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Apple's May 2023 in review: Apple Vision Pro rumors, writers' strikes, AirTags, and a lack of layoffs

A very large AirTag inserted into Apple Park.

Apple encountered WGA strikes, muted quarterly results, and AirTag attention in May 2023, while also avoiding layoffs and dealing with rumors about what turned into the Apple Vision Pro.

May the fourth wasn't just Star Wars Day for Apple, as it was also time for the scheduled quarterly financial results release, detailing the happenings of the second quarter. A rock-and-roll start for any month, really.

While the results weren't entirely stellar, at a 3% drop year-on-year with revenue of $94.3 billion, it was still a marked recovery from the disastrous first quarter report.

Apple did beat Wall Street expectations by a few percentage points, and for good reason, too. It saw year-on-year growth in iPhone from $50.6 billion to $51.3 billion, a March quarter record, with Services continuing its rise to $20.9 billion.

It wasn't all rosy, as Mac revenue dipped from $10.4 billion to $7.2 billion, iPad dropped from $7.6 billion to $6.7 billion, and Wearables, Home, and Accessories stayed just under flat at $8.76 billion for the period.

Tim Cook was happy with the installed base of active devices.
Tim Cook was happy with the installed base of active devices.

Tim Cook referenced a "challenging macroeconomic environment" and that the installed base of active devices was at "an all-time high." CFO Luca Maestri added that the strong operating cash flow of $28.6 billion was made while returning over $23 billion to shareholders.

Apple also extended its share buyback program by another $90 billion, repeating an announcement it made one year prior.

In the conference call with analysts, Cook brought up more detail about Services growth, with Apple getting ever closer to one billion paid subscriptions of its various offerings. Cook said it had reached 975 million subscriptions, up from the 900 million claimed in Q4 2022.

Job losses, but not at Apple

A big tech employment bloodbath occurred throughout 2023, with major companies laying off workers after swelling their numbers during the pandemic. It seemed like everyone was a victim, except for Apple.

A May 4 interview with Cook brought up layoffs, with the Apple CEO insisting that there weren't any plans for that to happen anytime soon at the iPhone maker.

"I view that as a last resort and, so, mass layoffs is not something we're talking about at this moment," Cook advised.

Apple Park still houses tons of employees.
Apple Park still houses tons of employees.

Though layoffs weren't on the table for Apple at that point, it always had the option to go down the road. Thankfully for its employees, it had other ways to avoid wielding the axe.

Earlier in the year, it had been cutting contractor roles, who technically don't count as Apple employees, despite working with them for various projects. It was also a lot slower to hire new employees, meaning it was gradually losing employees through normal means and not replacing them as quickly as normal.

Despite the employment positivity from Apple, there were still some who suddenly found themselves without a job. Meta triggered its third round of layoffs later in the month, culling 6,000 employees.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was a victim of the layoffs, but more from ridicule over a January announcement with 12,000 employees being ejected from the search giant. Thanks to a $218 million stock award he receives every three years, he was reported to have been paid $226 million in 2022.

The reported salary led to Google's disgruntled workforce using Shrek memes and comparing him to the character Lord Farquaad. One meme referenced a quote from the character: "some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make."

WWDC rumors all about the headset

Speculation about what Apple could launch during WWDC is a typical sighting in May, as everyone wonders what kind of hardware will make an appearance, if at all. While there was some talk about the more traditional WWDC fare, DubDub rumors focused on the long-rumored and yet to actually surface mixed-reality headset.

We know now that the rumor mill was right, and that the Apple Vision Pro is a real product, but the rumor mill was more adamant that it was going to happen than usual. This dog found a bone it could enjoy, and wouldn't give it up easily.

The Apple Vision Pro at Apple Park, in June.
The Apple Vision Pro at Apple Park, in June.

The rumors covered everything from component supply issues and Apple's potential mitigations, to a probable limited production run to target developers, to screen sizes, and even to the name itself.

A massive number of trademark filings by shell companies meant that names such as the unwieldy "xrProOS," the odd "realityproOS," and the relatively sane "xrOS" were shoehorned into the Apple media lexicon.

After the discovery that the App Store was aware of xrOS apps, it seemed like a sure thing for a name, though it could easily have been just an internal name for the operating system of the expensive headwear.

Apple didn't seem to try and keep the headset a secret by the end of the month, with an email to developers proposing they could "Code new worlds" and schedule shenanigans.

Evidently, if the cat is creeping out of the bag and has almost escaped, even Apple will help scoot the moggie on its way.

Strikes hit Apple TV+

The Writer's Guild of America continued its strike in May, and with Apple being a significant enough force in Hollywood, its Apple TV+ productions became a target in the strike's second week.

An early successful picketing impacted production of the second season of "Loot" hard, shutting down filming because picketers turned up to a mansion used for filming. It was reported that star and executive producer Maya Rudolph retreated to her trailer while the strikers were in attendance.

'Loot' was an early Apple TV+ victim of the WGA strikes.
'Loot' was an early Apple TV+ victim of the WGA strikes.

A few days later, the second season of hit drama "Severance" underwent a similar hold, as WGA members picketed York Studios.

The finale event for the third season of "Ted Lasso" was also apparently harmed by the strike action, with the Paley Center for Media cancelling the event due to "unforeseen circumstances." With show star Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt being both members of the WGA and writers on the show, that probably had a bit of a bearing on the event being stopped.

Speaking of soccer, Apple TV+ made some changes to its sporting offerings customers. For a start, a one-month free trial for the Major League Soccer Season Pass was offered to guve undecided sports fans a chance to try out Apple's streaming service.

On the features side, Apple also officially launched its multiview feature on Apple TV 4K for both MLS Season Pass games and Friday Night Baseball. The feature allows users to watch up to four simultaneous streams, to keep up with as much sporting action as they could handle.

While the scripted side of Apple TV+ dealt with strikes, the unscripted MLS aptly offered the public more strikers.

AirTag, the police, and a lot of vehicles

May was also an oddly impactful month for the AirTag, at least from a law enforcement standpoint.

At the start of the month, the NYPD handed out 500 AirTags to people within the 43 Precinct, due to it having the highest level of grand larceny auto cases. While New York car thefts had risen 13% year-on-year to almost 4,500, the 43 Precinct alone accounted for more than 200 of them.

NYPD chiefs did explain to the public that they should call 911 and say the car has an AirTag if a theft took place, but San Antonio urged further caution a few days later.

In its own warning about car thefts, San Antonio law enforcement reiterated the advice, adding that it would be a temptation to victims to track their vehicle to the thief's location for a confrontation, which would be potentially dangerous. Instead, San Antonio urged victims to leave the hazardous work to the police.

AirTags help fight crime, but do get the police involved.
AirTags help fight crime, but do get the police involved.

May also provided the biggest example of how an AirTag could help thwart crime, after two Chicago men were arrested for a $1.1 million armored truck armed robbery. An AirTag was hidden in a plastic money bin, which tracked the cash to the suspect's hideout despite attempts to beat police by hiding the money in spots around town.

Meanwhile, Apple and Google said they wanted to work together to make it harder for AirTag to be used for stalking. The tech giants jointly submitted a proposed industry specification for Bluetooth location tracking devices, allowing them to be compatible with other tracking detection systems, and enabling alerts to occur across both iOS and Android.

Others in the industry also expressed support for the initiative, including Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, Eufy Security, and Pebblebee.

It's a rare case of cross-the-aisle unity in the tech industry. Something that, quite frankly, really should happen a lot more often.