The New Bad Guy
by Kiko Matsing
Gizmodo gave back the phone, and that might have been the end of the story, but Apple just wouldn’t let it drop. Four days later, police raided the Fremont, Calif., home of the reporter who had written the piece—and that sent the story spiraling out of control, with everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Keith Olbermann commenting on it. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show lashed into Apple, saying Steve Jobs and his team were behaving like “appholes.”
It’s the kind of attention that Apple, long a media darling, isn’t used to. Apple’s control-freak nature didn’t matter as much when it was a plucky underdog. Yes, Jobs was a demanding boss and a finicky perfectionist—but he created great products. We rooted for Apple, and wanted it to survive. Apple seemed like the anti-Microsoft, a company that was on our side. But this year Apple will do nearly $60 billion in sales, and its market value stands at $240 billion—the third-largest in the United States, bigger than Coca-Cola and Pepsi combined. Any company that big can seem a little scary. So when police start breaking down doors over a lost phone, it’s a PR disaster, especially for Apple. The company works hard to cultivate a counterculture image, with ads that have featured Gandhi and John Lennon, not to mention the “I’m a Mac” hipster. Yet lately Apple has started to look like the big bully of the tech industry, the kid who doesn’t play well others. Over the long haul, that can put customers off.
Working conditions at Foxconn’s factories have been under scrutiny for years. The attention was heightened in 2009 when 25-year-old employee Sun Danyong, who had been accused by management of losing an iPhone prototype, jumped to his death from his apartment in Shenzhen. Chinese press reports said Sun, who grew up in a poor village in Yunnan province and attended the top-rated Harbin Institute of Technology, might have been physically abused by company security guards searching for the missing device.
Hey Apple, “do not be evil”!