Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

Apple and American Jobs: The Times They Are A-Changin’

OK. As predicted, I snoozed through Prez O’s State of the Union address the other night. Still, I get the message: fairness in all matters economic and otherwise. So at least from now until November it’s us versus them. I just need someone to tell me whether these days I’m part of us or them.

Extremely confusing. And I guess when I was working I managed to sneak into the them category, if only marginally. But silly me. I kinda worked hard, paid whatever taxes I owed — and never felt as though someone was obligated to give me something.

Yet, in my dotage I recognize, as Dylan crooned, The Times They Are A-Changin’:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Gulp. I don’t want to be last. And I’m just a poor pensioner on a fixed income these days. So no need to interrupt a good nap to listen to that rhetoric. Besides, I’ll need my strength when Buffett’s secretary arrives in Copley and begins chasing me with a pitchfork. Ouch.

Yet the Prez did make an interesting point when he called on the Captains of American Industry to do the right thing and create jobs here in the USA. Here again, the times they are a-changin’ — but not in the favor of the Stars and Stripes.

Here’s a story in the Sunday NYT that you really should take a time to read, “How the US Lost Out on iPhone Work“:

When Barack Obama joined Silicon Valley’s top luminaries for dinner in California last February, each guest was asked to come with a question for the president.

But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

However, what has vexed Mr. Obama as well as economists and policy makers is that Apple — and many of its high-technology peers — are not nearly as avid in creating American jobs as other famous companies were in their heydays.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now,” said Jared Bernstein, who until last year was an economic adviser to the White House.

“If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Similar stories could be told about almost any electronics company — and outsourcing has also become common in hundreds of industries, including accounting, legal services, banking, auto manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

But while Apple is far from alone, it offers a window into why the success of some prominent companies has not translated into large numbers of domestic jobs. What’s more, the company’s decisions pose broader questions about what corporate America owes Americans as the global and national economies are increasingly intertwined.

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

Hey. The times they are a-changin’.

Advertisements

Steve Jobs: A Sad Farewell

When I was toiling in the corporate vineyards at Goodrich–and like most people–being committed to the job to a fault and often to the exclusion of family, vacations, weekends and so on, I received some good advice from an associate. He told me that few people on their deathbeds ever said: “Gee. I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

I wonder if that holds true for Steve Jobs and many others like him? Jobs will be remembered–and rightly so–as an innovator, design and marketing genius, and brilliant business executive. And the well-deserved tributes that have come from people all over the world following his death this week are inspiring.

But here’s a story that I find a little sad. It’s in the NYT this morning, “With Time Running Short, Jobs Managed His Farewells“:

Over the last few months, a steady stream of visitors to Palo Alto, Calif., called an old friend’s home number and asked if he was well enough to entertain visitors, perhaps for the last time.

In February, Steven P. Jobs had learned that, after years of fighting cancer, his time was becoming shorter. He quietly told a few acquaintances, and they, in turn, whispered to others. And so a pilgrimage began.

The calls trickled in at first. Just a few, then dozens, and in recent weeks, a nearly endless stream of people who wanted a few moments to say goodbye, according to people close to Mr. Jobs. Most were intercepted by his wife, Laurene. She would apologetically explain that he was too tired to receive many visitors. In his final weeks, he became so weak that it was hard for him to walk up the stairs of his own home anymore, she confided to one caller.

Some asked if they might try again tomorrow.

Sorry, she replied. He had only so much energy for farewells. The man who valued his privacy almost as much as his ability to leave his mark on the world had decided whom he most needed to see before he left.

Mr. Jobs spent his final weeks — as he had spent most of his life — in tight control of his choices. He invited a close friend, the physician Dean Ornish, a preventive health advocate, to join him for sushi at one of his favorite restaurants, Jin Sho in Palo Alto. He said goodbye to longtime colleagues including the venture capitalist John Doerr, the Apple board member Bill Campbell and the Disney chief executive Robert A. Iger. He offered Apple’s executives advice on unveiling the iPhone 4S, which occurred on Tuesday. He spoke to his biographer, Walter Isaacson. He started a new drug regime, and told some friends that there was reason for hope.

But, mostly, he spent time with his wife and children — who will now oversee a fortune of at least $6.5 billion, and, in addition to their grief, take on responsibility for tending to the legacy of someone who was as much a symbol as a man.

