Steve Jobs' desire for scratch-resistant glass is why the Apple iPhone is not Made in America

Steve Jobs' desire for scratch-resistant glass is why the Apple iPhone is not Made in America
Why isn't a product so identified with an American company like Apple (American as Apple pie?) made in the U.S.A.? Last February, when President Barack Obama attended a dinner with Silicon Valley stars, each guest was to ask a question to the President. But just as Steve Jobs was about to ask his query, the President had one of his own, "What would it take to make iPhones in the United States? Why can't that work come home?" Jobs simply replied, "Those jobs aren't coming back." The dialogue came from the recollections of a dinner guest, but reveals how Apple has been relying on overseas factories to produce the iconic touchscreen smartphone.

At one time, Apple proudly revealed that its products were home made. And if it weren't for the desire of Jobs to have the Apple iPhone display be scratch-resistant, the iPhone might be like the Springsteen classic, "Born in the USA". According to a story in the New York Times, back in 2007, just weeks before the launch of the original Apple iPhone, Steve Jobs was very upset that his baby could get scratched by keys if it were placed in a pocket. He wanted to switch from a plastic display to one made of glass. The only factory that could do such a job at the last moment was the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen. With Foxconn, a midnight note from Apple could turn into production of 10,000 units a day within 96 hours of receiving the order from Cupertino. An anonymous Apple executive said that no American factory could have matched Foxconn's response.

The glass was actually made in Kentucky by a company as Yankee Doodle as they come, Corning. But a factory was needed to cut the glass and in China, a subsidized plant was already expanding in anticipation of the business. The factory started turning out samples and could run 24 hours a day. Apple denies this version of the story, claiming that it requested the punched time cards to make sure that the plant's staff was not working on short notice and at odd hours. Still, factories in China are known to play fast and loose with the truth in order to placate their customer.

Apple currently has 43,000 stateside employees and 20,000 that work overseas. The company earned an amazing $400,000 per employee last year, the most of any company. An additional 700,000 work for other companies like Foxconn and assemble the Apple iPhone and Apple iPad and other products. These factories in Asia and Europe are known for assembling electronics for other companies. Jared Bernstein, who last year was an economic adviser to the White House said, "Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now. If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried."

Apple now says that U.S. workers lack the education and skill for domestic manufacturing. In addition, current CEO Tim Cook needs the parts chain to be flexible in case quick changes are needed. Foxconn is said to be able to add 3,000 workers at the drop of a hat, something impossible to do in the States. And it is not just Apple. Other manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Amazon, Dell, HP, Motorola and others depend on Foxconn's factories to turn out product. Boycotting Apple for producing the iPhone overseas would mean boycotting Android and Windows Phone models as well.

source: NewYorkTimes via electronista

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