MacOS KenDensed: The New Foxconn, Government Hacking & Nokia’s SIM Hate

Ken Ray: Man on a missionFoxconn is showing its factory workers some love, Nokia is buying some Lumia love and tossing some hate at Apple, governments are totally into hacking, and Samsung just wants some design love. Add in the magical wonder and danger of glass-fronted Apple Stores, and it’s all we could do this week to keep Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray under control without sedation.

The Kinder, Friendlier Foxconn
Guess what! By western standards it sucks to work at Foxconn. And probably by eastern standards as well, but I’m western so I wouldn;t know for sure. Point is, most of us wouldn’t wanna do it.

The Fair Labor Association has completed its first independent audit of three of Foxconn’s Chinese factories that deal with making Apple gear during which they found “serious and pressing” concerns, including “excessive working hours, unpaid overtime, health and safety failings, and management interference in trade unions.”

For a deeper look, we’ll draw from stories from The Telegraph and The Guardian out of the UK, as well as Fortune.

According to the FLA, each of the three factories broke Chinese law by working people a full 40 hours a week and more than 36 hours of overtime a month. Close to 50-percent of workers said they had, at times, worked 11 days or more without a break. Six days in a row is the legal limit.

Nearly 65-percent said the salary they were paid was not enough to make ends meet Overtime accrued in less than half-hour increments often went unpaid Interns have often worked both overtime and night shifts, both of which violate their internship agreement Foxconn’s unions are close to useless, with a majority of the union leader drawn from Foxconn management.

Machines need better safety features to keep workers from getting hurt, and while Foxconn has health and safety committees, a “considerable number” of Foxconn workers did not know that.

Of the audit, The Fair Labor Association’s chief executive, Auret van Heerden, says the organization “gave Apple’s largest supplier the equivalent of a full-body scan … Apple and its supplier Foxconn have agreed to our prescriptions and we will verify progress and report publicly.”

For its part, Apple issued a statement Thursday saying, “We appreciate the work the FLA has done to assess conditions at Foxconn and we fully support their recommendations.”

And Foxconn? Well Foxconn said before the FLA report was released that it would reduce worker hours to a maximum of 49 a week without cutting their pay, which sounds like a win until you remember that the FLA faulted Foxconn for breaking Chinese law by allowing workers to work 40 hours a week plus more than 36 hours of overtime in a given month. I’m no mathematician but 9 times 4 is 36, which basically means Foxconn has agreed to not break the law.

Hey do you think we maybe finally know, perhaps, the biggest reason Tim Cook was in China this week?

Not only did the FLA hit with its audit report, but a separate piece from The Telegraph says Apple’s CEO actually visited one of the Foxconn factories producing iThings in China. An Apple spokesperson says Cook visited the new Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, which was not one of three facilities audited.

The Great Lumia Give Away
Microsoft and Nokia may be pulling a one-two punch on consumers, with AT&T as the ring.

I mentioned late last year of reports that had Microsoft agreeing to pay AT&T Retail workers a bounty of US$10 to $15 for every Windows Phone phone they sell. That’s hit one of the one-two punch.

Hit two is from Nokia, if the reports end up being accurate.

A report from WPCentral, a website dedicated to Windows Phone, says Nokia has paid AT&T as much as $25 million to put the Nokia Lumia 900 in the hands of AT&T workers. The report says the Nokia Windows Phone will be the exclusive free phone for Death Star employees.

If true, that’s probably a smart move because it looks like most AT&T store employees don’t know about the phone and aren’t promoting it to customers. If they use it and like it, they’d be better able to tell people about it and more likely to promote it.

Additionally, AT&T is calling the Lumia as a “hero” phone, which means it’ll get billing and promotion in line with the company’s iPhone launch.

Despite the fact that the iPhone is still their best selling phone?

There is much I do not understand.

Nokia Hates Apple’s nano-SIM
Speaking of Nokia, the Finnish phone-maker got a little punchy-kicky with Apple on a totally different front this week.

Remember the story about Apple trying to get European regulators to adopt their nano-SIM as an industry standard? The belief at the time was that other phone makers didn’t like the idea because Apple might one day own the patent on the nano-SIM technology, and we’ve all heard a thing or two about tech companies — especially Apple for the past couple of years — and patent infringement lawsuits.

So what does Apple do? Offers to license the nano-SIM technology to anyone and everyone… for free-ish.

Computerworld says Apple has written to the European standards organization, letting them know that licenses for the nano-SIM will be royalty-free if it’s adopted as a standard. And hey, as long as Apple’s giving away it’s intellectual property, how ‘bout other parties involved do so as well?

I said free-ish, right?

Patent blogger Florian Mueller was reportedly shown the letter Apple wrote to the standards organizations, wherein Apple said it “would grant royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents essential to nano-SIM, provided that the company’s proposal is adopted as a standard and that all other patent holders accept the same terms.”

Here’s where Nokia gets punchy and kicky.

A separate piece from Computerworld has Nokia calling Apple’s offer “an empty promise,” because, they say, Apple has no essential patents related to its nano-SIM proposal.

