[Apple] CEO Tim Cook should launch a long-term plan to completely remake Chinese contract manufacturing—a plan that improves factory conditions, raises wages, and, over the long run, reduces the number of workers needed to make electronics. He should do so publicly, telling the world exactly what’s wrong with how we make gadgets now, and how Apple plans to fix the system. And he should do so with the same commitment to excellence that Apple brings to its products—setting high standards, and meting out severe punishment for contractors who fail to meet them.
Farhad Manjoo, Slate. Introducing the iFactory: Apple reinvented gadgets. Now it should reinvent how gadgets are manufactured.
Background: Manjoo writes in response to Apple’s incredible last quarter where it recorded the largest profits of any company ever aside from Exxon Mobile in 2008, and the ongoing troubles at Foxconn, one of its Chinese manufactures, where workers recently threatened mass suicide.
Related: “Conflict iPhones,” a new term I hadn’t heard before but something tells me I’ll be hearing more of, eg., “Conflict Gadgets.”
Also related: Foxconn is in the process of automating its factories, believing it can bring on up to a million robots in the next three years to automate the manufacture of phones, tablets, game consoles and the other gadgets we brush up against every day.
There is a hole in my heart dug deep by advertising and envy and a desire to see a thing that is new and different and beautiful. A place within me that is empty, and that I want to fill it up. The hole makes me think electronics can help. And of course, they can.
They make the world easier and more enjoyable. They boost productivity and provide entertainment and information and sometimes even status. At least for a while. At least until they are obsolete. At least until they are garbage.
Electronics are our talismans that ward off the spiritual vacuum of modernity; gilt in Gorilla Glass and cadmium. And in them we find entertainment in lieu of happiness, and exchanges in lieu of actual connections.
And, oh, I am guilty. I am guilty. I am guilty.
We need some angry nerds.
Jonathan Zittrain, Technology Review. The Personal Computer is Dead.
Jonathan Zittrain, whose 2008 book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It explores the transformation of the open Internet to one that’s increasingly closed and controlled, writes that the growth of “App Stores” is putting too much technological and content control in the hands of too few companies.
The companies, Zittrain argues, are gatekeepers that lock us into platforms and the way we access content as they lock other content and technologies out.
“If I switch from iPhone to Android, I can’t take my apps with me, and vice versa,” writes Zittrain. “And as content gets funneled through apps, it may mean I can’t take my content, either—or, if I can, it’s only because there’s yet another gatekeeper like Amazon running an app on more than one platform, aggregating content. The potentially suffocating relationship with Apple or Google or Microsoft is freed only by a new suitor like Amazon, which is structurally positioned to do the same thing.”
And doing the same thing is to have an “App Store Framework” of their own where they can lock in or lock out applications and content.
“But the fact that apps must routinely face approval masks how extraordinary the situation is,” writes Zittrain. “Tech companies are in the business of approving, one by one, the text, images, and sounds that we are permitted to find and experience on our most common portals to the networked world. Why would we possibly want this to be how the world of ideas works, and why would we think that merely having competing tech companies—each of which is empowered to censor—solves the problem?”
So, there’s this tablet device that turned the computer world on its head about a year ago, and apparently the company responsible had a big announcement yesterday. News of the Apple iPad 2 product launch was somewhat inescapable, and had been preceded by months of breathless anticipation and tense speculation. Maybe you heard.
With more than 15 million first generation iPads sold—beating even the most bullish estimates—it’s not an overstatement to say that Apple has set the standard for tablet computing. And while some may revel in the specs, the juiced-up processing power, and onboard cameras available with the iPad 2, there’s more beneath the surface, according to CNET’s Chris Matyszcyk, who writes one of the most cogent wrapups of why the iPad 2 matters.
Apple, though, believes, and with some justification, that it simply isn’t in the gadget business. It sees its competitors precisely as the nerds, the geeks, but not the romantics. It sees them as more prepared to play with their gadgets for the gadgets’ sake, rather than to enhance their experience of life somewhere out there. These are not the guys who will get the girl.
At the same time, it sees its own business as bringing people closer to a better life experience, whatever that might mean for them. The Garage Band demonstration, for example, brought many nearer to the idea that they can create music, even if they can’t read a note.
The contrast couldn’t be clearer between Jobs’ presentation of the iPad 2 and the recent Verizon ad for the Motorola Xoom. While the former emphasized lightness, music, and movies, the latter talked gyroscopes.
Technology for technology’s sake is great, but the experience is what matters. Understanding the experience people want, and building technology to suit, is why the company’s market cap was $324 billion when the NASDAQ exchange closed yesterday, and why Apple stock has increased in value nearly $100 per share over the past six months alone.