Apple and Foxconn: Too close for comfort?

Apple and Foxconn's perfect corporate marriage may be starting to fray, according to this piece in Week in China.

Week in China attributes the possible divergence between Apple and its Taiwan-based manufacturer to commercial imperatives. Apple needs lower-price alternatives to Foxconn as the tech giant moves to introduce a lower-price iPhone. Foxconn needs to diversify its business lines in order to reduce its over-reliance on Apple (the Apple account allegedly generates 40-70% of Foxconn's revenue).  The New York Times runs this piece on Foxconn's efforts to diversify.

I'd like to see more analysis of the ethical and reputational dimensions of this equation. Apple lost some of its perennial glow last year when news media reported overcrowding, seven-day workweeks, and worker suicides at the Foxconn plants that produce our iPhones and iPads. Apple has since invested in improving working conditions and bolstering supply chain oversight at Foxconn plants. 

From a worker safety perspective, is Apple likely to fare better, worse, or no differently as it shifts contract manufacturing from Foxconn to other firms which presumably produce more output per dollar?

[PHOTO CREDIT: Vincent Lee, Creative Commons.]

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