Pegatron faces renewed labor scrutiny after death of under-age worker at iPhone 5c factory [Updated]

China Foxconn

Update: Apple has issued a statement stating that it sent medical experts to investigate and found no link to the boy’s employment. It has not commented on the fact that the worker was under-age, but it has been revealed that he used his 21-year-old cousin’s ID to get the job.

Last month we sent independent medical experts from the U.S. and China to conduct an investigation of the (Pegatron) factory. While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realize that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones.

Apple has a long-standing commitment to providing a safe and healthy workplace for every worker in our supply chain, and we have a team working with Pegatron at their facility to ensure that conditions meet our high standards.

Original story:

China Labor Watch says Pegatron has failed to properly explain the deaths of five young workers at a factory making the iPhone 5c, including one who was found to be just 15 years old, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Pegatron, the Taiwanese manufacturer that employed him, said the workplace environment at the Shanghai plant was not the cause of his illness. But a spokeswoman acknowledged that several other young workers at the factory had also died in the past few months […]

“Considering the sudden deaths of five people and the similar reason of the deaths, we believe there should be some relations between the tragedy and the working conditions in the factory,” said Li Qiang, who runs China Labor Watch …  Read more

Apple Australia hit with $28.5M in back taxes after questionable use of tax havens

Days after executives from Google, Amazon, and others were grilled by regulators in the United Kingdom over the issue of tax avoidance in Europe, The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Apple’s Australian arm has been hit with a $28.5 million bill for back taxes in the country:

APPLE AUSTRALIA has been hit with a $28.5 million bill for back taxes, statements lodged with the corporate regulator in April show… News of the Tax Office bill comes as European governments put global technology companies under intense pressure over their complex ownership structures that rely heavily on a network of tax havens… Apple’s Australian arm reaped $4.9 billion in revenue last year through the sale of its computers, iPads and iPhones. The bill takes its total tax tab for the year ending September 24, 2011, to $94.7 million.

Earlier this year, The New York Times profiled how Apple uses tax havens, such as Nevada, Ireland, and Luxembourg, to sidestep taxes in both the United States and Europe. The U.K. isn’t the only country putting pressure on technology multinationals over tax avoidance schemes, SMH also noted the French government requested $252 million USD in back taxes from Amazon, a company that also uses Luxembourg as a tax haven for its Europe operations, earlier this week. Read more

Australian airliner moves to iPhones for business, iPads for pleasure

Australian airline Qantas previously announced it is dropping BlackBerry in favor of Apple’s iPhone and issuing iPads to pilots, but now it is rolling out iPads to passengers to compliment a new in-flight entertainment streaming service.

Qantas is abandoning RIM due to a recently conducted employee survey that indicated airline staffers prefer Apple’s smartphone offering. CIO Paul Jones told The Sydney Morning Herald that the iPhone offers a “user-friendly interface and simple access to emails, contacts and calendars, as well as meeting all Qantas’ security requirements.”

Staff members can also carry Android devices under the airline’s bring-your-own-device policy. The move to Apple’s iPhone will save Qantas millions of dollars, as will transitioning to the iPad to replace costly paper in the cockpit, according to NewStraitTimes. The airline will dole 2,200 iPads to pilots to improve communication and cutback on printed charts and manuals. The 64Gb iPads with 3G will save the airline about $1.5 million annually.

“Transition from the BlackBerry to the iPhone is part of Qantas’ broader mobility strategy and, once complete, will result in significant cost savings,” said a Qantas spokesperson.

With the full-scale shift to iOS in progress, Qantas further announced it plans to launch QStreaming across its B767 fleet. Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi revealed customers travelling on a Qantas’ B767 aircraft would now experience “in-flight entertainment streamed direct to iPads in every seat.”

“Following the successful trial of our QStreaming service this year, we will partner with Panasonic and use their eXW solution to provide over 200 hours of on-demand IFE content via iPads to every passenger in Business and Economy travelling on our B767 fleet,” Strambi explained. “QStreaming will be available free of charge to all our passengers across the B767 fleet.

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Australian parliament launches probe into Apple price gouging, as Apple TV hits Brazil for $211

Apple and other technology companies will soon have to answer the Australian Parliament as to why content from iTunes costs more for Australian consumers than United States consumers. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy has now signed off on a parliamentary inquiry that will carry out sometime this year by the standing committee on infrastructure and communications from the House of Representatives.

The report noted the inquiry could extend to eBooks if evidence of price increases for Australian consumers comes to light. In July 2011, Apple cut the price of iOS apps in Australia by up to 25 percent in response to criticism from many, such as federal Labor MP Ed Husic, who raised the issue in Parliament. However, the inquiry will be the first time Apple is asked by Parliament to explain its pricing strategies for the Australian market. The issue surfaced once again last week with the release of Adobe’s latest software suite, which costs up to $1,400 more for Australians.

Husic also raised similar pricing complaints over Apple’s hardware products, which is something that the Brazilian market is experiencing today with the release of the new Apple TV:

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Samsung: Apple Television is old news. Smart TV is the future and already here

When Steve Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson that he finally “cracked the code” to building an integrated television set that is user-friendly and seamlessly syncs with all of your devices, Samsung Australia’s Director of Audiovisual Philip Newton told the Sydney Morning Herald that Jobs’ was talking about connectivity.

He laughed off the mythical iTV and dissed Jobs’ TV brain wave as “nothing new,” saying the future is now and it is his company’s Smart TVs:

When Steve Jobs talked about he’s ‘cracked it’, he’s talking about connectivity – so we’ve had that in the market already for 12 months, it’s nothing new, it was new for them because they didn’t play in the space. It’s old news as far as the traditional players are concerned and we have broadened that with things like voice control and touch control; the remote control for these TVs has a touch pad.

Samsung is promoting Smart TVs left and right at the CES show that is underway this week in Las Vegas. The company is showing off apps and games such as Angry Birds running smoothly on Smart TVs. Feature-wise, Samsung Smart TVs are beating Google TVs to the punch with capabilities such as voice interaction, facial recognition, integrated camera controls for multi-video conferencing and multitasking.

Sony, Panasonic and LG are also pushing integrated television sets built around the Smart TV platform. While not officially an exhibitor, Apple reportedly dispatched 250 employees to attend the show and monitor what competition is doing; among them is the head of iOS product marketing Greg Joswiak. Apple has been rumored for months to launch 32- and 37-inch television sets in the summer of 2012. Does Samsung see Apple as a threat?

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Samsung markets Galaxy Tab as “the tablet Apple tried to stop”

Last week Samsung got to breathe a sigh of relief as an Australian court ruled they didn’t “slavishly copy” the iPad with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, as Apple has been insisted from the onset in court documents. Yesterday, the South Korean company told the Sydney Morning Herald that the court cases have helped make their device a “household name” and today we are seeing the Galaxy Tab maker taking advantage of the media spotlight and the fact that it’s been in the headlines thanks to lawsuits and those cheesy commercials.

As tweeted by Martin Aungle, an Australian corporate and marketing communications professional, Samsung is now pitching its device as “the tablet Apple tried to stop”. The above advert ran in the Sun-Herald newspaper this week. Samsung has obviously decided to up the stakes in this game considering they resisted up until now mentioning Apple by name in their marketing communication. We’ll see, of course, whether publicly celebrating its courtroom victory at Apple’s expense will have any effect on sales.

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