Corporate Social Responsibility and Apple

I have read numerous articles and I think that Corporate Social Responsibility and Apple are hot topics at the moment. When it was found that European firms were cheating on their emissions reports it was a great scandal and the European and German automotive industries took a financial hit. Their cheating cost them billions. In the US people were financially compensated whilst as one article put it Europeans got a plastic tube.

We should look at the Apple Back taxes story within the context of Brexit, the rise of the far right in a number of countries and the emerging popularity of Trump within certain sectors of the American voting public. The group anonymous is defending the rights of the 99 percent. They protest against Wall Street and the abuses of corporations and the wealthy.

When houses in the US were foreclosed because of the bubble bursting because of complex dividends those who suffered were the poor and the middle classes because they borrowed money at a rate that they could not pay it back. A number of documentary makers have explored this issue and there have been talks at the Graduate institute and other places.

Apple is currently making billions per quarter and that money is being stockpiled in offshore accounts so that neither the US government nor the European union can get to it. Other writers and journalists have written about this extensively. The perspective that I want to take is a moral one.

Apple products are expensive, they can cost twice as much as their android equivalents. People in the European markets are paying for these products. They pay the country’s VAT along with the product’s cost. They are contributing to the local economy.

Tim Cook argues that what the European Commission is doing is a “load of crap” and that it is abusing of its power. From an ethical and moral point of view though it is Apple that is being unethical and amoral. They are part of the economy. When they sell products they make huge profits that are taxed at less than one percent. 12 billion dollars could do a lot of good within the European Union if and when it is recovered because it could contribute to the road networks and transport infrastructure. It could contribute to housing, education and much more. In contributing to the economy those billions that Apple owes in back taxes could improve the quality of life of millions.

They hide behind the mask of job creation. They believe that because they contribute to the creation of 6000 jobs in Ireland that their corporate social responsibility stops there. It does not. Apple must be ethical enough to pay taxes like every other business is expected to do.

In effect Apple is providing a concrete example of what Brexiters voted against, the corporations syphoning off money to the detriment of living conditions of many populations around Europe. If corporations are allowed to make billions in profits without paying taxes because of creative accounting then society as a whole suffers. It also ferments resentment and encourages people to vote for the right.

In my opinion, based on the reading of numerous articles and watching many documentaries Apple should agree to pay the 14 billion as a gesture of good will and as a Public relations exercise. Imagine what a positive effect those billions would have for the European Union as a whole. Imagine how much social good having that money re-invested would do.

I believe that Tim Cook and Apple need to pay these back taxes to diffuse the tensions caused by austerity movements across Europe. A wealthy, rather than austere Europe could buy more Apple products. Other corporations would also benefit directly from people’s increased disposable income. A few weeks or months ago I watched a documentary about how the United States benefited from corporations paying their fair share of taxes.

About the Ipad, which I will refer to as the Itablet in this post.

Designers must understand that user interface as well as ease of use are the two most important features of any electronics device. The more intuitive the device the more likely people are to keep using it. As a first generation Ipod touch user and an iphone 3gs owner I see the value of simple, intuitive confident design.

Looking at the itablet (ipad) what I see in this design are three key qualities, ergonimcs, ease of use and versatility. All of these combined make this device one of the most interesting on the market at the moment.

The smooth, slick design reminds us of the macbook air but without the keyboard.  As it is a laptop we will expect less from it but get more out. The macbook air is running the same OS as the Macbook Pro therefore we expect it to do the same things but when it cannot then we say it underperfoms. The tablet doesn’t have that problem. It’s sold as a slate that has a touch screen that can serve as a multimedia device.

Ease of use is another key feature. When you’re using a netbook, an N97 or many other devices you need some understanding of how things work. You need to understand how to configure an exchange server, you need to type the right character to complete the word and if you want to transfer files you need specific software. Of course the tablet has the same thing, you need itunes to do this. That’s an advantage and a dissadvantage. The advantage is that whenever you connect to any laptop (With the right library key) you can update podcasts and other content intuitively.

The second advantage is that the app store is so much easier to use on the mac than other platforms. We are used to buying apps and music on that device. Who hasn’t downloaded 10-15 apps for their iphone or ipod touch already? Imagine the facebook app on the tablet, or the flickr app.

In fact think about the day after a party. Hundreds of pictures were taken and you want to show them to friends, and have a good laugh. With the computer you can do this but you’re stuck at the desk, or you’re sitting down to be more comfortable. With the Ipad you hold it comfortably and a few people can stand around to see these images. Of course it’s less intimate than showing them on an iphone ;-). It’s also a way of demonstrating your picture portfolio or your multimedia showreel.  

Versatility is the last point of interest for this device.  If you want to use it for picture viewing then it could double as a photo frame, if you want to use it as a calendar and e-mail client then you can. If you want to play games then the larger screen means that all the games you already have for the iphone and ipod touch can be used.

Finally you can dock a keyboard to the screen and it becomes a 750 gram laptop. The advantage of this device’s keyboard, bought seperately is that you now have a laptop. You’re free to tweet, blog, sort through pictures and edit documents if iworks works well on the device.

Now the question you’re wondering, would I buy one? Not until July 2010 after the summer keynote. I want to see how they implement these new features into their line of futre laptops. Will they give us a dual screened laptop where the keyboard and mouse are replaced by a second touch screen or will we get the conventional keyboard and monitor where the screen is now touch based? That’s the point at which we can decide whether the tablet or a new laptop make more sense.

(CR)apple and authorisation issues.

No doubt you remember that my laptop motherboard died. The effects are still being felt today. When you have applications, and when you have several computers you authorise them in order to have access to the same applications and music on more than one machine.

This works fine most of the time. You can easily authorise and de-authorise a machine depending on necessity. The problem is when you have hardware failure though. As hardware fails so the device number changes. Itunes thinks it’s on a new machine and all the permissions are gone.

That’s the problem I’m having. Over 129 applications have just been removed from the ipod touch as a result of having five machines authorised with my itunes account. There’s not much I can do to change this situation.

What I love about this situation is that it’s another reason not to use an iphone. Why would I buy a device which relies on another device in order to function. If the N97 crashes I don’t need to rely on this computer to sync things, if my n95 crashes same lack of concern. Same with the e51 and other devices.

With anything apple though as soon as five machines are authorised if you have a hardware failure you’re stuck.

Apple have to resolve this issue because everyone has access to more than five apple computers, either through friends or through machines of their own.

If I need to use a wifi connection to sync my ipod then I might as well have any generic device. I am one step closer to going back to using Linux for personal computing, windows for work and apple for nothing but editing.

Two mobile content mentalities.

When’s the last time you visited a wap site? Have you thought of how content displays on mobile phones other than the Iphone? I hadn’t until quite recently. Recently I moved back to Switzerland and have started to work for Allthecontent / and they provide multiplatform content for devices ranging from televisions to mobile phones and more.

As a result of reading too much American press I lost interest in what Nokia were doing until it was mentioned that the iphone is not true mobile web use. At first that statement didn’t make much sense but since then I’ve bought a Nokia N95 8 gig model and I’ve been playing with vodafone live, seeing how content is presented. It’s very simple, quick and to the point. Images are small and sparse but text is heavy.

Naviguate from one menu to another and you eventually get to content that’s paying. That’s where it becomes interesting. There are quite a few topics, from sports to entertainment to adult content. Some of this content is in video form, some in MMS form and yet some more comes as text. As a result content is easily accessible from most media handsets.

Then there’s the question of data packages. Look at Swisscom. For 18 swiss Francs you receive a hundred megabytes of data transfer. That’s not much when considering the 3 gigs a day of transfers via my laptop. Mobile is different. I read that not more than fifty megabytes a month are downloaded over the air.

Take a look at Iphone optimised pages in contrast. They’re graphic intensive, slow to load and designed for one specific screen resolution. As a result of this that content is not accessible on most data plans or mobile devices. Iphones have a good part of the market but they’re excluding many users. You can’t download content on the iphone. You’re losing revenue right there.

What I think will be interesting over the coming months is to see how the European Vs. US mentality of mobile delivered content will affect telephone operators in these markets.

The Macbook Air

I really wanted a small device mid way between the ipod touch and the macbook but Apple have decided to come out with a thin rather than small device with five hours of battery life and a solid state drive.

These are great features but the device is so incredibly limited that it’s not interesting for me. I’ve got a macbook pro and it’s a great machine for anyone that wants to do video editing. I’ve also got an ipod touch which is great for twittering and keeping up to date with current affairs. One of these devices is great for computing, the other is great for browsing.

What I wanted is a small machine that’s easy to carry, along the lines of the powerbook but I’ll have to wait a little longer.

The key limitations I see with this device are the need for an external optical drive, only one USB port and a phone jack. That’s great for business men who travel a lot but what about the rest of us. If you plug in the USB drive how are you going to plug in anything else. If you’re like me you charge your ipod and your phone from the laptop because it’s convenient.

The price is also prohibitive. It’s a luxury product that doesn’t fill any new market niche. Let’s wait and see for new devices. I will drop by the apple store and play with it of course and give you a hands on review.