Monthly Archives: January 2012

Republicans Are Voting Via iPads In Florida Primary

 

The iPad voting system from Everyone Counts.

Some voters in Florida’s Republican primary elections will be choosing the man they want in the White House with the touch of a finger using iPads.

Although Lori Steele, Chairman & CEO of Everyone Counts, the company behind the iPad voting scheme, was tight-lipped on details about how many of Apple’s magical tablets will be ticking boxes in today’s elections, she was quick to say that a similar program in Oregon led to an increase of voter participation by 1,500%.

One thing she’s certain of though: the iPads will ensure there’s no hanging chads or lost votes.

Cult of Mac asked her about the cost, security and software behind it. We’re planning to follow up on how the battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich played out over touchscreens.

CoM: What can you tell us about how it works?

Lori Steele: Our eLect Platform… enables a complete end-to-end election to be run online or for key elements in the election process to be conducted online, including ballot-delivery, ballot-marking and ballot return.

Whether an individual is voting using a computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or even a regular telephone, the eLect Platform secures the voting solution.

CoM: What does it cost to local government?

[It] will cut the cost of elections in half. Importantly, it enables government jurisdictions to move away from antiquated voting hardware equipment to newer and lower cost devices such as iPads, tablets and PCs. Additionally, such devices are available commercially-off-the-shelf and can be used for other purposes instead of the government having to pay for them to be stored away between elections. Because the Everyone Counts solutions are based on software-as-a-service, they are easily scalable to meet the precise volume needs of each election, rather than a one size fits all approach.

CoM: How is this safer/more secure than other computerized voting systems?

LS: In short, we have dozens of layers of security in our technology as well as our processes, including military-grade encryption technology and intensive oversight procedures. In the hundreds of binding government elections Everyone Counts has deployed, there has never been a security breach, not a single vote has been lost, and no election has ever been disputed or decertified. Also, our Software-as-a-Service technology and solution does not rely upon designated voting equipment and machines, and in fact runs on open-code programs which are fully transparent and auditable.

CoM: More details, please.

LS: In depth, our proven solution is secured by an impenetrable infrastructure (hardware, networks, and software) and protects the actual data (elector registration information, ballots cast, and results) from both intentional and unintentional interference.

Everyone Counts understands security as being about layer upon layer of protection, cumulatively increasing the safety of the election project, and accomplishes this by using military-grade security and industry-standard accredited facilities; ensuring that only security-cleared individuals have access to the infrastructure; deploying software that requires multiple levels of access to be able to see any encrypted data; and having a world-class team of election and technology experts providing election services.

We adhere to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) guidelines for encryption, threat modeling, physical server security and tamper-detection monitoring.

These measures enable us to identify suspicious activity and anticipate any potential threats. As an experienced provider of secure voting solutions, we have a demonstrated understanding of software, data security and management, accessibility, and elections management. In the dozens of binding government elections Everyone Counts has deployed, there has never been a security breach, not a single vote has been lost, and no election has ever been disputed or decertified.

 

 

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Foxconn to set up five manufacturing facilities in Brazil, each employing 1,000 workers [UPDATE: Foxconn denies]

Apple and Foxconn are continuing to work on bringing that $12.5 billion iPad plant in Brazil online (there have been no iPads “Made in Brazil” seen yet, unlike iPhones). Meanwhile, the country’s Secretary of Planning and Development of the State of São Paulo Julio Semeghini revealed today that Apple’s favorite contract manufacturer will build up to five factories in Brazil with a thousand employees each.

According to a local report by Folha.com, Foxconn of Taiwan (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.,) will leverage the additional plants to build notebooks and PCs, electronic components, connectors, batteries and precision machine elements. The plants should be located in Jundiai; São Paulo and business negotiations will resume when the Chinese New Year wraps up, according to the secretary.

The development could indicate plans to assemble an even greater portion of Apple products in Brazil, not just iPads and iPhones. Even so, poor machine-translated text suggested the secretary said, “The parts produced here will also help in the assembly of Apple products,” as “the company starts to import kits for assembly in Brazil iPad and iPhone.”

