Travelling can be fun. It can also be fraught with trouble and misshaps, especially when you depend on technology to keep your life and work moving while on the road.
My work is all on line. So communication and work tools (phone, iPad, laptop) are essential. Two days into this road trip to Colorado I dropped my iPhone on a cement slab while trying to take a picture of a Clive Bundy supporter’s pickup at a rest stop in Nevada.
The screen was shattered. While the phone still worked, I knew it could easily deteriorate with dust or water getting in through the cracks. So, using my phone I made an appt. at an Apple store outside Salt Lake City. It got resolved ($280 later) and we were back on the road pretty much on schedule.
Today, I did an OS update on my MacBook Pro. I downloaded the update through the App Store and set the thing to reboot while I went out for a run. When I returned, the thing wouldn’t boot. So, it’s back to another Apple Store this afternooon.
Update: Apple’s Tim Cook Visits Foxconn IPhone Plant in China
Update 2: Apple Supplier in China Pledges Big Labor Changes
I have the new iPad. I confess. I have the original iPad. I have an iPhone, a MacBook Pro and we have several other Mac desktops and laptops of various vintage and utility in our family. Ever since the New York Times series on Apple and its relationship with manufacturers in China came out I have been conflicted about my slavish adoration of all things Apple. Of course, I knew most of the devices I use were built in China and I knew the conditions were often harsh and sometimes deadly. Then I heard Mike Daisy’s dramatic story as presented on This American Life as I waited for the new iPad to be released and my guilt began to mount.
I also knew that the factories in China are not having a hard time finding workers because as bad as some of the conditions and pay are, they are much better than the abject poverty most of them face in rural China. I am aware that Apple is not alone among tech companies taking advantage of China’s low cost labor and efficient supply chains. Indeed, if I look around my house or probably your house, there are hundreds of items in common use that are “Made in China”.
So what am I supposed to do with this information? Should I refrain from using Apple products? What about all the other items built by “exploited” workers? What should my moral stance be? What should any of us do in the face of exported manufacturing jobs that will never come back to the U.S.?
I listened to This American Life’s retraction show on a drive up from Santa Rosa where, among other things, I visited an Apple store and had a very good experience. But the retraction show was more about the journalistic integrity of the Mike Daisy story and NPR than it was about the core issue. At the end, the question still hung in the air. How are we to feel about the conditions of Chinese factory workers? What are we to do to make it better? BTW, the retraction show is an incredible listen. In some ways, more moving, powerful and thought provoking than the original broadcast.
To add to the mess Apple, the richest company in the world, decided to spend some of it’s amassed wealth by giving dividends to investors and buying back stock, further driving up it’s share value. At first, I thought this was outrageous in the face of all the bad publicity around the China story.
But then I thought, maybe Apple is laying the groundwork for doing something much more radical than creating a new product that changes an entire market. Maybe Apple is paying off its investors while it plans a bigger gamble. Maybe Apple is going to lead the way in transforming the global manufacturing market by forcing its contractors to improve conditions and pay for all their workers. Not in just a small way, but in a big way.
What might happen if Apple did this? It would force other manufacturing contractors to raise their conditions and pay in order to compete. It would help create a bigger market for the very tech toys we in the U.S. gobble up as more people would be able to afford them. It would create a higher base for manufacturing jobs around the world that would then make our own worker pool seem more competitive (though there are other more complicated issues than labor cost involved in helping bring those kinds of jobs back to our shores) and it would further burnish Apple’s image as a company that “Thinks Different”.
So, this is what I can do. I can keep buying the gadgets I love. And I can write this blog as a tiny effort to encourage Apple to become an even more visionary company that helps transform global economics. After all, what else does it need to prove? Maybe this will be Steve Jobs’ true legacy.
I’m sure my logic is flawed and my reasoning is really rationalization. If you think so, let me know in the comments.
Update: After several tries I got both my IPhone and IPad working with the new iOS. It appears I was a victim of Apple’s popularity and lack of planning. Their servers were overloaded with people trying to download the new system.
Just because I’m sitting in front of my computer I think it’s good idea to get iOS 5 THE MOMENT it’s released. Dumb. As. A. Brick. Which is what my iPhone is now.
I cannot restore from backup. I cannot upgrade. Apparently the servers are overloaded. So, I am not alone. I am with Stupid.
Here’s hoping they get this sorted out soon. I need to make a phone call.
I didn’t go to Macworld, darn it. But I did read stuff and watched the keynote. The new MacBook Air is cool looking but way too expensive. I don’t own an IPhone so the new stuff for that didn’t hold much interest. I just got a Tivo so I’m not about to switch to Apple TV at the moment. So, was there anything unveiled this year that floated my boat?
Well, yes, although it hasn’t been released yet. Leopard, the latest release of the Mac OS ships with a pretty nice piece of backup software called Time Machine. I recently bought a new MacBook Pro that came with Leopard so I have this great software. But I haven’t used it because I don’t have a convenient way of backing up to an external drive. And in our household we have more than one MacBook. So, the one thing Steve Jobs did announce that made my wallet flippity-flop was Time Capsule. It’s a hard drive (in either 500 GB or 1 TB models) with a built in wireless card. You can set it up so your MacBook automatically connects to the Time Capsule drive and gets backed up using Time Machine. Stick the thing in your office. Walk in with your laptop and open it up and you are being backed up over the wireless network. Just the thing to make my life a little easier. Sweet.