The facilities are part of a giant complex of 28,000 square meters, and Apple reportedly has an option to rent space down the line, suggesting that even bigger plans are on the horizon.

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