Foxconn may make AirPods in India, the founder of TSMC speaks a scary future, and life imitates art on the moon.
Report: Foxconn Building AirPod Factory in India
Apple’s manufacturing shift to India continues, at least if secret sources are to be believed. MacRumors highlights a Reuters report that has secret peeps saying Foxconn is building a plant in the southern Indian state of Telangana — to make AirPods.
Kind of a big deal for a couple of reasons: First, there’s the aforementioned manufacturing shift. Second — Foxconn’s never made AirPods. I wouldn’t say it’s beneath them, though they’re generally more Mac and iPhone Pro-level manufacturing. According to the piece:
Foxconn officials are said to have debated internally for months about whether to assemble AirPods, due to the relatively low profit margins, but they ultimately decided to go ahead with the deal to “reinforce engagement” with Apple.
And reinforce it should. The contract manufacturer is said to be sinking $200 million into the facility. Construction is expected to begin in the second-half of 2023. The report says the plant will start cranking out AirPods “by the end of 2024 at the earliest.”
TSMC Founder: Globalization and Free-Trade Are Dead in the Chip Industry
Morris Chang — putting the fear of God in everybody!
This is going to be like listening to an article with footnotes, starting with — Who is Morris Chang? According to a piece from Bloomberg (via Business Standard) Chang is the founder of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). They’re the company that cranks out A-series and M-series processors for Apple, as well as other chips for other customers.
His message seems to be that the party is over, which stinks since it really hasn’t felt like a party for quite a while now. At an event in Taipei on Thursday, the “91-year-old industry pioneer” said:
In the chips sector, globalization is dead. Free trade is dead. Just look at the way China has been embargoed and the entity list. I agree with that.
I had a rough idea of what “free trade” is, but felt I needed a bit more info. So, I turned to Investopedia, which says:
A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them. Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
And that’s dead, according to Chang. While he is down with steps taken by the U.S. to limit China’s tech development, he doesn’t sound down with the U.S. as a whole. That could be, though, because the U.S. as a whole — well, it’s not that they’re not cool with Taiwan, but they’re not necessarily BFFs. Quoting Bloomberg:
When American leaders speak of “friend-shoring” high-tech manufacturing, Taiwan is not included in that policy, Chang said, as they’ve repeatedly voiced concerns about relying on Taiwan.
Friend-Shoring? What’s That?
I hadn’t heard the “friend-shoring” thing and had to do a bit of digging. It seems U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen used the term in a speech last summer at LG’s Science Park in Seoul, South Korea. According to a piece from CNBC:
Yellen drummed up support from allies of the U.S. to work together in carving up more resilient supply chains among trusted partners through “friend-shoring.”
The term draws on the concepts of “onshoring” and “nearshoring,” which refer to the transferring of supply chains back home or closer to home, as opposed to having them in foreign countries. “Friend-shoring” goes beyond that but limits supply chain networks to allies and friendly countries.
And the guy from Taiwan who basically started that country’s semiconductor dominance says, when the U.S. talks about “friend-shoring,” the U.S. is not talking about Taiwan. Of course, you can kind of see his point. The Bloomberg piece says that about the same time as Secretary Yellen’s speech last year, “US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo described US dependence on Taiwan for advanced chipmaking as ‘untenable…’” Additionally, the piece says worry over China has led US officials to war-game “scenarios where Taiwan’s sophisticated semiconductor industry would be wiped out to prevent it falling into China’s hands.”
The part where the U.S. is hindering tech in the Middle Kingdom, Chang’s cool with. “I certainly support that part of American industrial policy to slow down China’s progress.” He’d probably prefer that stop short of wiping out the business sector he created, though. According to Bloomberg:
Chang said China is at least five to six years behind Taiwan in chipmaking technology, but he also cautioned Taiwan should not be naive about its position relative to the US.
Report: tvOS Beta Shows Apple Testing ‘Siri Natural Language Generation’
If you’re worried that Apple is losing the chat-bot race, you’ll be happy to know that Apple is in it. Or at the very least aware of it. 9to5Mac says the latest tvOS 16.4 beta has Apple “testing new natural language generation features for Siri…” The beta is said to have “a new framework for ‘Siri Natural Language Generation’ capabilities.” Can’t do much currently — “telling jokes” on Apple TV seems to be all for now. And — again — only on the one device. According to 9to5Mac:
Even though tvOS is what powers the Apple TV and HomePod, these new language-generating features are only currently enabled on the Apple TV. Findings by 9to5Mac, however, indicate that the code for these features is included across iPhone, iPad, Mac, HomePod, and Apple TV. It’s just not currently enabled on anything other than Apple TV.
It’s also not certain that it’ll do much more than follow commands — set a timer, tell a joke — things like that. “Currently,” the piece says, “Siri is powered by a system that’s based on templates, rather than any sort of language-generating artificial intelligence.” That said, the piece says:
This is essentially Apple’s way of quietly and slowly beta-testing its first foray into this sort of AI technology. These features could also have a server-side component enabling or disabling the feature, allowing Apple to fine-tune testing in public.
Apple TV App for macOS Has a Hidden Left Sidebar
While Apple works on making tvOS chatty (maybe), the Apple TV app for Mac may be making way for a user-friendly feature. A piece from Cult of Mac says the app for macOS 13.3 has “a left sidebar” buried in the code. When evident, that sidebar makes the Mac version of the app practically identical to the version for iPad. On the iPad, the piece says:
The sidebar gives easy access to series and films on Apple’s streaming service, plus the user’s library of content they purchased through iTunes or the Apple TV itself.
Now — you need to put a big “maybe” beside all of this. The Cult says 9to5Mac was able to coax the sidebar out of the latest beta, using “a little bit of trickery” to make it show up. As it stands right now, the version of the Apple TV app with the sidebar is not showing up for testers of the macOS beta.
Costume Designer for ‘For All Mankind’ Designs EVA Suites for Actual Lunar Mission
And finally today, when Apple CEO Tim Cook first announced Apple TV+ in early 2019, he said “great stories can change the world.” Now, it looks like they can change the moon as well. NASA showed of a new spacesuit this week for a planned lunar landing. A piece from the site Space Explored says the new extravehicular activity (EVA) spacesuit took design cues from the Apple TV+ flagship series “For All Mankind.”
While NASA got to reveal the suit, NASA did not make it. According to the report, an outfit called Axiom Space has a “contract for EVA operations” for the mission. That includes the EVA outfits. According to the report:
Axiom shared in its announcement that the outer cover of the suit was designed by the day one Apple TV+ show For All Mankind costume designer Esther Marquis.
The suit looks awesome. Too bad you won’t see the one shown off this week on the moon though. The design revealed this week “incorporates three colors – orange, blue, and black.” Black will not make the lunar surface, though. “While a black suit looks great,” Space Explored says:
…it is not practical on the Moon as it will absorb too much heat. White suits, used for Apollo and the Space Shuttle/ISS, are much better [for] reflecting heat and keeping the astronauts inside comfortable.
Comfort? This is fashion we’re talking about.
Still kind of neat, though.
Great stories can change the solar system.
Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast
TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts and I will be talking about the words of — warning? Doom? The proclamations, let’s say, for the TSMC founder. Plus: Sleep — I hear it’s a thing people get! We’ll revisit Sleep schedules in the health app on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.