Making its way around the blogosphere is this New York Times’ article detailing the migration of Apple from the US to China.
According to the piece, Americans, Apple asserts, can’t match “the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers.” “We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The US has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”
With all due respect to the late Mr. Jobs, this is complete bull.
When all manufacturing equipment needs to be icon-based because the migrant workers who run it can’t read, that hardly qualifies as “flexible.” “Dumbed-down” is more like it. Since when is illiteracy a skill?
American engineering prowess is second to none. It’s difficult to find even a single feature — voice calling, GPS, web browsing, MP3 — on an iPhone that wasn’t invented at least in part in the US. The ideas conceived daily by our military contractors are matched only by their amazing ability to turn those ideas into reality. We have developed, for example, a weapon system that begins as an 18″ inch tube, but when launched, “sprouts” rigid wings like a hawk and rises thousands of feet, where it is invisible to detection. That device can then zero in on a designated target miles away, and once locked on, will thrust itself toward its “prey” — even if the latter is moving — and plant its payload — a bomb — in its target’s chest.
By contrast, what exactly is it Steve Jobs’ conceived — the rectangle?
Another current Apple executive reportedly said, “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.” Non sequitur aside, what that arrogant remark ignores, of course, is that without American laws, Apple likely would no longer even exist. Indeed, Bill Gates provided then-struggling Apple with $150 million in 1997 and US anti-trust laws for years forced Microsoft to capitulate on its bundled software products in order to keep the competition alive.
There’s another missing point. High volume manufacturing is still performed all over the US, just not in electronics. So as we move toward more lights-out/true full automation factories for building electronics, there’s no reason to think that product won’t be built in volume here, too. Keep in mind that following the flooding in Thailand and Malaysia and the earthquake in Japan, the cluster factory model so popular in Southeast Asia is not looking quite so good.
And another! Apple’s outsourcing overseas model works well for building mobility products. It doesn’t work so well when you are outsourcing tractors. Jobs’ hubris led him to extrapolate that he since so good in design, he must also be brilliant in economics and sociology. Not even.
Apple now has nearly $100 billion in cash on hand. But it can’t afford American engineers? Huh.