Perhaps Steve Jobs' greatest brilliance was his ability to instinctively know what yet uninvented technology would attract consumers. This is true innovation. No studying the market and figuring out what the public is yammering for. No. We're talking about coming up with a new idea, one the public wouldn't even dream of, and knowing that once they see it, the will want it. I think its this kind of innovation attitude that made many consider Jobs an arrogant jerk.
Now, sans Jobs (Steve), Apple wants to bring jobs (manufacturing) "back' to the United States. Why? Well, over the past years Apple has continually been criticized for using foreign manufacturers, and hence foreign, low pay workers. This never seemed to bother Jobs too much. It never seemed to bother loyal Apple consumers, either, who year after year stand in line for days to be the first to get the new iWhatever. I always saw Jobs as the kind of businessman who had the guts to do what he wanted, even when it ticked off everybody else. A sort of Howard Roark (emphasis on sort of) of the micro chip world. And, ironically, a Howard Roark the left could love.
When Jobs passed away last year, many wondered if Apple would continue to innovate and amaze like it had with Jobs at the helm. While I am writing this on a Mac, I'm not one of those hardcore devotees, just somebody who thinks the Apple product is better suited to my computing needs. So when I offer the following analysis, its more as a casual observer than a fanboy or critic.
New CEO Tim Cook is viewed as having a "softer" personality than Jobs. And I think Apple is going soft by moving some manufacturing to the U.S. Sure, Jobs probably had a sharper personality, which only aided him in standing firm on solid business principals, like making more money. According to the Associated Press, Apple is going to spend $100 million in order make the move. There is no mention in any reports I have read, of Cook's belief that this will somehow make more money for Apple, or its investors. No. The reason given by Cook is that this will create American jobs.
And then, Apple basically says that they are moving just a fraction of manufacturing, one product line, to the U.S. So this is just a big PR move. But what part of the P in PR complained enough to make this happen? The 20 somethings standing in line three days to get the iPhone4s? As the old adage goes, people vote with their feet. How many millions voted their feet right into the several-block-long line at their local Apple store? But this is what American PR has come to. A small minority, with the help of the dominate liberal establishment mass media, make a big stink, and the big, bad corporations back down. And the 20 something standing in line at the big, bad corporation retail outlet, agrees that the big, bad corporation "should do something about the pay and working conditions of its overseas manufacturing plants, but we can worry about that just as soon as I get my new iPhone....and update my Facebook page.... and finish the next level of HALO 4, and oh yeah, after that I have to go to work."
And he can thank his lucky stars that he doesn't have to go to work at a factory. There's a little thing in economics called comparative advantage. In the current discussion, it goes something like this: sure, American workers would be the best, most efficient, hardest working assemblers of iMac components in the world. Nobody could do it better. But, what could these highly educated, highly motivated, hard working Americans be doing instead of sticking widgets together on an assembly line? And what could they be doing that would be a better use of their skills and knowledge. The answer is lots! The low skilled, overseas labor has the advantage in factory work compared to the opportunity cost of the would-be American factory worker. In the second Presidential debate, a soon-to-be college graduate asked Obama about his job prospects once he graduated. Obama rambled on about creating more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. I don't think that's what the kid had in mind.
In my household, I am arguably the best pooper scooper. I excel at it. Three time winner of the Northeast Side Poop-Off (if needed, you'll have to get Tom Green to get the poo off your Swedish). But I make my kids do it. Not because I don't love it, but because my time is better spent on other things, and their time isn't spent on much better. Especially when my kids can scoop the poop more than satisfactorily. Overseas workers have certainly been assembling Apple stuff satisfactorily for years, and at great savings and increased profits for Apple. Which is really what its all about, isn't it? And I mean that in a good way.