Another Celebrity Seeker…and the Apple Culture

As far as I can see the whole mess with Mike Daisey is the common American confusion between celebrity and profundity.  The Wikipedia entry above starts out :

“Mike Daisey (born 1976) is an American monologist, author, and actor best known for his full-length extemporaneous monologues…”

And that sums it up, he’s not a reporter, does not purport to be one and yet his monologuing is taken as a serious expose of Apple’s factories in China.  The whole problem is that NPR got confused about what they had, it was in some ways not even Daisey’s fault…until he denied any fault as with so many things today, “..it wasn’t the break in it was the coverup…” inept spinning.

Now Apple knows that its old core and even its younger adherents are biased to the progressive/lefty “down with capitalism” side.  Apple is also forced to build their products in China these days, they could not keep their products in the painfully but not prohibitively expensive category otherwise.  They will not purposely turn a blind eye to abuses at their Chinese factories, especially as they know that they are likely to depend on Chinese customers for a lot of growth in the not too distant future.  

Victor Russell Mead at Via Media has the best overall take on the Daisey mess, I won’t go into it any more.

However thinking about Apple and China does bring up other issues about manufacturing and the outsourcing of said.  Two Questions of Apple: 

  1. The iPad, iPhone, iPod are all flat, sandwich build products, why not automate the production and do it in the US?
  2. Aren’t you  afraid of giving your products intellectual property to the Chinese, who have quite blatantly set about appropriating everything they can from anyone with good ideas?

And the answer is the same in both case.  Apple has an extremely short product cycle most of the time and tries to keep their products under wraps until the last second. They use a very deep supplier base on the Asian shore to the fullest extent, the parts are cheaper and more available there, and Apple parcels the parts out so its hard for their competitors to figure out what’s coming until the last month or so before introduction.  Final assembly of many gadgets is the most labor intensive part of the process and the hardest to automate, it can be done but if you are only going to build the product for a couple of years then completely rejigger why put the capital into a fixed site?  And its the Social IP of how you design and proof out a product like the iPad in a very short time that is the secret sauce as much as anything else.  And that IP the IP of the Apple way, the Apple Corporate Society, that gives them the edge, and its not one that anyone can copy easily.  The whole infrastructure of design spin, parting out, having multiple products at various levels of development at one time, and staying mum, that keeps Apple ahead, their competitor’s head’s spinning and the Apple paparazzi merrily dancing in trail.

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