UPDATE: A Foxconn representative refuted the story, dismissing it as “pure speculation” amid what appears to be a power struggle over the Taiwanese firm’s billions of dollars in potential greenfield investments in the country. Foxconn, which already operates six plants in Brazil, wouldn’t acknowledge that iPhone or iPad production is taking place in any of the existing facilities.

UPDATE: Reader MarckOliver has submitted the following translation:

Parts produced in Brazil will aid in assemble of Apple products, said the Secretary. For now the company will import those kits from China to assemble in Brazil.

Reader Renato Selman concurs, telling us that while Foxconn will just assemble Apple gear using imported parts, “in the future Foxconn will use other components produced in Brazil”.


Thousands apply for jobs at Foxconn factories in China.

Foxconn already burned an estimated $300 million during the 2010 to 2011 timeframe on the Jundiai, São Paulo plant that is expected to employ 1,400 people assembling iPads. Why is Apple moving manufacturing to Brazil? Tax incentives. News of Foxconn’s expanding operation in Brazil arrives as Apple finds itself lambasted left and right for not bringing overseas jobs to the United States. More worrying than this, however, Foxconn and Apple both found themselves under fire for unfair labor practices and grueling working conditions at the former’s manufacturing facilities in China. But in spite of difficult working conditions, thousands prospective employees recently lined up to apply for the positions at Foxconn’s plants in China. Contrasting this, consumer group SumOfUs said over 35,000 people signed their “Stop Worker Abuse” online petition in just 24 hours.

The Foxconn story once again made evening news after the popular U.S. radio program “This American Life” aired a feature based on Mike Daisey’s highly acclaimed show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” which exposed the inhumane working conditions at Foxconn sweatshops in Shenzhen, China. A New York Times article took the blunder to the next level, but the non-profit organization Business for Social Responsibility disputed the newspaper’s reporting as inaccurate and unfair. The story also provoked an angry response from Apple CEO Tim Cook who maintained in a companywide email to employees that “We care about every worker in our supply chain.” Foxconn also produces consumer electronics for Amazon, Microsoft, HP, Dell and a variety of other brands. Apple also let the Fair Labor Association access its suppliers’ facilities, and the company’s 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report named, among other things, 98 percent of its suppliers—a first for Apple.



35,000 Sign Petition Calling For Apple To Stop Worker Abuse In Chinese Factories

It seems that lengthy report looking into the poor working conditions in Chinese factories assembling Apple products is going to haunt the Cupertino company for some time yet. The latest backlash comes from consumer group SumOfUs, which has launched a petition calling for Apple to “stop worker abuse,” with over 35,000 signatures collected in just 24 hours.

It all started with a New York Times report that was published on January 26, detailing the chilling conditions that Chinese factory workers must suffer while they assemble our favorite Apple devices. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has already expressed his outrage at the report, which he labeled “patently false and offensive.”

Cook also assured Apple employees that the company has “made a great deal of progress and improved conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers,” but this hasn’t deterred the protesters.

A petition launched by SumOfUs has collected 35,000 signatures from people who are calling for Apple to do more to improve working conditions in Chinese factories. The company’s executive director, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, believes the considering Apple’s “famous” attention to detail, the only way the company can not know what’s happening in Chinese factories is through “willful ignorance.”

But despite this, Stinebrickner-Kauffman loves her iPhone:

“I use an iPhone myself. I love it, but I don’t love having to support sweatshops, and neither do millions of other Apple consumers.”

“The hip, educated market that Apple aspires to corner is largely composed of responsible consumers who don’t want to be complicit in sweatshop labor. Apple’s attention to detail is famous, and the only way they could fail to be aware of dozens of worker deaths, of child labor, of exposure to neurotoxins is through willful ignorance.”

Stinebrickner-Kauffman concludes by blasting Tim Cook, who she believes could do more to fix the problems if he was really offended by the allegations:

“If Tim Cook is really offended by these allegations, why isn’t he doing anything to fix the problems? Every time a Foxconn worker is killed or disabled making an Apple product, Mr. Cook bears personal moral responsibility. Apple’s enforcement of razor-thin profit margins at suppliers invites – and may even force – them to slash workers’ rights. But Apple is going to have much bigger longer-term problems than paying a few extra dollars for its products if it loses its luster with ethical consumers.”

