Weekend Roundup: Apple’s Schiller Retires, Levandowski Sentenced

You’ve reached the end of the week! Congrats. Before you shut down for the weekend, let’s touch on some of tech’s top stories from the week that you might have missed, including the retirement of a key Apple employee, and the jailing of a (former) key Google employee…

Apple’s Marketing Chief Resigns 

Phil Schiller, who’s been with Apple since 1987, chose this week to finally step down from his role as Apple’s head of marketing. Greg Joswiak, who’s already Apple’s president of worldwide product marketing, will step into Schiller’s role.

Schiller was a regular presence at Apple’s keynote presentations, often talking through the latest products. His official statement framed his departure as an attempt to achieve a little more work-life balance: “I’ll keep working here as long as they will have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal projects I care deeply about.”

Schiller is also the latest of Apple’s “old guard” to depart the company. Last year, Jony Ive, the iconic designer behind the iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices, resigned after 27 years. Such is the way of things; a couple of decades is an eternity in tech, especially at one company.

Schiller will become an “Apple Fellow,” according to Apple’s press release. In the meantime, Joswiak will have his work cut out for him. Although Apple’s development and marketing of hardware such as the iPhone has been truly best-in-class, the company now needs to convince the world that its various services—including Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade—are worth signing up for.

Levandowski Gets 18 Months In Prison 

Anthony Levandowski, the engineer who tried to revolutionize self-driving vehicles for Google and Uber, is going to jail for 18 months. If you’ve been following this peculiar saga, you know that Levandowski was accused of stealing autonomous-driving data from Google and taking it with him to Uber, which was anxious to beat other tech firms in the race to create a car that could drive itself.

That 18-month term stems from a single count of stealing trade secrets. In addition, Levandowski must pay Waymo, the autonomous-driving firm that spun out of Google, $756,499.22. If that wasn’t enough punishment, there’s also a court-imposed fine of $95,000. 

“Anthony Levandowski’s theft of autonomous technology trade secrets has been enormously disruptive and harmful to Waymo, constituted a betrayal, and the effects would likely have been even more severe had it gone undetected,” a Waymo spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement to TechCrunch, adding that the decision was a “win for trade secret laws that promote cutting-edge technology development.”

For quite some time, Levandowski was positioned as the unstoppable wunderkind of autonomous driving, exactly the sort of engineer who could make all the difference in a cutting-edge arena. Things look quite different now. 

Riot Games Gives Employees the Week Off

For years, the video-game industry has wrestled with the consequences of overwork and “crunch time” (during which developers may end up working insane hours in an intense burst in order to finish a game). There’s been some movement to address these issues, including Rockstar Games’ recent attempt to promote work-life balance among its employees, but the problems persist nonetheless.

Riot Games, which created the ultra-popular “League of Legends,” is the latest firm to address employee burnout. The studio is giving its workers the week of August 10th off in order to “reboot.”

“Add COVID-19, working from home, and everything else going on in the world, and it can be hard to separate the ‘work’ and ‘life’ pieces of the work-life equation,” the company wrote in a corporate blog posting. “As game developers, we’re all hyper aware of the effects of crunch and project-based deadlines. We owe it to ourselves and to you to prioritize our health as a team (well, many teams) so we can bring you new experiences long into the future.”

Of course, a week of vacation isn’t the cure-all for deeper issues, including Riot Games’ attempt to reboot a problematic culture. But perhaps it’s a step in the right direction for engineers and other technologists who are feeling burnt out.  

Have a great weekend! Remember to keep washing those hands.