BEST OF THE WEB: Talk a walk inside Apple’s new $5 billion headquarters

Just a few months before he passed away, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs stood in front of a panel of San Francisco city planners and explained his plans for the company’s new headquarters.

A sprawling palace to house the company’s 3,000 employees; with 40 foot, floor-to-roof windows and a circular design, Jobs displayed his famous attention to detail.

“There isn’t a straight piece of glass on the whole building,” he said.

Apple’s headquarters raised eyebrows when its design first appeared on the internet. Donut-shaped, the architectural drawings showed a workplace filled with trees and open spaces, conducive to the creative process.

Now, the company is well underway in building its headquarters. According to a new story over at BusinessWeek, the company’s building – which now costs $5 billion, up from an original $3 billion, according to sources – is set to be finished by 2016.

What’s interesting about the design, however, is the way it’s begun to slightly move away from Jobs’ original vision.

“Steve put a lot of love and attention into this before he passed away,” chief executive Tim Cook said earlier this year. “Hopefully we’ve made it better during the design phase. We want to do this right.”

The piece delves into the detail of what the headquarters will be like. Sitting on 15 acres, the company will plant thousands of trees, and contain a large underground network of roads and garages for employees to park their cars.

The entire headquarters will house 700,000 square feet of solar panels, to generate eight megawatts of power. To save money, the company will use technology to open or close windows automatically to adjust for temperature.

There are some problems, however. The plan is falling behind, and as the piece points out, the company may have trouble hiring sub-contractors.

Moreover, according to two of the people close to the project, Apple is offering a cost-plus contract that pays only half the percentage of profit of some large deals, leading some potential partners to wonder if Apple expects them to sign up more for the glamour of working on a marquee master plan than for the money.

This is a great look at Apple’s emphasis on design, even when it comes to its own building – and a sly reminder even the biggest tech company faces its own unique set of problems.

Creating a company in a weekend is harder than it sounds

You may have heard of start-up weekends, in which feisty entrepreneurs get together and try and create workable business plans within just 48 hours.

Over at Inc, there’s a great piece on what happens during one of these events – and the restrictions participants are likely to come up against.

During a weekend at the California State Library, entrepreneur Chuck Erickson reminds the participants: “Don’t let people tell you you’re too small to start something”.

Some of the participants are entrepreneurs, others who have quit their day jobs to find something better. And with time counting down before they pitch ideas to judges, they become increasingly nervous:

Teams continue to meet with coaches, refine their pitches, and try to predict questions the judges may ask. For David Steinberg, the founder of Vigor.io, a rewards-based promotional service, meetings with coaches this weekend have been the most valuable part of the experience.

“Startup Weekend forces you to think about your idea seriously, which is something I wouldn’t have done in the past,” he says. “I might have done a mockup, but this forces me to think: What if someone actually put money in my hands?”

If you’ve ever thought about taking part in one of these weekends, this is a piece you should read.

The crumbling television network empire

Much has been written about how the traditional television broadcast network model is beginning to crumble in the light of digital distribution, and this piece over at The New York Times explores how that trend is continuing.

The piece details a company called Aereo, founded by one Chet Kanojia. The company has caused quite a stir due to its premise – it aggregates free television signals and then streams them to mobiles and tablets.

The problem is that negates the transmission fees stations pay in order to stay operational.

In response, the networks have made some threats. Chase Carey, the top deputy at News Corp, has even threatened to take the Fox Network onto cable as a result.

While the piece points out such a threat may be empty, it nevertheless reveals quite a lot about the current nature of broadcast television.

The networks aren’t just concerned about Aereo, which has a tiny following, but about copycats. “It’s Aereo today, but it could be something else tomorrow,” said Robin Flynn, a senior analyst at SNL Kagan.

As the piece points out, companies were able to operate for decades on a model using advertising revenue.

But as both cable television and internet services have created new types of workable models, these stations have relied on retransmission fees which come from cable and satellite operators who repackage them.

Now that they’ve had a taste of these fees, the stations aren’t willing — or able, they say — to go back to the old model of advertising alone.

There’s a lot happening in the transformation of traditional television – this is just another sign of the market changing.

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