Fascinating well-researched investigative report by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher for the New York Times, on the rise of China as a manufacturing power and the corresponding effect on middle class jobs in the U.S., with Apple as the case study. Includes this heretofore unknown (to me, at least) story on the original iPhone’s last-minute change from a plastic to glass display:
In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled toappear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants intoan office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of thedevice in his pocket.
Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone couldsee the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen,according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled hiskeys from his jeans.
People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People alsocarry their keys in their pocket. ?I won?t sell a product thatgets scratched,? he said tensely. The only solution was usingunscratchable glass instead. ?I want a glass screen, and I want itperfect in six weeks.?
After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight toShenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhereelse to go.
The Times has quotes from former and present (unnamed in the latter case, of course) executives who all paint the same picture: that Chinese manufacturing isn’t merely cheaper, but also perhaps even more importantly, nimbler, more flexible, and faster:
?They could hire 3,000 people overnight,? said Jennifer Rigoni,who was Apple?s worldwide supply demand manager until 2010, butdeclined to discuss specifics of her work. ?What U.S. plant canfind 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms??