APPLE HAS A JOE BIDEN MOMENT
I got called yesterday by Politico because Joe Biden said something stupid—he's still using Steve Jobs as his favorite example of "innovation" bringing jobs back to the heartland of America, despite the fact that the kind of jobs he's talking about are now in China, and aren't coming back. And if they do come, it won't be coming from Apple.
You can read the article here.
He's not the only one trying to salvage Apple's image lately—Apple is getting into the act as well. On Friday they tried to change the conversation away from their labor practices and the human rights abuses which have happened under their watch by emphasizing the jobs they have created across America.
They posted this webpage, with this rather information-poor infographic:
First—this is kind of a transparent dodge, isn't it? This doesn't address anything about Apple's treatment of its workers—instead, it almost seems like a bribe: don't ask us to regulate or behave in an ethical manner, because we might stop providing these half million American jobs!
Second—man, that is a lot of jobs! I'm impressed.
I was under the impression that Apple was a small, lean company—half a million. That's amazing.
Oh, wait...what's that?
That almost sounds like the world's highest market cap company, the most profitable one in history, is going to do some ham-fisted gameplaying with statistics to get a number that looks really enormous by extrapolating from people who do their dry cleaning, deliver computers in trucks, things like that.
That's hard to believe, because the Apple of old was so good at press and statistical manipulation—Steve Jobs was an absolute master at this sort of thing. If Apple gave a number for something, you could be certain it said exactly what they wanted it to say.
But, this is today's Apple. And we've already watched the debacle with the FLA unfold—Apple isn't controlling its narrative as artfully as it once did.
In fact, this looks like something Joe Biden would try.
I'm not going to go through all of the statistics; I will leave that as an exercise for someone else today. I'll just point out some broad points:
—Apple hired an outside group, Analysis Group, to get these numbers. Remember when Apple under Steve Jobs was so proud that they didn't uses polls and outside analysis groups? Yes, I remember that, too.
—Analysis Group, who I bet were paid handsomely for this "analysis", got 257,000 of the the jobs by applying "standard Type 1 employment multipliers". In other words—Apple's a big company, sure, but the specificity of this number is derived from thin air. It's not specific to Apple.
—The "app economy" is apparently responsible for 210,000 jobs. Of course, I don't doubt that some brand new jobs exist that would never have existed without iOS apps. On the other hand, in that alternate universe, these talented people would be developing for other companies. Their methodology? A study found that 466,000 jobs were added by iOS apps—no idea if that is accurate, report isn't linked or cited fully. Then they used keyword searching (!) to determine how many of the job listings mentioned Apple products...voila! Apple made every one of those jobs!
Seriously. I could have done that, from my desk, in a day or two.
It's a good thing I have a calling to my work, because if all I wanted was to make money off of Apple right now, I could probably get hired as a consultant with a group called "Even Better Analysis Group" and then just gin up the biggest possible number for that infographic.
I don't want to be negative, and I like being useful, so here are some amended versions of that infographic.
Derived from the numbers in Apple's own site, that is the number of employees Apple has in the US.
It's a perfectly respectable number. There's no need to gin up statistics to inflate it to being ten times this size.
Unless, of course, you're on the defensive, and feeling threatened, and using outside consultants and focus groups to do your thinking for you.
It does bear noting that the majority of those US jobs, 27,350 to be exact by Apple's numbers, are low-paying retail jobs working at Apple Stores that are not unionized, and have in fact fought organizing efforts. So if you're imagining that fifty thousand as movers and shakers who get to create the future...well, for people like that the numbers are more like this:
Why would Apple be trying to push this number up so high?
It's funny, because when economists and traders are doing analysis on Apple, they are very proud of the incredibly high earnings per employee number—Apple makes immense amounts of money per employee.
In fact, I have an infographic for that:
You can read about this statistic all you like here.
Things like this make me miss Steve Jobs.
You can certainly bet that if Steve Jobs were still running Apple, we wouldn't be where we are now—a month into the most serious PR crisis in Apple's history, and still no press conference.
Steve wouldn't have let numbers this dumb make their way up at Apple's site, numbers that clearly come from outside consultants that Apple is hoping will help salvage their image.
But Apple doesn't need any help to save itself.
It makes half a million in profit per employee.
If Apple decides to stop playing games and actually open its eyes, stop behaving childishly by trying to spin these problems away and actually engage, they can change the face of their manufacturing.
Apple has been a company with vision before. It's time for that to happen again.