The Adventures of Foxconn, Lodsys & Apple

Mac OS KenFactory explosions, patent hunters going after the little guy, and Congress’s privacy bandwagon. There’s plenty of news for Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray to talk about this week, and he has plenty to say.

Foxconn’s Factory Tragedy
Tragedy struck a Foxconn plant in Chengdu last week. AllThingsD had both Apple and Foxconn confirming an explosion at the plant, which lead — sadly — to the deaths of three employees and injuries to at least 16 more.

Apple says it is working with Foxconn to determine the cause of the explosion. Apple also said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the tragedy at Foxconn’s plant in Chengdu, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families.”

Foxconn, meanwhile, says “Production has been suspended at the site of the explosion until the completion of the investigation. The safety of our employees is our highest priority and we will do whatever is required to determine and address the cause of this tragic accident.”

While neither Apple nor Foxconn would say what was being produced in the affected building, reports indicate what’s produced there is iPad 2.

The injuries and loss of lives are tragic, and we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that that happened. At the same time, whatever happened does stand to affect Apple’s business. So, what does this do to Apple?

RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky posed that question, according to Fortune. He was pretty much flipping a coin on the issue; one side representing Serious Business Impact, and the other Less Serious Business Impact.

The analyst says the Chengdu plant is one of two primary factories for iPad 2 production, so on the “Serious” side, Chengdu could be the bigger of the two production facitlities. If that’s the case, and the two companies aren’t able to get production back up to 100-percent by June, that could hurt Apple to the tune of 1.8 to 2.8 million fewer iPad 2s than anticipated in the current quarter — potentially knocking somewhere between US$0.35 and $0.55 off of Q3 earnings per share.

On the “Less Serious” side, Foxconn’s other iPad plant in Shenzhen makes most of the tablets, or the companies are able to get Chengdu back on line quickly. Assuming production impact of one month, Abramsky says earnings per share for the current quarter would be hit by less than $0.26.

Apple’s Love Letter to Lodsys
A little over a week after threats of legal action by Lodsys against a number of iOS developers and Macworld says Apple is stepping in, and telling Lodsys to step off.

According to a three page letter from Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell, Apple has licensed the patent Lodsys is trying to get developers to license. Developers are using Apple’s technology, and thus, what they’re doing is covered by Apple’s license. Step. Off.

While Apple’s letter doesn’t make everything go away, developers are stoked to see Apple wade in, including TLA Systems developer James Thomson — one of the first to get Lodsys’ poison letter. Thompson says he’s “extremely relieved that Apple has stood up for its developers against these patently unfair claims by Lodsys. I always believed they would, but it’s a huge weight off my shoulders to see it written in black and white.”

iPhone Gets the Bends
I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much come to accept that we are NOT getting a new iPhone until the fall, and that it’ll pretty much look like the iPhone 4 we have today… with some speed adjustments under the hood.

So imagine my surprise to find a DigiTimes report that says Apple’s next smartphone could have a curved glass screen, kind of like the one on the fourth generation iPod nano.

That bowed out, right? So I’m gonna hold a convex piece of glass up to my face to make a phone call, rather than a flat one?

File under “hard to believe.”

Franken Wants a Little Privacy
U.S. Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, has decided what he’d like to see Apple and Google do for privacy and mobile, please…

Franken, you may remember, called the first of what turns out to have been several Q&A sessions between government officials, Apple, and other tech-titans, in the wake of news that iOS 4 seemed to be logging the location of users of its GPS-enabled devices.

Now The Loop has Franken saying he’d like to see the all-things iMaker and the search king require “clear and understandable privacy policies for apps.”

In a letter sent to both Apple and Google Franken wrote,

If the companies agree to this request, consumers who purchase apps from Apple or Google’s app stores would have a clearer understanding of what information is being collected about them and with whom it’s being shared. Apple and Google have each said time and again that they are committed to protecting users’ privacy. This is an easy opportunity for your companies to put that commitment into action.

No comment to this point from the companies on the request.

I’m of two minds here. One, it doesn’t actually seem like a bad idea, though “clear and understandable privacy policies…” well… software and service makers have — so far — been unable to issue “clear and understandable privacy policies.” How are they supposed to start now?

Is it a skill they have that they just don’t employ? Or will we have the equivalent of 32 pages through which we scroll on our iThings before clicking “I agree” without actually reading?

The second thing that hits me, is there not something else Congress and the Senate could be doing? I’m not saying government and regulation have no place in tech. I will say… gosh it seems like there are other things on which we could be focusing our attention.

Personal information is important. Privacy is important. Understanding how data is collected, used and dispersed… all of that is important, but so are gas prices and unemployment and the economy and other issues that have gotten more troublesome in the last three years.

The App Store is the App Store in a lot of ways. Has been since it opened in 2008. Maybe it’s a bigger deal now because more businesses are hip to it now. But it feels as if we’re getting a new letter, a new proclamation, a new set of expectations aimed at Apple and Google and Facebook every few days because privacy and data collection is a set of issues with which we can scare people and on which we can look good and strong and protective.

I have no doubt that some of the legislators jumping on this issue have the best interest of the consumer at heart. But when the third, fourth, fifth member of congress from the great state of this or that starts beating the same drum again with no acknowledgment that they are the third, fourth or fifth to do so… well it seems less like looking out for me and more like looking for headlines.

Maybe that’s just me.