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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

China suicide put Apple on Center Stage

In the United States, it's been the longstanding culture of Apple Inc. to be as secretive as can be when it comes to their products and internal workings, especially upcoming models or devices that they make.

Of course, this is understandable. Corporations cannot be too careful in cutthroat competitive markets - like the phone manufacturing industry. The iPhone, one of Apple's hottest products, is being manufactured somewhere in southern China by a Taiwan company's subsidiary, Foxconn.

Now, Foxconn has this 25-year old manager who jumped out of his 12th floor apartment building after a raid of the police of his place. The manager Sun Dayong was one of the people in charge of the 16 prototypes of the fourth generation iPhone, one of which went missing. He got frantic, sent out text messages to his girlfriend and a former classmate.

Since then, there's been a big buzz about the news on the Web about how Apple's culture of secrecy led to this terrible incident.

This company has had quite some record on it for keeping secrets. It goes to the extent of threatening lawsuits (and in several instances actually following through) against people who publish news about upcoming products, or stuff that shouldn't be out in public.

On one hand, I think Apple couldn't be directly blamed for this - legally or morally (up to a certain degree). I mean, come on people, a company as good and hot as Apple really has a right to keep a lid on their important stuff if they want to make a good living out of what they do. Other companies can afford to lose a model or two, but we're talking about Apple here; trend leader, innovator, market setter.

On the other hand, this company should learn to better manage its own culture. I know that sounds ridiculous. The guy (manager Sun) is dead. He probably thought he had a hand in the losing of the prototype else he wouldn't have killed himself. Who in his right mind would commit suicide over a phone? Even if it was the best kept secret in the world, I still wouldn't think it more important than my life. Now, I realize that his might not even be accurate. All the details about the incident, in traditional Apple behavior, was kept quiet. But killing himself over that is just not right. He might have been under pressure additionally caused by something else.

The thing is, this company should communicate what it wants its culture to be. I don't think they want an environment where people kill themselves if they fail. Sure, this might sound good for Steve Jobs, but what the heck? There's surely something wrong here.

You get my drift. What do you think?

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