Apple’s Bad Form

Reports today are crediting Apple for moving quickly after a number of suicides at Foxconn last year put the iPhone maker’s largest supplier in media peril.

But what, exactly, did Apple do? From its progress report, released yesterday, it’s hard for me to tell. Yes, Apple upped its supplier audits to 127 last year from 102 in 2009. But is that significant? After all, Apple’s report does not say how many suppliers it has, or whether that number changed from 2009 to 2010. Of the 127 sites audited, 97 were looked at for the first time. For a company that relies so heavily on Third World labor, that’s nothing to be proud of.

Then there’s the little matter of the relationship between Foxconn and Apple. Apple reportedly owns the lines inside Foxconn’s Shenzhen facility. Foxconn builds almost all of Apple’s many lines of iPhones, iPads and iPods, not to mention its other PC products. Few other suppliers have the capacity to handle the volumes of these lines. Thus, can the two really be parted? And if not, then what teeth do Apple’s audits truly have?