2018: The Year Apple Products Became Obsolete

Is 2018 the year that the global symbol of U.S. technological innovation became obsolete? Or is it the year when we began to realise a reality that has actually been the case for a while?

Not so long ago, it was a given that Apple products would be manufactured in China, but that the crucial value-adding would take place in the United States’ infamous Silicon Valley. In this way, companies like Apple could maintain a stranglehold on the global supply chain. No matter that it was often Chinese whizz-kids who were actually in Silicon Valley, finding new ways to keep Apple in front and ensuring the final value-adding.

In 2018 a few small but significant shifts took place. Let put this in terms of personal experience. A couple of years ago and against my better instincts, I had accepted a Macbook Air from an employer. I eventually became used to the machine, even with its counter-intuitive and closed structures. It had a good battery and good modem inside and it seemed to work passably well for the first year or so. But it was always a frustrating piece of equipment. After a year or so, its basic clunkiness became more apparent. Despite all the vaunted hype by Apple enthusiasts, I found it no better than other machines I had used earlier.

In late 2017 I was fed up. In Beijing I bought a new Xiami laptop, which had recently been launched. At all levels, it is simple a superior piece of equipment. Xiaomi’s aim is to produce the best possible product at a reasonable price. This one was about half the cost of a Macbook Air. What had happened? I thought. Is this an anomaly? No, the value-adding had all taken place in China.

I could repeat these observations concerning the Xiaomi phones, but perhaps Huawei is a better example. In 2018 Huawei produced the world’s best smart phone, with integrated AI (artificial intelligence) and a ‘killer’ camera developed by Leica. Its global market share surged past Apple, and is now just behind Samsung. In a couple of years, it will become the world’s top-selling smartphone.

Is this a sudden development? Not at all, for the enmeshed socialist market economy of China has been in this path for a number of years. Technological breakthroughs – from high-speed trains, through bridge construction to smart phones and quantum communication – have been actively fostered. For example, for some years now more new patents are registered from Zhongguancun (near where I live in Beijing) than from Silicon Valley. While the former has been attracting more and more global talent, the latter has seen a brain drain.

In this light, the crude efforts – by one or two countries such as the United States and Australia – to suggest that Huawei, for example, is a ‘security risk’ should be seen for what they are: desperate rear-guard actions to try and restore the fortunes of companies like Apple.

The catch is that people know the technology is now increasingly obsolete and yet one is supposed to pay a premium price for such technology.

As someone from India – where Chinese high-tech products are in very high demand – put it: I am sick of the United Stated forcing obsolete technology on the rest of the world at gunpoint.

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8 thoughts on “2018: The Year Apple Products Became Obsolete

  1. It’s interesting to note that the UK refuses to buy in to the supposed security risks of Huawei phones, at least so far. The way Apple operates by trying to avoid tax has made them no friends in government.The company has also been featured in documentaries, for the poor pay and working conditions of its employees in China. That said, the latest Apple phone continues to be the ‘must-have’ status symbol here.
    We will have nothing to do with Apple in our house, and we refuse to buy their products. From charging cables, to any useful accessory, they make you buy into their systems, and at inflated, premium prices. My wife uses Samsung, and I use HP and HTC. The only thing I prefer about Apple is their rather wonderful screens. But I would never give them my money just to have one.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I am told that New Zealand has taken the same path, but these are a handful of countries (even less than the dozen or so that are beating up misinformation about Xinjiang). Even in Australia, with its hyper-Sinophobia and its attendant racism among the political elite, Huawei phones are widely available. Perhaps those who make such calls are fully aware that any dip in the China-Australia economic relationship would lead to Australia’s first recession in 27 years.

  2. Prescient, considering the furore over the US-Canada kidnapping of the Huawei exec. Some equally prescient analysis from an Italian comrade.

    “The only reason for US-EU to ban Huawei & not others is the nationality of the People’s Republic of China. A WTO country treated as an enemy because it is in fact an enemy, in an economic & intelligence war that has not yet moved to the military level.” – https://lottobre.wordpress.com/2018/10/13/infrastruttura-5g-e-huawei-tra-guerra-e-de-globalizzazione/

    1. Especially since people are beginning to realise that Huawei is the only real 5G provider in the world. The network will be rolled out over China in 2019, another part of its leap into the future, leaving the rest of the world behind.
      The joke in Australia is that getting someone else to do 5G would be like the massive flop called NBN (National Broadband Network): it is very expensive and slower than the old system.
      And warnings are now coming from China to avoid visiting places like Australia, which will lead to Australia’s first recession in 27 years.

  3. From the Guardian this morning: “Meng’s arrest took place on the same day the US president, Donald Trump, met in Argentina with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to resolve an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies.”

    The USA are quiet deliberately provoking China. When my Apple contract ends next month I will switch to Huawei in solidarity. Such provocation is a precursor to war; it seems as if the USA may have decided they must act now while they still have military dominance. Most likely however it will simply accelerate USA decline.

    1. The fiacso with Meng is simply a kidnapping, but it seems like a significant turning point. While the USA tears itself apart and tries to pick fights with the Russia, China, Iran, EU countries and so on, its decline becomes more precipitous. The USA (and Australia if it is not careful) will slip behind faster than they realise.

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