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Dell, HP look into suicides at Foxconn China plant

iPad global rollout to start in Australia, Japan, Europe
Sydney (AFP) May 27, 2010 - Apple's much-hyped iPad will go on sale in a swathe of countries from Australia and Japan to Europe on Friday at the start of a global rollout tipped to change the face of computing. The touchscreen tablet device went on sale in the United States on April 3 and was due to hit the global market in late April, but unprecedented US demand forced Apple to push the date back a month. Apple said earlier this month it sold one million iPads in the first 28 days in the United Stites, less than half the time it took for the company to sell the same number of iPhones. Diehard Australian fans braved wind and rain to be the first to get their hands on the multimedia gadget, with self-confessed Apple fanatic Rahul Koduri staging a 30-hour vigil to secure his spot at the head of the queue. Prepared with blankets, jumpers, chairs and a sleeping bag, Koduri took the day off work and established himself outside Sydney's flagship Apple store at 2:00 am on Thursday (1600 GMT on Wednesday), some 30 hours before the doors opened. "I want to be the first to get it," said Koduri, a 22-year-old aerospace engineering student, as he waited in line.

"The experience of going to an Apple store and buying it -- there's just no other company like that. It's like a cathedral when you're inside there." Hardcore fans gathered outside Apple stores worldwide for Friday's global release, with the iPad to go on sale for the first time in Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland. A Wi-Fi version of the iPad, which allows users to watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the Web or read electronic books, went on sale in the United States on April 3 starting at 499 dollars. A model featuring both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular connectivity appeared on US store shelves on April 30 for up to 829 dollars. More than 5,000 applications have been developed for the iPad, according to an Apple spokesman, in addition to the 200,000 programs already available for the iPhone or the iPod Touch, most of which run on the iPad. "The number of apps that this has is just amazing," said Koduri, who was second in line for the next-generation iPhone 3GS and sixth to nab the original iPhone when it went on sale in Sydney. California-based Apple plans to bring the iPad to Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 27, 2010
Computer giants Dell and Hewlett-Packard said Thursday they were looking into conditions at a Chinese factory owned by the Taiwanese supplier Foxconn, as state media reported another attempted suicide.

The statements came a day after Apple said it was investigating the situation at Foxconn's vast plant in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen following the deaths of 11 of its workers in apparent suicides.

The deaths have raised concerns over how workers are treated at Foxconn, which assembles Apple's best-selling iPhone, and factories across China.

"We're investigating the reports. Any reports of poor working conditions in Dell's supply chain are investigated and, if warranted, appropriate action is taken," Dell spokeswoman Sharon Zhang told AFP.

"We expect our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities."

An HP spokesperson said: "As with all concerns that are raised about our suppliers, HP is investigating the Foxconn practices that may be associated with these tragic events."

Activists and employees have said the estimated 300,000-400,000 workers at Foxconn's Shenzhen plant face long hours, low pay and heavy pressure.

On Wednesday, an Apple spokeswoman said the company was "deeply committed to ensuring that conditions throughout our supply chain are safe and workers are treated with respect and dignity."

China's official Xinhua news agency said another Foxconn employee Thursday had tried, but failed, to kill himself at the Shenzhen plant by slashing his veins.

That came after Xinhua said a man jumped to his death at the complex late Wednesday, and that police had confirmed it was a suicide.

The death brought the toll of apparent suicides at the Shenzhen site this year to 10, with another death reported at a Foxconn plant in northern China. Two other employees sustained serious injuries in similar falls.

Officials at Foxconn, which is owned by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision, were not immediately available to comment Thursday about the latest suicide.

Thursday's suicide attempt came a day after a visit by the group's chairman to Shenzhen to show his concern, amid reports of plans to relocate staff to western China, where they would be closer to home.

Hon Hai chairman Terry Gou publicly apologised for the deaths but defended the company's labour practices, saying some of the suicides may have been linked to personal problems.

The Shenzhen factory complex, which is a virtual city-within-a-city, boasts banks, bakeries, a 24-hour market, gurgling fountains and even an acupuncturist.

Foxconn is urging workers to sign contracts promising not to kill themselves, according to media reports, which also said employees must agree to go to psychiatric institutions if their mental health turns "abnormal".

The company was also said to be hanging safety nets around buildings at its sprawling factory.

In Taiwan, media outlets reported that Foxconn was planning to move some facilities to the west of China so that workers -- many of them migrants in their teens and 20s -- could remain closer to their families.

"We will let young people return to their hometowns to work so they can feel the warmth of home," Gou said after meeting a visiting delegation from southwest China's Sichuan province, the Economic Daily News reported.

Hon Hai plans to invest tens of billions of Taiwan dollars (hundreds of million US) in northwest China and transfer around 80,000 workers back to Sichuan, said the Commercial Times, citing unnamed sources.


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Sony to challenge Apple in Japan with e-reader
Tokyo (AFP) May 27, 2010
Sony said Thursday it will launch an e-reader in Japan and set up a platform for newspapers, books, comics and magazines, challenging rival Apple a day before its iPad goes on sale in the country. The Japanese electronics giant plans to build "one of the largest eBook distribution platforms in Japan," with telecoms operator KDDI, the Asahi Shimbun company and Toppan printing company, it adde ... read more

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