I get the argument that Apple, which profits handsomely on the backs of cheap factory labor, has a special responsibility to improve labor conditions where it can. What I don't get is why PC users — not the companies but the hundreds of millions of customers — have been silent for so long, and why they were silent in all the years before Apple climbed to its current position at the top.
Well, maybe "silent" is not the word. PC users and hobbyists have long bragged about how much less they pay than Mac users for equivalent or greater horsepower. Yet, by this very argument, PC customers benefit far more from harsh labor conditions than Apple customers. And over the years many more Windows computers have been sold than Apple computers (another point of pride for the PC crowd). Which community has the greater guilt?
In the decades that Windows has dominated the desktop, why haven't PC customers used their power to force manufacturers to improve conditions? We never hear a PC hobbyist say, "I'm conflicted. I love the killer system I built for under $200, but I'm ashamed of exploiting people who have no right to unionize." We never hear noble offers to pay more for PC components, even as we are told the exact amount iPad owners should volunteer to pay so that Chinese workers can live a little better.
What's more important: humane working conditions, or saving twenty bucks on a graphics card that will let you play the latest game at 50 frames a second instead of 40? How many Xbox workers have to threaten suicide before somebody delivers a petition to Microsoft?
I'm being deliberately inflammatory here. I don't think there's a simple "me good, you bad" answer for either side. My point is that it's easy to point a finger if you never examine your own actions.
By the way, a really interesting book on migrant factory workers in China is "Factory Girls", by Leslie T. Chang.