Mike Isaac

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Cook on Apple’s Role in China and Manufacturing: “I Hope People Rip Us Off Blindly” (Video)

Apple is one of the most secretive companies in the world, keeping its product knowledge away from competitors, and close to the vest. But onstage at our annual D10 conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook made it clear that there’s one area in which Apple wants to be as open as possible: Manufacturing.

“This is an area where I think we’re advanced,” Cook said in conversation with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. “And I hope people rip us off blindly.”

Natch, while Apple products are designed in Cupertino, they’re all built overseas in China, predominantly by Foxconn’s massive manufacturing resources. But after taking much heat earlier this year for the company’s role in how Foxconn treats its workers, Apple undertook massive reforms to its accountability process, switching gears from an annual report to monthly updates.

To boot, the company has “put a ton of effort into taking overtime down,” referring to the extreme number of hours Chinese workers put into working at Foxconn’s plants, though Cook admits it’s a tricky situation. “Some people want to work a lot,” Cook said. “Some want to work a whole lot. We’ve taken a position and said we’re going to bring this down.”

The idea, according to Cook, is that Apple now has a responsibility to be an agent of change; if all eyes are on how Apple conducts business overseas, then other companies with major manufacturing resources in China will follow suit.

“We think that transparency is so important in these areas,” Cook said, “If we are [transparent], we think that other people will copy what we’re doing.”

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