“Steve made choices,” Dr. Ornish said. “I once asked him if he was glad that he had kids, and he said, ‘It’s 10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done.’ ”

“But for Steve, it was all about living life on his own terms and not wasting a moment with things he didn’t think were important. He was aware that his time on earth was limited. He wanted control of what he did with the choices that were left.”

In his final months, Mr. Jobs’s home — a large and comfortable but relatively modest brick house in a residential neighborhood — was surrounded by security guards. His driveway’s gate was flanked by two black S.U.V.’s.

On Thursday, as online eulogies multiplied and the walls of Apple stores in Taiwan, New York, Shanghai and Frankfurt were papered with hand-drawn cards, the S.U.V.’s were removed and the sidewalk at his home became a garland of bouquets, candles and a pile of apples, each with one bite carefully removed.

“Everyone always wanted a piece of Steve,” said one acquaintance who, in Mr. Jobs’s final weeks, was rebuffed when he sought an opportunity to say goodbye. “He created all these layers to protect himself from the fan boys and other peoples’ expectations and the distractions that have destroyed so many other companies.

“But once you’re gone, you belong to the world.”

Mr. Jobs’s biographer, Mr. Isaacson, whose book will be published in two weeks, asked him why so private a man had consented to the questions of someone writing a book. “I wanted my kids to know me,” Mr. Jobs replied, Mr. Isaacson wrote Thursday in an essay on Time.com. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

“I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

I don’t know. For a man who really did change the world, that statement strikes me as being more than a little sad.

Steve Jobs: A Lesson in Communication

There are plenty of excellent articles and blog posts today about the career achievements and legacy of Steve Jobs.  Jobs announced last night that he was resigning as Apple’s CEO. What strikes me about the announcement is not the commentaries written about him by others, but by his own resignation letter.

Here’s his resignation letter as printed in the NYT:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s C.E.O., I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as C.E.O. of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as C.E.O. of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Clear. Concise. Classy.

Not many CEOs, certainly few if any with the stature and reputation of Steve Jobs, would be content to leave center stage with so little fanfare and without the spotlight focused directly on his/her accomplishments.

There is a lesson in communication and public relations here — and perhaps what Jobs said and how he said it in his letter of resignation provides some insight into why he was so successful in developing, designing and marketing products that really have influenced our economy and the lives of people around the world.

Media Ethics and Steve Jobs

If you are interested at all in the subject of media ethics — from the standpoint of journalism and PR — here are two stories that are worth reading. Both involve Steve Jobs, privacy and financial disclosure and transparency.

Health Isn’t A Personal Issue When You’re A Legend” — Joe Nocera, NYT.

The Media’s Rotten Reporting on Apple” — Daniel Lyons, Newsweek.com.

Here’s from the article by Lyons:

The larger takeaway is what this episode says about how the media covers Apple. It’s one thing for PR flacks to tell lies. That is, after all, what they get paid to do. But it’s another thing for the media to join in on the action.

Ouch.

Steve Jobs and timely, honest disclosure

dscn0178I didn’t run during the week I was in Dublin. I planned to hit the pavement at least once, most likely New Year’s Day. I was staying at the Shelbourne directly across from St. Stephen’s Green. Once around equalled about 1.25 miles. So do that four or five times. Ah, nah. Maybe it was the Guinness. Or the double Jameson before bedtime. Or the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road. Oh, well. I’m back. And I had a great run this morning.

And I was thinking about one of the themes that I’ve written about many times here: timely, honest disclosure. I’m convinced that this is a key to restoring confidence and trust in business and government. And I’m equally convinced that it will require a renewed ethic of responsibility on the part of leaders throughout the public and private sectors to make it happen.

So I was intrigued yesterday by the disclosure from Steve Jobs that his very noticeable weight loss was due to a “hormone imbalance.” This, of course, is not a new story. Jobs several years ago was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He now says he is cancer free. Still, the health concerns involving the CEO of Apple — and the probable link to the decline in Apple’s stock price and valuation — has been well reported and debated for months.

Joe Nocera blasted Jobs and Apple’s PR staff for not being forthcoming last July in his New York Times blog and column. I used that as an opportunity to opine as well.

So two questions. Did Jobs disclose enough? And what took him so long?

And exploring those questions could fill up a week’s worth of discussion in an ethics class. Here you clearly have what ethics guru Rushworth Kidder would define as a right versus right dilemma. On the one hand, Jobs’ right to privacy. On the other, his obligation to Apple and its shareholders.

