Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yesterday I really wanted an iPad - Today I'm not so sure

The iPad adverts and much media hype have been around for what seems like ages, and recently I have been hearing the excitement of the few people I know who have actually got one and I have been somewhat jealous. I have tried to avoid getting too caught up in the excitement because they are expensive - but until just now that has been the only thing putting me off. As I don't have an iPod or an iPhone I have a somewhat limited idea of what the iPad might be like, but for some reason it has caught my imagination more so than the other aforementioned Apple products.

Now the iPad is actually on the market and people I know have them and think they are wonderful I have started to look at them a bit more seriously. Buying one might actually be an option.

Just in case you have, in some strange way, missed the hype, here is one of the cool YouTube videos which explain it all:




So this morning, when I mentioned to my boyfriend how much I like the idea of getting one, I was quite surprised by his negative response.

Apparently there are a couple of major flaws in the iPad, the 2 he mentioned immediately were it's incompatibility with Adobe Flash meaning that much of the video content on the web won't display on the iPad, and, MUCH more worryingly the moral question at the moment over the way the iPad factory workers are being treated. I think these things need to be looked at quite separately. . .

Technical issues:

Having never seen an iPad in "real life" myself I can only take the word of others on these points but it seems there are lots of technical issues that upsetting people in addition to the problem with Flash - the lack of a camera or stylus, only being able to use one application at a time, no USB port, and so on.

But I'm sure such issues are much better understood and articulated by others so if you haven't already read a load of reviews you might want to check out:
Moral Issues:
The second point my bloke made whilst sitting on the sofa with his morning cup of tea was something of a shock, but has evidently attracted quite a bit of recent news coverage so I'm not sure how I missed it. But basically the conditions in the Chinese factories where the iPads, and seemingly various other Apple products, are manufactured are appalling and the pressure of the work and the way employees are treated has led to several suicides amongst the workers.

This leads me to ask myself - are all the technical issues irrelevant when you have to consider the moral ones?


We all know that questionable morals in business are common place and are usually brought to light where huge high profile companies are involved. If McDonalds had not been so huge would they have caught Eric Schlosser's attention and been forced by public pressure to address some of the issues raised?

Apparently by way of reacting to the bad press Apple have now announced that the factory workers will be given a (small) cut of the profits from iPad sales. The high profile of the product is apparently the catalyst for getting the factory conditions addressed, and perhaps support for the iPad after this recent increase in wages could be the right moral choice? Or better still, perhaps a whole load of people writing to Apple expressing commitment to buying the iPad, but only after further improvements have been made, would have a bit of an impact?

Consumer pressure is a powerful thing - perhaps if Apple clean up their act other companies will follow suit and perhaps if pressure is applied in the right places the working conditions, not only the pay, will be addressed.

In the mean time are you put off purchasing an iPad because of the recent news? 



3 comments:

Hickz said...

Not wishing to diminish in any way the tragedy of the suicides, but remember Foxconn is *huge*, there are 300,000 employed at the Shenzhen plant alone (Dail Mail claims 400,000), which is roughly the population of Coventry.

Given the numbers involved, sadly a certain number of suicides per year is statistically very likely.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/foremski/media-gets-its-facts-wrong-working-at-foxconn-significantly-cuts-suicide-risk/1356

Katharine said...

Thanks for this Hickz - its good to get a different point of view, and its true that often statistics are taken out of context, and the article you link to here gives some interesting perspective. However, so do the comments which follow it.
And I tend to agree with the first commenter who says

"Perhaps the suicide rate is not above normal but the working conditions certainly raise eyebrows."

Indeed, (if the Daily Mail article is to be believed) being sent to clean toilets with no gloves is just one example of how employees have allegedly been treated.

The stats wont give a full picture, stats never do, but I can't imagine that the working conditions described are in anyway of benefit to the employees health.

Also see:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/tenth-worker-at-ipad-factory-commits-suicide-1982897.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/china-business/7773011/A-look-inside-the-Foxconn-suicide-factory.html

And from the other point of view:

http://gizmodo.com/5512404/the-ipad-factory-suicides-a-fact-check

Katharine said...

I've also just been emailed this link that gives a less favourable review of the product:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/may/29/ipad-review-charlie-brooker