Tue Jan 24, 2012, 06:12 PM
Starry Messenger (25,358 posts)
New York Times Tells Us Only Chinese Near Slave Labor Could Handle Steve Jobs’ Demands
Effing yes. Someone who wrote everything I was thinking reading that Apple article in NYT this week.
A New York Times story, “How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,” uses an Obama dinner with Silicon Valley titans to frame its tale of why the US middle class should roll over and die. I am of course exaggerating for effect. But not by as much as you might think. The story by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher does a very good job of explaining why Asia, and China in particular, has come to dominate consumer electronics manufacture, using the iPhone as focus.
The problem with using the microcosm to illustrate the macrocosm is you need to choose the right microcosm. The danger in using the iPhone example is that (as I have discussed at length in prior posts) there are quite a few industries in which the case for offshoring and outsourcing is not compelling, particularly if you allow for the increased risk of extended supply chains, as Apple itself learned in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But even in those cases, it still has the effect of transferring income from middle level and factory workers to the top brass. Thus the iPhone/consumer electronics example will have the effect of giving other businesses a free pass.
And not only that, even among computer and electronics firms, Apple was unusually demanding, and not always for good reasons. As much as Steve Jobs was revered for his fixation with design, it could interact with coming up with a final product in nasty ways. The Walter Isaacosn biography of Jobs is chock full of incidents of Jobs changing his mind to the point of wreaking havoc with getting a product out the door. For instance, one of Mac engineers, Chris Espinosa, designed a calculator to be included with the Mac OS. Jobs liked the idea but was not pleased with the appearance. Espinosa came up with new designs in response to Jobs’ input daily, only to get more criticism. He finally wrote a program, the “Steve Jobs Roll Your Own Calculator Construction Set” to put Jobs firmly in charge of finalizing the design. Similarly, on the first iteration of the NeXT computer, Jobs insisted that it be a perfect cube. I will spare you the details but that requirement caused all sorts of costly hassles.
The authors fail to tell you what this means: changing a production design that late in the game is bad management, period. It’s the sort of stunt you see in a craft manufacturing business like the movie industry, not in one that deals with factory production. But the flexible near slave Chinese workers bailed out Apple’s ass.
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