Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Is Apple All It seems?
How do they do it?  How does Apple remain the darling of so many Americans while stories continue to surface on how those they have contracted to make their products abuse their workers? The widespread criticism for its environmental and business practices would have caused major damage to the corporate image of most companies resulting in large protest outside their offices and massive boycotts of their products.

Not so with Apple, Fortune magazine named Apple the most admired company in the United States in 2008, and in the world from 2008 to 2011. Recently the Economist called it a "phenomena" and questioned if it was a "bubble." Apple's success even before this period was evident in its stock price. Between early 2003 and 2006, the price of Apple's stock increased more than tenfold, from around $6 per share (split-adjusted) to over $80. Since then it has soared well past $500 a share.

Apple's brand's loyalty is considered unusual for any product, but it is not just the technology, much of Apples success has do do with its marketing that has make it "super cool." Apple Store openings can draw crowds of thousands, with some waiting in line as much as a day before the opening. The New York City  "Cube" store had a line as long as half a mile. An opening in Tokyo was estimated in the thousands with a line over eight city blocks. In America the government and schools use taxpayer money to buy countless numbers of Apple products helping to carry Apple to the next level.

However Apple has a less tasty side that appeared in a 2006 report  written on working conditions at factories in China where the contract manufacturers Foxconn and Inventec produced the iPod. The article stated that one complex of factories that assembles the iPod and other items had over 200,000 workers, that lived and worked in the factory. Employees regularly worked more than 60 hours per week making around $100 per month and were required to pay for rent and food from the company.  This generally amounted to a little over half of the workers' earnings.

Workers in factories producing Apple products have also been exposed to n-Hexane, a neurotoxin that is a cheaper alternative than alcohol for cleaning the products. In 2010, workers in China moved to sue iPhone contractors over poisoning from a cleaner used to clean LCD screens claiming that they had not been informed of the effects. After a spate of suicides in a Foxconn facility in China that makes iPads and iPhones, workers were forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they would not kill themselves. In 2011 Apple admitted that its suppliers' child labor practices in China had worsened.        

So now the crux of the issue, why Apple, and for how much longer? To us not so enamored with the company we just don't get it. Add to the history of worker exploitation the fact that since Apple manufactures in China it creates few jobs in American. Is the typical Apple user so self-centered that they just don't care, or do they lust for the product so much that they bury and ignore their social conscience?  These consumers are even willing to pay higher prices to lock themselves into a closed system tightly controlled by Apple while open systems exist in the market place. Yes everyone loves a winner and success breeds success, but everything has its limits, it is only a matter of time before this apple begins to spoil.

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