Big talk about little iPads, Foxconn factory workers aren't happy about the iPhone 5, and the big companies get all warm and fuzzy over Web standards. Mac OS Ken's Ken Ray dives in and sifts through this week's news -- or stirs it up. We've heard it both ways.
Sometimes Size Matters
All sorts of action on the phone side of Apple, but attention is staring to be drawn to Apple's next big thing, the iPad mini. This despite the fact that Apple has still not announced the iPad mini. But we're the kids in the audience and it's Tinkerbell. Believe hard enough and it will live. And one analyst thinks it could outshine the iPad.
AllThingsD has Topeka Capital's Brian White taking iPad mini note on his Asian jaunt.
After talking with companies in the smaller slate's supply chain, the man from Topeka says, "Apple did not skimp on the aesthetics of the much anticipated 'iPad Mini ... In fact, we believe the 'iPad Mini' could outshine the new iPad in terms of how the device feels in a consumer's hands."
That's assuming consumers can get their hands on it, which is not a safe assumption. The mini is said to be a tricky thing to piece together, not unlike the iPhone 5. And so, not unlike the iPhone 5, White thinks iPad mini will be in short supply at the start.
So he either hasn't heard or doesn't buy the 10-million iPad minis for Christmas rumor put out by the Wall Street Journal late last week.
The killer device for Apple in China may not be the Mac or even the iPhone. AppleInsider has White saying that the much anticipated iPad mini could be huge for the mainland. And please, ignore the fact that Apple has neither announced nor even hinted at such a device itself.
The "iPad mini" could be "the next big thing" for China's billion-plus population according to White, because if there's one thing the Chinese consumer is starting to warm up to it's the mid-sized tablet. Probably. The large-screen Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone is apparently doing well in that market, though the analyst thinks consumers there would be happy without the phone bit.
Quoting his missive:
While the Galaxy note is also a smartphone, we believe the tablet capabilities are the main reason for purchase in China ... Our conversations during our meetings and casual consumer interactions this week tells us the iPad Mini will take off like wildfire in China.
The piece points out that if Apple can bring the iPad mini in for around US$300, it'll cost about half as much as the Samsung Galaxy Note.
Sounds good. Now all we need's an actual iPad mini.
Foxconn's Right Kerfuffle
Something has happened at a Foxconn plant that cranks out iPhones in Zhengzhou, China, though exactly what has happened is a bit of a mystery. The workers's rights non-profit China Labor Watch issued a press release telling the world of a large-scale strike on the lines that make the iPhone 5.
According to what they say they heard, "three to four thousand production workers" stopped what they were doing to protest having to work over a holiday, as well as "overly strict demands on product quality" without first giving workers proper training. The organization says a lot of this had to do with the scratches and dings reported by consumers on the iPhone 5, especially the black and slate model.
China Labor Watch says the pressure on workers, physical violence against some workers, and complete disregard of the situation by Foxconn management led to the strike. CLW says that had iPhone 5 production halted at the plant for at least the entire day last Friday.
For its part, Foxconn denies much of what CLW says, but not all of it. TechCrunch highlights a Reuters piece that has the contract manufacturer acknowledging an altercation at the plant, but denying a strike by thousands of workers.
According to the piece, Foxconn "said two brief and small disputes took place at the plant in question, several days earlier, but claimed these were "immediately addressed" and did not escalate into an "employee strike." That's completely contradictory to the CLW statement that said threats of violence had been completely ignored by Foxconn. The company also says that any employees who worked over the recent holiday did so voluntarily, which is also contradictory to the CLW statement.
As for the alleged strike, Foxconn told Reuters, "Any reports that there has been an employee strike are inaccurate ... there has been no workplace stoppage in that facility or any other Foxconn facility and production has continued on schedule."
As for the ratcheting up of quality control, Foxconn did say that it got orders from Apple to "strengthen quality inspections" for the iPhone 5 — "following multiple complaints from customers regarding aesthetic flaws in the phone".
A piece from Fortune, meanwhile, figures accounts by China Labor Watch may be closer to accurate than accounts from Foxconn. Because local government seems to back some of what CLW said.
The Fortune piece has China's official Xinhua news agency quoting a government spokesman in Zhengzhou, who said about "100 Foxconn quality inspectors refused to work for an hour on Friday after one was allegedly beaten by workers irate over the inspection demands."
A spokesman for the Zhengzhou industrial zone also blamed Apple demands, saying "The instruction to strengthen quality inspections for the iPhone 5 was given by Apple ... following multiple complaints from customers regarding aesthetic flaws in the phone."
So Foxconn says no strike, the government in Zhengzhou says 100 people striking for about an hour, and China Labor Watch says thousands striking for a full day. It seems the only thing that can be said for certain is something has happened at a Foxconn plant that cranks out iPhones in Zhengzhou, China.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has a message for clients worried about Apple shares: don't worry about Apple shares. Fortune has the Wuiner issuing a note to investors yesterday acknowledging some concerns out there, and trying to lay them to rest.
Quoting his note:
With press reports focusing on employee disputes at key partner Hon Hai Foxconn and some minor product complaints including scratches and 'purple flare,' ... we have been getting many questions on whether this has impacted iPhone 5 supply and demand.
The short answer is "nope." The long answer: supply chain checks indicate that demand is still high. It's not components that are the bottleneck anymore, but putting the parts together. But even with the build complexity as an issue, it's overwhelming demand that is keeping the wait time to three to four weeks for the phone.
Additionally, there's something additional coming soon, this - of course - being the as-yet unannounced iPad mini. And it will be bad news for competitors, in Dr. Wu's estimation, with the analyst saying, "We continue to believe iPad mini is the competition's worst nightmare, but believe attractive price points will be key."
They don't have to beat on price, in Wu's opinion. If they can bring the device in between $300 and $350, that should do the trick.
"In sum," Sums up the analyst, "we believe concerns are overdone and this appears to be a typical consolidation after a big run."
Hands Across the
Water Web Standards
And finally this week, with all of the competition and lawsuits and copycatting and what-have-you - the what-have-you is the worst - it's great to see tech giants get together and do something besides compete, sue, copycat and what-have-you.
The Next Web says, "In an attempt to create the 'definitive resource' for all open Web technologies, Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, and Opera have joined the W3C to launch a new website called 'Web Platform."
Here developers from far and wide will find one source of up-to-date info on the latest HTML5, CSS3, and other Web standards, including "tips on web development and best practices for the technologies," according to the piece.
Okay its not hands across America; I mean they are getting together to make it easier for people to develop for their devices so more people will buy their devices. But they are getting together. Can world peace be far behind?
I'm sorry, can somebody find a way to make money off world peace so world peace won't be far behind?