While factory working conditions may need addressing, Apple has stressed the efforts it is making to do this on numerous occasions. It has also launched a Supplier Responsibility section on its website that allows us to track these improvements, and it has signed up to support the Fair Labor Association.

While additional pressure on the Cupertino company may inspire it to do more, maybe it’s also time for us to turn to the other manufacturers, like Dell, HP, Sony, and many more, who also use Foxconn factories for product assembly, and may not be taking the same steps Apple is to improve these issues.

If you’d like to sign the petition yourself, you can do so by visiting the petition page on the SumOfUs website.

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Apple’s new retail SVP and why he was chosen to replace Ron Johnson

We reported last night that Apple officially appointed CEO of Dixons John Browett as its senior vice president of Retail following Ron Johnson’s departure in October of last year. Browett is leaving his position at Dixons Retail, which operates various United Kingdom-based retail stores including Currys, Currys.digital, and PC World. Dixons is one of the largest electronics chains in Europe, and PC World, the last on that list,  is one of the largest computer/consumer electronic retailers in the U.K. It also has a reputation of being a big-box consumer electronic store that consumers describe as “the worst of Best Buy and Radio Shack combined.”

While U.K. product-testing and consumer advocacy group Which? consistently ranked both Currys Digital and PC World at the bottom of its research regarding the Top 100 retail chains, a report from Financial Times explained “Apple has mystery shopped and been impressed.” Specifically, the report mentioned “a system of decision trees to match customers with products” that Browett has implemented while at Dixons.

The calculation of Mr Cook may be that if Mr Browett is good at selling people products that bore them, he will do even better selling them i-gadgets that they lust after.

According to reports in November from BBC, Browett recently renovated more than 250 stores, implemented new service, and customer support strategies. However, the company reported first-half losses of just over £25 million (slightly lower than expected, but higher than losses of £6.9 million the year prior). In 2009, Retail Week (via GigaOm) profiled Browett, calling him “affable and intellectual” and describing his “schoolboy enthusiasm” for technology during a trip to PC World. Here is an excerpt:

A tour of a PC World or Currys store with him reveals a schoolboy enthusiasm for talking at length about the technology behind flatscreen TVs. On another occasion, he revealed his hands-on nature when a disgruntled customer barged into a back room after realising who Browett was. He leapt to his feet and attended to the customer.

Before becoming CEO of Dixons Retail in December 2007, Browett was CEO of Tesco— currently the world’s third-largest retailer by revenue, according to Reuters— from 1999 to 2004, and he was the operations director of U.K. at Tesco.com since January 2004. During those years, he was also in charge of Tesco Telecom, including Tesco Mobile, and implemented a new leading web-based grocery delivery service. According to Businessweek, Browett holds an MBA from Wharton Business School and a degree in natural sciences from Cambridge University. He also served as Independent Non Executive Director of easyJet plc since 2007 and chairperson of the supervisory board at Pixmania SA.

So what do consumers in the U.K. actually think of Dixons, specifically PC World’s and Currys’ current retail experience? 9to5Mac readers provided their thoughts:

“All I know is Dixon -PC World offer the worst customer service ever. They have been on various consumer programmes for poor service in the UK.”-- @uklee

“There goes the neighbourhood – why dixons its one of the worst run shops from the consumer perspective every – the staff are rude and the shops sometimes rundown. I really hope they have someone else keeping an eye on him.”@Robin1989

“Did Tim Cook ever put a foot in a DSG shop (or sent a mystery shopper)?!? Dixon/PCWorld is probably the exact definition of “Worst shopping experience, ever”. I can see a huge boast in AppleCare sales as you will be force feed them as soon as you’ll get in an Apple store from now on…” — StephUK

Browett will be moving from his home in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire to Cupertino, Calif., to “lead a push into emerging markets” beginning in April.



Thousands Line Up for New iPhone Production Jobs at Foxconn Facilities in China

Back in late December, reports surfaced indicating that Foxconn was planning a major expansion of its iPhone production capabilities in Zhengzhou, China, with the company reportedly investing $1.1 billion and working with the Chinese government to recruit 100,000 new workers to the facility.