It’s also worth noting that Nokia has a nano-SIM standard of its own that it would like to see adopted.

So, is the word “Nokia” Finnish for “Asshole?” I only ask because Nokia’s acting like a bunch of assholes. And I’m not talking about the Lumia 900. You want to bring a product to market totally fair and I’m totally behind you. Well, totally fair. I may not actually be behind you.

No, Nokia’s acting like a bunch of Nokias over this whole nano-SIM thing.

Both Apple and Nokia have proposals up before European regulators to have their designs for a nano-SIM, a smaller, lighter SIM than the current micro-SIM adopted as nano-SIM standards.

If Apple’s is selected, the Cupertino-company has offered to license any of its essential patents in the nano-SIM to manufacturers royalty free, provided other patent owners are willing to do the same. Nokia said that that promise was an empty promise since — according to Nokia — Apple has no essential patents in its own nano-SIM design.

Kind of cantankerous but not really up to the “asshole” level. Where they go sphincteriffic is in their proclamation that if their nano-SIM proposal is not adopted as the standard — or more to the point if Apple’s is — they will not license their tech to Apple. Period.

The Verge has Nokia telling regulators “that it will refuse to license patents it holds that it believes to be essential to Apple’s proposal should that design be selected over its own…” Nokia says Apple’s design “does not meet (the regulators) technical requirements and … would be inferior for consumers and the mobile industry, unnecessarily increasing the cost of mobile devices.”

Total Nokias, right?

All Your Hacks Are Belong to Us
So here’s something fun: Governments around the world are buying zero-day exploits for our technology.

Sleep tight.

Forbes ran an interesting piece, half exposé on the practice half profile of one of the middleman, who — totally legally — brokers deals between hackers and governments, keeping 15-percent for himself.

Why do the governments want the exploits? Why to use them, of course. Welcome to whatever year it is.

The middleman featured in the piece, you’ll be happy to know, won’t sell to China or the Russian mafia, though you may be less happy to know the only reason he doesn’t sell to them is because they don’t pay enough.

The U.S. pays top dollar, and as of right now, iOS exploits grab the most money. They’re difficult, you see. And also, they’re in demand because iOS devices are in demand.

According to the list Forbes has drawn up, based on talking to more than just the one guy, serious iOS exploits can fetch between $100,000 and a $250,000. A Safari exploit can garner $60,000 to $150,000, while a Mac exploit is only worth between $20,000 and $50,000 because hot as iOS devices are, the Mac still commands a very small segment of the computer space.

So, hey. That’s something, Mac users.

Design Me Something, Samsung
I caught a headline from The Telegraph out of the UK last weekend weekend that made me sad.

Samsung says it’ll produce iconic designs “one day.”

Now my immediate reaction was to make fun, until I read the piece. See, it wasn’t Samsung that said that. It was Lee Minhyouk, VP for design at Samsung Mobile.

Despite charges by Apple that Samsung has “slavishly” copied the designs of the iPhone and iPad, this guy is Samsung’s design guy. And he takes umbrage with the whole copy-cat idea.

“As a designer, there’s an issue of dignity,” says the exec. “[The Samsung Galaxy] is original from the beginning and I’m the one who made it. It’s a totally different product with a different design language and different technology infused.”

I have little doubt that he believes that. And yet, have you see the Galaxy line of devices?

To be fair, at a distance it’s hard to tell tablets and smartphones from a number of manufacturers apart. Still, there’s something sad — seriously sad — about Lee Minhyouk’s assertion that he started from nothing and ended up with something that ended up almost exactly like what someone else had made, but not as elegant.

To that elegance, Lee Minhyouk says,

I might not be at [Apple design exec Jonathan Ive’s] level yet but I believe Samsung will produce such iconic products one day. It’s not just effort that makes it possible for a new product to be a massive hit. It also has to be timely and technology should be ready to make a certain design a reality.

How hard would it be to be one of five or six guys on the planet who’s work is immediately and automatically compared to the work of Jonathan Ive?

It really doesn’t stop being sad.

Apple’s Magical (and Dangerous) Walls
And finally this week, remember that really elderly woman who burned her lap with a cup of McDonald’s coffee several years back, then sued McDonald’s because the coffee was so hot and burned her. And now we have idiot labels on cups of coffee warning us that the contents on the cup are hot?

Her. Spirit. Lives.

MacNN says an 83-year-old woman from Queens, New York is suing Apple for one million dollars after she ran into the glass door of an Apple store on Long Island. The woman says she didn’t realize she was walking into glass.

Her lawsuit says Apple was “negligent…in allowing a clear, see-through glass wall and/or door to exist without proper warning.”

Quoting her lawyer:

Apple wants to be cool and modern and have the type of architecture that would appeal to the tech crowd, but on the other hand, they have to appreciate the danger that this high-tech modern architecture poses to some people.

Yes this cool and modern — I hope I’m pronouncing this right — Guh-lasss that the tech crowd is so into.

As of last Saturday, “Apple’s Manhasset, New York store now has warning strips to signal where the glass begins.”

And that whir you hear is a man obsessed with design and detail spinning in his grave.