#161: Apple’s supply chain, China and Vision Pro

Patrick McGee is the FT’s San Francisco correspondent covering Apple and US technology. He was previously in Frankfurt, writing about the Volkswagen scandal and the challenge to German carmakers from electric vehicles and self-driving tech. He joined the Financial Times in 2013 to cover Asian markets from Hong Kong.

He was previously a bond reporter at the Wall Street Journal in New York. He has a Master’s in Global Diplomacy from Soas, University of London, and a degree in religious studies from the University of Toronto.

Listen to the full discussion here:

  • Stream by clicking here.
  • Download as an MP3 here.



Connect with the Guest:

Patrick McGee: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • How Patrick started writing about tech, specifically Apple
  • Will AI be a driving force in what happens in the tech world?
  • Biggest geopolitical challenges for Apple’s supply chain and manufacturing
  • What will happen to Apple if the conflict between China and Taiwan continues
  • The future of Apple’s supply chain

Show notes:

  • [00:31] How and why did you end up writing on tech and particularly about Apple?
  • [01:56] What’s your take on Vision Pro?
  • [03:26] “I think Vision Pro achieved its purpose in the interim, which is to sort of draw in more employees and display Apple as a great company that you should go work for if you’re a top engineer. And it really gives the entire developer community a sense that Apple understands what the future is.”
  • [05:59] How do you kind of see artificial intelligence as a driving force in what happens in the tech world?
  • [07:59] “AI is ridiculously impressive but it also has a host of ethical concerns and stuff that basically if Apple were the company behind it, it would have a very different reputation.”
  • [09:46] Summarize a little bit the key findings around how you made the point that Apple got trapped in China. 
  • [11:23] “My main argument is that the biggest achievement of Apple over the last two decades has now become its biggest vulnerability because they didn’t really anticipate the geopolitical shift.” 
  • [12:06] For the iPhones, I think 95% is China of the manufacturing and you did make a point that they’re trying to put it in India. Do you see that succeeding? And how long will it take to create another alternative to China, if it’s even possible at all?
  • [13:43] ”…Apple basically has not woken up to it, and arguably, to some extent cannot because they are not in a position to move their supply chain.”
  • [16:54] If China does attack Taiwan, what happens to Apple? What happens to their supply chain?
  • [17:11] “Apple is the largest company in the world. It makes about $400 billion of revenue per year, 80% of that is hardware and 95% of that figure is all made in China. On top of that 100% of Apple’s chips that they design are all manufactured by TSMC, in Taiwan.”
  • [18:14] “The complexity of Apple’s supply chain is what allows it to be sort of like a luxury product and at the same time is handcrafted and built for the masses. But if there were to be a major geopolitical blow-up with China or Taiwan, the easier manufacturing capabilities of Samsung might very well be an asset.”
  • [19:28] How do you see it playing out, not only for Apple but for the other technology companies in the next three years? What do you think is likely to happen as big trends?
  • [20:21] “It’s hard to put too much blame on Apple for doubling down on China, when in fact, all of us, like literally 240 million people a year are buying iPhones knowing that it’s built in China. So in other words, the blame is sort of spread around, like if consumers don’t care that something’s made in China, then Apple doesn’t necessarily need to care.” 
  • [22:02] Is there such a place where they could actually get the same quality and the same speed?
  • [25:04] “There was a study a few years ago that looked at migratory patterns within countries, there were 80 countries in the study, and India was dead last in terms of people moving around.”
  • [26:49] “I’m open to disagreement. I’m open to being proven wrong, in a sense, I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t see another country on par with China, or even on a path to get there in the next few years. “
  • [29:19] How easy is it to find the people in those markets to run it?
  • [32:22] “Everything you think about the previous Cold War really doesn’t apply because of the economic interdependency here. Elon Musk said recently, “If you want to decouple these economies, it’s like performing a surgical operation between conjoined twins, the risk is that both die.”

Quotes from the Episode:

About the Host:

The host, Radu Palamariu is the co-author of “From Source to Sold – Stories of Leadership in Supply Chain”. He has been named one of the top 3 Global Supply Chain Influencers on LinkedIn and was featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, WEF, Bangkok Post, and MIT Supply Chain Talent magazine. Radu invites executives to share stories and perspectives around technology, logistics, e-commerce, supply chain, and manufacturing, and their views on how the future will look.

Alcott Global connects and upgrades the supply chain ecosystem by finding the right talent through executive search, developing talent through learning solutions, and meeting supply chain technology needs through a comprehensive crunch base marketplace.

The supply chain executive search has been our focus since the very beginning, offering recruitment services for top-tier supply chain roles at every level of the end-to-end supply chain: plan, source / procure, make, and deliver. Our consultants have years of experience in placing top talent, in North America, LATAM, Europe, the Middle East & Africa, and APAC, and besides speed, one of our biggest strengths is our network within the supply chain industry, and we capitalize on it to find the best solutions.

Through the years, we have grown as an organization and our offerings with it. One of our initiatives, the learning solutions- training and supply chain academy, is focused on transforming leadership- self-leadership, executive presence, influence capital, and business acumen. Through Supplify, we aim to match corporations with the top technology companies to solve their supply chain and logistics challenges with a focus on innovation and digital transformation.

We are in constant touch with the leaders in supply chain, inviting them to inspire the supply chain professionals in thought-provoking podcast episodes and events, and showcasing what is possible at the yearly Leaders in Supply Chain Awards.

Related Episodes:

#158: Leading with Authenticity and Integrity

#159: Logistics in Saudi Arabia and Development Vision for 2030

#160: From Mom of 3 to COO: The Unconventional Climb




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