M.I.C gadget now reports that the hiring notices have gone out and thousands of prospective employees have lined up to apply for the positions.
On the 30th of January, thousands of hopefuls stood for hours outside a labor agency located in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, the largest city of Henan province in north-central China. The lines stretched more than 200 meters along the road, and the people who were waiting in line with their applications just hope to get a job at Foxconn, as the electronics contracting giant ramps up its iPhone production at Zhengzhou plant.
The report cites articles from the Chinese media noting that many of the applicants have prior work experience, with some of them seeking to transfer from Foxconn's other facilities in southern China to be closer to home.

Apple is of course in the middle of booming iPhone 4S sales following the device's launch last October and is now turning its attention to the rapidly-growing Chinese market where the device launched on China Unicom earlier this month and is expected to launch on China Telecom as soon as late next month. The company is obviously also looking ahead to the next-generation iPhone hardware that most expect will debut later this year.

Foxconn and Apple have come under increasing scrutiny over the treatment of employees in Apple's supply chain, with Foxconn being the highest-profile target due to its employment of hundreds of thousands of workers focused on manufacturing Apple products. Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed concern over some of the allegations presented in recent media reports while also pointing to the company's continuing efforts on the workers' rights front including ongoing audits and outside monitoring of workplace conditions.


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China Telecom could offer the iPhone as early as February

China Telecom is getting very near to launching Apple’s iPhone 4S on its network, the carrier said in a press release Tuesday obtained by China Daily. China Telecom subsidiary Beijing Telecom said a CDMA version of the iPhone 4S will likely be available to its customers by the end of February or the beginning of March.

Apple has been taking preparatory steps in advance of a launch with China Telecom, China’s third largest mobile network operator. Earlier in January, Apple secured regulatory approval to sell a device in China that operates using the CDMA2000 network standard, which is the technology China Telecom uses for its 3G network. At the time, the only step remaining for Apple was to get a license from China’s Telecommunications Equipment and Certification Center to begin selling the device, which it gained on Monday this week.

Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty predicted Apple could grow its iPhone sales by as many as 57 million units in China over the next two years if it succeeds in securing partnerships with China Telecom and China Mobile. China Telecom will offer Apple a potential subscriber pool of roughly 15 million high-end subscribers according to Morgan Stanley’s numbers, approximately doubling its current reach through official partner China Unicom.

The deal hasn’t yet been confirmed by Beijing Telecom’s parent company beyond the report from China Daily, and no pricing details have been released, but the pieces are in place, and there’s little reason to suspect Apple wouldn’t want to expand its presence in China as quickly as possible. No doubt a partnership with China Mobile, which reaches 650 million subscribers and has around a 70-percent share of the Chinese mobile market, is also a priority, but technological factors likely precludes official iPhone support until Apple creates a version specifically for China Mobile’s network.

Related research and analysis from GigaOM Pro:
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Thousands Of Hopefuls Line Up For Foxconn Jobs In China As Factory Ramps Up iPhone 5 Production

Despite recent reports detailing the mistreatment of factory workers assembling Apple products in China, there’s still a huge demand for jobs at the Foxconn factory. Thousands of people lined up for hours outside a recruitment agency in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou in the hope that they would be chosen to build iPhones at the Foxconn factory.

M.I.C. Gadget reports that the lines stretched a whopping 200 meters, with thousands of hopefuls clutching applications forms for the jobs in Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory as the company ramps up its iPhone production. — likely for the sixth-generation iPhone 5.

Foxconn is reportedly working with the city to expand its workforce with another 100,000 workers, who will start on a basic salary of 1650 yuan ($261).

After appraisal, that salary will rise to 2400 – 3200 yuan ($379-$506). That seems low, but workers will also live free within Foxconn dormitories, and they will not be required to pay for their own food. This is, according to M.I.C. Gadget’s report, what attracts so many young jobseekers to the role.

This influx of staff will reportedly help Foxconn ramp up iPhone production, and although it doesn’t mention the iPhone 5, this is likely to be the reason for the production boost. Apple has already caught up with iPhone 4S demand, so it’s doubtful these staff are required to increase production of the fifth-generation device.

This strengthens a previous report that claimed Foxconn is gearing up to produce the iPhone 5, ready for a launch this summer.

But the huge interest in these jobs will be a surprise to many, following recent reports that detail the harrowing conditions Chinese workers must suffer each day. Does this confirm Apple’s claims that those reports are misleading and inaccurate?

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