Talk about a sobering story. Just hours before Apple is expected to deliver its Q3 earnings via conference call, the Cupertino, California-based company is dealing with a tragedy halfway across the globe. Reports from China began popping up a few days ago that a man working in a Foxconn manufacturing facility had done the unthinkable: he had committed suicide, and he did so in part because of being connected to Apple.
Crazy, right? According to a variety of overseas reports, the employee decided to take his own life after a fourth-generation iPhone prototype that he was responsible for went missing. The 25 year old Sun Danyong was said to be liable for shipping these prototypes to Apple, and he had reported one unit missing after he could only locate 15 of the 16 that he was in possession of. Foxconn has been Apple's primary manufacturing partner for iPods and iPhones for years now, and if you're even loosely familiar with how Apple runs its business, you can maybe imagine just what kind of pressure Foxconn and its workers are under to keep things quiet.
Unlike most other consumer electronics companies, Apple keeps an insanely tight lid on everything that goes on within its operations. No one outside of its inner circle ever knows anything. For instance, take a look at Intel
, which is a massive company in its own right. Right now, the company knows that everyone realizes a Core i5 is on the way out, even though it's not shipping. No big deal, right? Now, look at Apple. If you head to the firm's website to customize a Mac, you have no idea how soon these machines will be refreshed. You never know what's around the bend. If Intel releases a new chip tomorrow, we will have known about it for at least a small while. If Apple unveils a new Mac tomorrow, it will be a surprise. It's just how the company works.
To that end, we can imagine that everyone in contact with proprietary Apple
devices at Foxconn was held under the strictest rules. We read some reports that said the man may have just been terrified at what would happen to him or his family should the unit emerge online in some form of "leak." It begs the question: would this have happened to an employee responsible for wares from any other company? We understand that losing a prototype is unfortunate, potentially harmful to the company, even; but we highly doubt Dell or HP would fly off the handle and disgrace someone or their family over it. Apple, on the other hand, may have put such pressure on the workers to keep tabs on devices that he simply let his imagination get out of control.
Whatever the case, a Foxconn employee is no longer alive due to fear of what would happen after he lost a next-gen iPhone prototype. Usually, Apple steadfastly refuses to comment on rumors or future products, but considering that it did issue a statement over this, it all but confirms that his death and some future iPhone were linked. Apple's statement in full is below:
"We are saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee, and we are awaiting results of the investigations into his death," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told CNET on Tuesday. "We require our suppliers to treat all workers with dignity and respect."