foxconn stories

 
In a recent interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that the company is planning to bring some of the Mac device manufacturing back to the U.S., welcome news to critics of the labor practices at Foxconn. However, Cook would not reveal which Mac would be headed for U.S. factories. Now a new report from Asia may have the answer.
 
The poor working conditions at Foxconn's factories charged with making devices like the iPhone and iPad are now legendary. To address this issue, the CEO announced plans to replace human workers with an army of robots. Apparently, that wasn't just bluster, as the robots have begun their takeover.
 
Much has been made of the role of Apple in supervising the factory practices of China's Foxconn, the manufacturer of all those beloved iPhones and iPads. This week, the new most important person at Apple, CEO Tim Cook, decided to pay his gold mine a visit.
 
A funny thing happened at Toy Fair this week. Not funny as in funny toys or funny games, but funny as in a sudden but fundamental shift in how we will play from now on. Toy giants such as Hasbro and Mattel, middling companies trying to find profitable new niches and new companies all are creating a new type of product — apps (some Android, most Apple iOS) combined to interact with some sort of physical real-life objects to create a new virtual play experience. For instance, Hasbro has its Lazer Tag blaster, into which you clip an iPhone or iPod to create a heads-up display. Mattel has Hot Wheels designed to roll over a course right on top of an iPad screen. WowWee's AppGear games include ZombieBurbz, little collectable figurines that are set on a table and "seen" in the virtual iPad game. These new app-based toys relates to the on-going controversy about conditions in Apple's Chinese factories, including the pending iPad 3. As part of the conversation, many critics are asking why, with Apple's enormous profits, isn't the company bringing these manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. What's not being discussed is all the perhaps millions of jobs Apple already has produced for the U.S. economy.
 
I'm in this picture, but even I don't recognize me. It's because we're all dressed up in bunny suits: light cloth or paper coveralls and booties and hoods and face masks you wear in a clean room where microchips or sensitive equipment is manufactured. If you don't wear a bunny suit every day, you feel (and look) silly. Over the last 25 years or so, I've donned many a bunny suit during visits to numerous factories in Japan and South Korea and witnessed a sea of young, bunny-suited or uniformed factory workers toiling in stultifyingly sterile factories repetitively assembling cellphones, PCs, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, washing machines, microwave ovens, refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. It's how our gadgets are made, like it or not. So the recent "exposés" about working conditions in Chinese factories making iPads, iPhones and iPods perhaps shock but don't surprise me, and they shouldn't surprise you.
 
On Wednesday, the New York Times posted an extensive report called "In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad," which dives into Apple's supply chain and examines, as the title suggests, the human cost of making gadgets. It's not the first time Apple's global assembly line has come under fire, nor is it the first time an American company has taken heat for using cheap outsourced labor — Nike's sweatshops being the most famous, perhaps — promoting terrible working conditions to make a buck. What's interesting here, however, is that the New York Times also published the piece in Chinese, and it's translating the responses from Chinese readers about the issue. Between Apple's response, the report and the comments from Chinese readers, the dialogue created here is painting what's probably the most complete portrait of what it takes to fuel the world's gadget addiction.

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