The Macalope Weekly: Axe-grinding

The New York Times and Bloomberg are still hot on the “Isn’t Apple like the worst thing evah?” beat. Meanwhile, though we all know that Apple’s products are too expensive, did you know that they are also too cheap?

Still at it

The New York Times’s war on Apple rages on! Keep fighting the good fight, Gray Lady! The inexplicable good fight against a successful and beloved American brand which … uh … must be fought because … er … [mumble mumble] … kittens …

Alas, the good fight has now reached epic proportions of dumb, as the Times’s KJ Dell’Antonia demonstrates.

“7 Reasons Not to Buy Your Child an iPad for Christmas” (tip o’ the antlers to Shawn King).

Not a tablet! An iPad. Because what’s the moral of every story? It must be about Apple.

The children for whom I could conceivably buy an iPad or other tablet…

Oh, now it’s about “tablets”! Why, it seems like just a minute ago it was all about iPads … you know … in the headline. The thing up there at the top.

Is it getting to the point where the Macalope is going to have to stop linking to the New York freaking Times for excessive baiting?

… are 7, 8, and 9. (My 12-year-old bought his own this summer.) Any of them would be delighted to receive any tablet.

But instead I’m sending them to military school.

OK, let’s go to the reasons!

1. It’s No Fun

The iPad. No fun.

You do know you have to turn it on, right?

It’s a time for Wii marathons and Easy-Bake Ovens, not Candy Crush.

Yes! Wii games like LEGO Batman which, of course, are unavailable for the iPad.

2. A Tablet Is Something They Should Save For

Unlike a Wii.

Is it possible you’re suffering from nog poisoning, KJ?

3. I Don’t Want to Encourage More Screen Time

Right. Because screen time is for the Wii.

The Wii.

The beautiful and perfect Wii.

ALL HAIL THE WII.

4. I Don’t Want to Encourage Private Screen Time … They’re computers, and powerful communication devices. Texting, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—there will be plenty of time for those things when my children are older.

Gosh, if only there were some way to restrict certain kinds of Internet access on an iOS device or via your router. Or if there were some way to, you know, do some parenting.

OH, WELL.

5. It Would Be Harder to Limit Access

And I’m already so tired.

6. Books Are Better

Yeah! And bows and arrows teach children valuable hunting skills! Soon they will wear skins and worship the animist gods of our forebears!

7. Santa Is 100 Percent Not Licensed to Produce iPads or Any Brand-Name Electric Devices

So, you really only had six reasons.

The Macalope’s not advocating that all kids be given iOS devices and free reign to rot their brains playing in-app-purchase-driven games. But if you’re going to write a piece about the perils of tablets, at least put some actually helpful ideas into it instead of banging out another pointless and contradictory (Wii good, iPad bad!) listicle.

Damned if they do

The flip side to the “Apple products cost too much!” argument is, of course, the “Apple’s brand is devalued by selling in Walmart!”

Let’s see if we can help out The Street’s Rocco Pendola on this.

“There’s No Way Apple Can Be This Desperate”

The Macalope’s not sure what it is about Pendola that he likes. Is it the hair? It’s certainly the hair. It’s at least the hair. It’s also that he takes an antler jab with aplomb. But he also provides just enough caveats to get away with his outrageous headlines.

Why did Apple hire @AngelaAhrendts if they’re going to keep slumming it at WalMart? Makes no sense.

But Apple’s already explained this. It’s about geography. Walmart’s stores are where Apple’s stores aren’t. Apple’s stores are in upscale malls, Walmarts are in rural areas and strip malls. Carrier stores cover some of that area, but some people get everything they need at one-stop places. It’s about reach and, based on Apple’s market share in the U.S., it really works.

This concern springs from my love of the company. And my desire to see it remain best in breed. It can’t do that by merely looking the part of high-end consumer electronics purveyor. It must also play the part—with across-the-board consistency.

Because what it’s been doing up to now clearly hasn’t been working.

Mmmmm-hmmmmm.

… over the long run, losing the mystique and high-end, aspirational nature of the brand will hurt Apple.

Like when Apple made cheap iPods and everyone stopped buying iPods.

Don’t tell me Wal-Mart takes the hit on these discounts. I know they do.

And why does Walmart do that? The same reason Target was offering $200 for first-generation iPads a few weeks ago. Because these discounts bring people into the stores. So, that’s why Walmart wanted to get the iPhone into its stores.

Is Tim Cook in such dire need of unit sales he’s willing to sell Apple’s soul to Wal-Mart?

It’s called “doing business,” Rocco. It’s not like carrier stores are some plush shopping experience, but Apple has to be in those, too.

The real thing that makes iPhones premium devices is that they’re made better. As long as Apple keeps making a better phone, its brand will do fine.

Caught between two stupids

It’s a rare moment when the Macalope finds the perfect balance of two people arguing a point and both of them getting it wrong.

Writing for Bloomberg, Leonid Bershidsky wonders aloud “Does Your IPhone Exploit Chinese Workers?”

Just your iPhone, of course. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is made in a magical valley in the Misty Mountains by a band of the hap-hap-happiest singing dwarves you’ve ever seen.

The Chinese workers who assemble Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s ubiquitous iPhones aren’t committing suicide as often as they used to.

Scattered, confused applause.

Still, according to a report by the Fair Labor Association, they work in what would be considered sweatshop conditions by developed-world standards.

That is the sad truth of the matter. But these labor abuses are not the sole province of plants that assemble iPhones.

Reports of inhumane working conditions proliferated, and though the company’s suicide rate was lower than China’s national average, Apple had to respond.

Thanks to outfits like Bloomberg and the New York Times running headlines like: “IPHONES AND ONLY IPHONES ARE MADE IN SWEATSHOPS WITH SKY-HIGH SUICIDE RATES.*”

(* Suicide rates may be lower than national average. Void where prohibited.)

The FLA’s efforts are laudable, but the ultimate responsibility for working conditions still lies with Apple.

No, actually, it doesn’t. The responsibility is all of ours. The workers, the plant owners, Apple’s, Apple’s customers, and basically every other tech company that uses the same system and their customers—something Bershidsky does not mention once. Because it’s always just about Apple.

Rushing to Apple’s defense and the defense of capitalism itself is Forbes contributor Tim Worstall. The Macalope’s going to break his ban on linking to Forbes because this one actually goes overboard in defending Apple.

“Of Course Your iPhone Does Not Exploit Chinese Workers”

Worstall’s argument is solely financial. How could this be exploitation if workers are lining up for these jobs and wages in China are going up? Those lucky Chinese workers! Man, I wish I was a Chinese factory worker!

But as Bershidsky notes, it’s not just the money, it’s also things like being forced to work long hours without days off, poor environmental conditions, not getting paid for training days, and sometimes having to talk with Mike Daisey.

No one should have to put up with that just to make a living. But it’s a harder problem to solve than just screaming “Apple, Apple, Apple!” While Apple is making strides to improve working conditions at plants it sources from, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, HP and all the other tech companies are getting a free pass. Who speaks for those workers? Not the New York Times or Bloomberg, apparently.

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