Thursday, February 2, 2012

The latest shiny gadget

Oh, Apple certainly does have an image. They're the un-corporate corporation. They are more concerned with offering consumers the latest technology than they are with maximizing profits. Apple's just different.


Why not ask the workers who slave making shiny iPhones and iPads in China. Just ask the people who work around the clock until their legs swell. Just ask the young people who are routinely exposed to toxic chemicals. Ask the workers who survived the blast in Chengdu last May.

Coincidentally enough, Apple made a record profit of over $13 billion on some $46 billion in sales for the last quarter of 2011.

Apple typically asks suppliers to specify how much every part costs, how many workers are needed and the size of their salaries. Executives want to know every financial detail. Afterward, Apple calculates how much it will pay for a part. Most suppliers are allowed only the slimmest of profits. 
So suppliers often try to cut corners, replace expensive chemicals with less costly alternatives, or push their employees to work faster and longer, according to people at those companies. 
“The only way you make money working for Apple is figuring out how to do things more efficiently or cheaper,” said an executive at one company that helped bring the iPad to market. “And then they’ll come back the next year, and force a 10 percent price cut.”

While there is no doubt that Apple has left us with a myriad of innovations that make computing easier and more efficient, there is also no doubt that Apple is as concerned with maximizing profit as any other company out there.

For all its talk of being a different kind of company, Apple relies on suppliers around the world to produce the shiny gadgets we all crave. By contracting production to these suppliers, Apple is able to deny any responsibility for the working conditions. And, when the appalling nature of the work conditions comes to light, Apple is able to pin the blame on the supplier.

My first couple computers were Apples. I loved them. I can't imagine what computing would be like today without the innovative Macintosh operating system - God knows Microsoft wasn't making anything that would be remotely considered user-friendly.

But I've never been a member of the Apple cult. Apple's a company just like any other. Yes, your new iPhone or iPad is very shiny - but think about the grime behind the shine the next time you kneel down to worship at the shrine to Steven Jobs.

See also:

"Apple customers voice mixed reaction to reports of poor working conditions," PC World (Jan. 26, 2012)

"A good (and bad) week for Apple," On the Media (Jan. 27, 2012)

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