And the law and corporate governance requirements relative to disclosure are murky. So in my mind at least it comes down to ethics — and responsibility. Here’s from a Business Week online article:

Securities laws require that publicly traded companies disclose facts that are “material,” but arguments rage over what constitutes material, Grundfest said. “Suppose Jobs were losing weight and it didn’t interfere with doing his job, but he didn’t know why he was losing weight,” he says. “What’s the board of directors to do? Say that the CEO is losing weight and it doesn’t know why?”

Strictly speaking, Jobs isn’t required to disclose much. The rules on disclosure of a key executive’s illness, while arguably material information as far as investors are concerned, are weighed against privacy laws and standards. Various CEOs have acted differently over the years. When then-Intel (INTC) CEO Andy Grove was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995, the company didn’t immediately disclose the fact, but Grove did so the following year by writing an article for Fortune magazine about his experience combating the disease. When Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), underwent surgery to remove benign polyps from his colon in 1997, he chose to disclose the circumstances to his investors and release details of his succession plan.

I know from experience that this is a tough call for Jobs and for his senior PR people — if they are in any way involved in the decision making. Still, I believe we have to keep prodding business and government leaders to disclosure more and more — and in a timely and honest manner. This ethic of responsibility falls to them.

By the way, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have a hormone imbalance. It involves my thyroid. Still not sure about Steve Jobs and his “hormone imbalance.” Oh well. It’s a start.

Steve Jobs and “off the record”

I wonder what “off the record” means these days? To journalists in print — and online. And to PR people. I was thinking about that as I was running this morning. The reason? An interesting article by Joe Nocera about Steve Jobs (“Apple’s Culture Of Secrecy“) in The New York Times Saturday. Nocera also wrote about it on his NYT blog.

In a nutshell, Jobs had a bout with pancreatic cancer a few years ago. But subsequently indicated that he was cured. Then questions were raised during the past several weeks about Jobs and his health — and essentially neither Jobs nor Apple would comment. Both claimed it is a privacy issue.

That’s a point. And it’s not an insignificant one. Still, as Nocera points out, Jobs really is the key person at Apple. And his health, rightly or wrongly, influences the company’s stock price and consequently affects shareholders — and employees, suppliers, etc.

If interested, read the article and draw your own conclusions. Nocera points out that publicly traded companies are required to disclose information that is “material.” I dealt as a corporate PR guy with the issue of disclosure requirements for years, and I can tell you that the definition of what is material leaves plenty of wiggle room. Here’s from the article:

“The question surrounding any kind of corporate disclosure always is: Is it material?” said Larry S. Gondelman, a lawyer with Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville. “And there is no bright line test in determining materiality.” A spokesman for the Securities and Exchange Commission said that the law defined materiality as information that “the reasonable investor needs to know in order to make an informed decision about his investment.”

Personally, I think we would all be better off if corporations — and government and universities — disclosed more not less. I’m not all that optimistic that we will ever see that happen. And in this situation with Steve Jobs, there really is what Rushworth Kidder would call a right versus right ethical dilemma.

Well, Nocera has a bigger platform than the rest of us (New York Times, print and online) so he actually got a response from Apple’s PR guy. In effect — none of your business.

But then after that exchange, Jobs called Nocera. Here’s Nocera’s account of the conversation:

On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed.

Because the conversation was off the record, I cannot disclose what Mr. Jobs told me. Suffice it to say that I didn’t hear anything that contradicted the reporting that John Markoff and I did this week. While his health problems amounted to a good deal more than “a common bug,” they weren’t life-threatening and he doesn’t have a recurrence of cancer. After he hung up the phone, it occurred to me that I had just been handed, by Mr. Jobs himself, the very information he was refusing to share with the shareholders who have entrusted him with their money.

You would think he’d want them to know before me. But apparently not.

Ah, gee. OK. Steve Jobs doesn’t have cancer. That’s great news. But is there an ethical issue here?

Jobs agreed to talk to Norcea “off the record.” Norcea printed the details of the conversation anyway. That’s not how I remember the game being played when I was pup back in journalism school and then working for a short time as a reporter. And as a PR person there were times when I went off the record with reporters at their request (yeah, I know, you’re never supposed to say that when teaching a PR class). But I always knew what that meant. And I would never even consider it unless I trusted the reporter. And to me off the record meant that nothing we talked about was going to be printed. Period.

So I have some problems with what Nocera did here. Although I agree that the information should be public.