Questions remain after Friday's tragic explosion at the Foxconn iPad 2 factory in Chengdu, China. Will shipments of the iPad 2 be delayed? Foxconn says not. Will the iPhone 5 release date change? That's less clear. And, of course, people want to know how the conflagration happened and how it can be prevented in future. Let's see where we are, in The Long View...
It's time for a followup to Saturday's extraordinary IT Blogwatch. If you recall, an explosion at a Foxconn iPad 2 manufacturing plant killed three and injured 15. Since the weekend, more details have emerged, as has official guidance on the impact on the iPad 2 backorder situation.
First, the somewhat-good news: since death #3 was announced on Sunday, no further fatalities have been recorded.
This could have been much, much worse. I vividly remember a science teacher at high school showing my class how much energy gets released by igniting a tiny amount of fine powder suspended in air in a confined space. Truly frightening.
Also in the good news department, Foxconn has released a statement that indicates iPad 2 production won't be affected. Here's my attempt at a translation into English (aided by good ol's Google Translate):
The accidental explosion ... affected only part of the warehouse and painting production line, will not delay shipment Apple iPad 2. ... The production line is not affected and continues operations, but capacity will be increased in the Shenzhen iPad factories. The iPad 2 parts procurement plan is also unaffected.
However, the effect on the next iPhone's release date is less clear.
As one wag pointed out on Saturday, how can you have a "delay" in an unannounced product? Well, the question is, of course, about the delay to the schedule, whether or not that schedule has been revealed. (Aside: my working assumption is for an iPhone 5 or 4S announcement in September.)
Foxconn and the local authorities are dealing with the incident in a way that's causing some concerns.
As Star Chang reports, the lack of openness is notable, for those of us used to the Western way of doing things:
Taiwan CTiTV has arrived at the spot and they have reported the latest status. ... Compared to the local press, press from Taiwan has not much restriction ... so they are reporting the truth on what they have seen. ... There are no headline news on Foxconn factory explosion in all local newspapers.
Five hundred meters away ... a road block has been set up, to restrict any unrelated persons ... including the press. ... The police who is in charged of the road block, has been very unkindly to Xinhua news reporters, video camera has been smashed and split in half. Whats more, photo camera has been ... confiscated by 3 police officers. ... One of the escaped employees describes the explosion ... but he was too afraid to disclose anymore information to the TV reporter.
I sincerely hope these concerns are felt in Cupertino. As we saw with the spate of Foxconn worker suicides, the working conditions of contract manufacturing staff reflects directly on Apple's brand image.
What's your take? Leave a comment below...
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. As well as The Long View, he's also the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch -- for which he has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards on behalf of IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: TLV@richij.com. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.