This Time Apple Will Keep Its Manufacturing Improvements to Itself
J Thoendell stashed this in Tech
Apple revolutionized aluminum manufacturing when it adopted the unibody design for its MacBook Pro line of notebooks, advancing the production process in a way that benefitted the industry as a whole. Now, the company is poised to change the nature of sapphire manufacturing in a similar way, but this time the sole beneficiary will be Apple.
When Apple introduced the aluminum unibody MacBook Pros in 2008, the company was relying on third-party suppliers to provide the material needed for the notebook line. Backed by Apple's cash, manufacturers were able to streamline and scale up production to meet demand for the new unibody machines. Once rare, processes like aluminum extrusion and forging became commonplace, with Apple "reinventing a whole new supply chain around the material."
"Aluminum is now cheaper and easier to implement thanks to Apple itself," says noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. His assessment, shared by many others, is that Apple’s demand drove "related suppliers of aluminum casing to invest more on capacity and technology." They were all competing for the lucrative prize of satisfying the MacBook maker’s need to extrude, machine, anodize, and recycle vast quantities of the metal.
Apple may have kickstarted the aluminum revolution, but it did not control the production processes it advanced and the adoption of the metal spread across a variety of industries. With sapphire, Apple is taking a different approach. The company is again poised to overhaul a new manufacturing industry, but this time Apple is in a better position to keep most of the benefits to itself.
Apple has become quieter and more inward facing since Steve Jobs died.
I attribute this to the leadership of Tim Cook.