HUA HIN, Thailand - Following
increasing scrutiny, the fastidious but lucrative
Apple Inc has released a report revealing child
labor, poisonings, overworking and suicides at a
number of its Chinese suppliers. According to its
annual Supplier Responsibility 2011 Progress
Report, Apple found 91 children working in 10
factories last year, nine times more than the
The company also
acknowledged that 137 workers were poisoned by
n-hexane, a toxic chemical in cleaning agents,
used apparently without Apple's go-ahead at a
Chinese plant manufacturing its products, and that
under a third of the facilities it audited were
complying with its code on working hours. A
maximum 60-hour week with one day off had been
set; only 32% of places met that requirement and
only 57% were compliant with
a company code on safety
in the workplace.
Only 70% of Apple
premises inspected met standards on emissions,
hazardous material management and environmental
The company remained vague about
how it intended to tackle these issues, while
saying it was disturbed and deeply saddened over
the 13 suicides and suicide attempts at the
Foxconn Technology's Shenzhen factory last year.
The first of these was by a man who worked 286
hours the previous month at a salary of around a
dollar an hour.
Apple has been under
pressure to carry out more inspections on plants
that assemble products such as the iPhone 4, which
costs under US$200 to manufacture and can sell for
up to $1,000 in China. One group produces a rival
report attacking some of Apple's claims on safety
and other measures (see here.
Apple's report comes just after the company
announced record quarterly profit of $6 billion.
Media Following last week's
announcement by Apple to lock subscribers into its
own iTunes store for their online media selection,
rival Google has jumped on the chance to undercut
it with a service of its own.
policy for online publications such as newspapers,
magazines, video and music, is that Apple controls
the subscriptions as opposed to the publisher.
Naturally, media publishers were up in arms about
the tech company demanding rights to their revenue
streams and customer data base simply because it
allows them to view the content on the iPad.
Google's One Pass service lets publishers
set their own price and terms of service for
digital content. For this privilege, Google will
take a 10% slice of the pie compared with the 30%
Google also proposes to let
publishers retain control of customer and
subscriber information, a vital part of the
advertising-based business model for content and
media providers. Apple conversely plans to keep
that data and make sharing it with the publisher
something that subscribers must opt into, which
very few will.
One Pass will be available
directly from the web, so consumers can purchase
content from smart phones, tablets, laptops, PCs
and even Apple devices.
What Apple has
effectively done is drive publishers to
alternative methods of reaching the market, and
Google, as usual, has arrived in timely fashion to
offer a cost-effective alternative on its
market-enveloping Android platform and a slew of
competing tablet devices.
Browsers Microsoft's latest
iteration of its still-dominant web browser,
Internet Explorer, is almost upon us. IE9 Release
Candidate (RC) is the final preview of the new
browser before the software giant gives the code
the green light for full release, which is
expected before the end of March.
version was rolled out this week in Windows Update
to users who are already running the beta version.
When ready for launch, Windows Vista and 7 users
already running IE 7 or 8 will be prompted to
upgrade. Users of the company's most popular
operating system, Windows XP, will not have such
luxuries as the IE9 will not run on XP.
The logic of such a decision is mind
boggling since a huge percentage of malware and
viral infections across the globe come as a direct
result of people still using dated versions of
Internet Explorer such as IE6.
ironic then that IE9 is Microsoft's latest attempt
to claw back some of that lost market share. Last
month, IE accounted for just 56% of all browsers,
according to research firm Net Applications. The
figure is an historic low for the software company
that, just a few years ago, enjoyed over 90%
Mozilla, which is second in the browser market, is
preparing for the roll out of its Release
Candidate of Firefox 4 towards the end of this
month. A few more bugs need fixing according to
the developers, and the final version should be
ready at about the same time as IE9 hits the web.
Although many casual web surfers will be
delighted with the prospect of new browsers, those
in the web development industry will be cringing
at the thought of redesigning their sites yet
again in compliance with the new offerings,
especially the Microsoft-flavored one, whose
previous upgrades have been notoriously
uncooperative with web standards and backwards
Martin J Young is
an Asia Times Online correspondent based in
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