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Monday, July 27, 2009

Report: Foxconn paid iPhone suicide's family $44,000

[Originally posted July 27, 2009 on]

Much has been written -- especially in China -- about the case of Sun Danyong, the 25-year-old Foxconn employee who jumped to his death from a 12th-story apartment in Shenzhen two weeks ago after being interrogated about a missing next-generation iPhone prototype.

The story cast a harsh light on working conditions at Foxconn -- the brand name of Taiwan-based Hon Hai, one of the world's largest manufacturers of computer components -- and the culture of secrecy that surrounds Apple (AAPL) product development. (Apple issued a statement last week that it was "saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee.")

Monday's New York Times moves the story forward in several new directions -- including Foxconn's claim that products in Sun's charge had gone missing before and a report that the company has tried to make amends by giving Sun's girlfriend an Apple laptop computer and his family 300,000 renminbi, or more than $44,000.

[UPDATE: The Associated Press, quoting an unnamed Foxconn official, reported a higher figure Tuesday: $52,600 to the parents, plus $4,385 per year as long as either of them remains alive.]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Apple vs. Palm: Fresh shots across the bow

Warning Shots by Judith Hunt[Originally posted July 24, 2009 on]

To the delight of an armada of tech writers, Palm (PALM) has responded to the shot Apple (AAPL) fired across its bow last week with a cheeky little blast of its own.

The issue is whether Apple will continue to allow the Pre to sync seamlessly with iTunes, the feature of Palm's whizzy new smartphone that got the most attention in advance of its launch in early June.

Apple unleashed an iTunes software update last week that shut down the feature. It was accompanied by a sharply worded warning that -- uncharacteristically -- named names. The update, it said, had "disabled devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre."

Palm responded with a quick workaround. In its description of the new features of an operating system update released Thursday, Palm's official blog saved the best -- Steve Jobs-style -- for last:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apple's Q3 2009: Analyzing the analysts

[Originally posted July 22, 2009 on]

Tuesday was not a good day for professional analysts as a class -- and Merrill Lynch's in particular.

Not only were most caught off guard by the strength of Apple's (AAPL) record third-quarter results -- see here -- but the men and women who track the company for banks and brokerage houses were bested once again by a bunch of bloggers, day traders and amateurs analysts.

In the color-coded chart excerpted above -- and pasted in full below the fold -- the estimates that were closest to the mark are highlighted in green and the worst highlighted in red.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

IT on the iPhone: 'Use at your own cost and peril'

[Originally posted July 12, 2009 on]

Ever wondered why your company will support Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry but not the iPhone? Does it seem like the corporate deck is stacked against Apple (AAPL)?

A conference call with four chief information officers organized by Morgan Stanley's Kathryn Huberty last week might have confirmed your worst fears.

Of the four guests, only one -- the CIO of a multi-billion dollar company who runs a Mac shop for the "creatives" who work there -- actively supports the iPhone.

The other three dismissed the device with varying degrees of curiosity and contempt.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Why Google's CEO had to leave Apple's board

Jobs and Schmidt. Photo: Apple Inc.[Originally posted Aug. 3, 2009 on]

Much has changed since Eric Schmidt joined Apple's (AAPL) board of directors in August 2006, almost three years ago.

Schmidt, the former chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems (JAVA) and now the CEO of Google (GOOG), brought to Apple's board deep expertise in Web search and advertising, a shared distrust of Microsoft (MSFT) and almost no conflicts of interest.

But in the past three years the areas of overlapping interests -- from smartphones to browsers to operating systems -- have grown so great that the Federal Trade Commission in May opened discussions with the two companies about whether Schmidt's presence on Apple's board constituted a violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act. (link)

And on Friday the Federal Communications Commission launched a pointed inquiry into Apple's decision to bar a powerful Google voice mail management program from its iPhone App Store -- an inquiry that put Schmidt and Apple CEO Steve Jobs on opposite sides of a Federal investigation.
Finally Jobs announced on Monday what had come to seem an inevitability: that Schmidt was off the board.

“Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful,” Jobs said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple’s Board.” (link)
Although pressure on Schmidt to step down had mounted in recent weeks, Schmidt told attendees at a technology conference as recently as July 10 that he saw "no issue" with his remaining on the board. (link)

But Apple's decision to reject Google Voice -- an important application into which Google had sunk a lot of time and money -- may have been the last straw.

"If nothing else," writes TechCrunch's Erick Schoenfeld in Why Schmidt Had to Go, "last Friday's letters from the FCC [were] a wake-up call to Apple that Google stands on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to the evolution of the mobile Web. Google wants the mobile Web to be as open as the Internet. ... Apple is not about being open. It never has been...
"Google wants to diminish the importance of any single computing device in favor of Web apps which sit in the cloud and are accessible from all devices -- mobile phones, Macbooks, Dell laptops, or whatever. As much as is physically possible, it wants to replace the operating system with the Web.
"Ultimately, that is a bigger threat to Apple than Microsoft ever was."
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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]