HTC deal sug­gests shift away from ‘war’


Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - Con­tin­ued from B

put­ers would be made in the U.S., or where the com­pany might lo­cate fa­cil­i­ties. But bring­ing as­sem­bly-line jobs back to the U.S. lights a sym­bolic bea­con of hope for work­ing-class Amer­i­cans who worry that the global econ­omy has no use for them.

Cook’s re­forms have been both in­ter­nal and out­ward-fac­ing. Ear­lier this year, he vis­ited the Chi­nese fac­to­ries where Ap­ple prod­ucts are as­sem­bled, amid an Ap­ple-fi­nanced au­dit of work­ing con­di­tions. Shortly af­ter, Fox­conn promised to limit work­ing hours and raise wages.

U.S. work­ers are get­ting a bet­ter deal too. The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported last month that Ap­ple will let some em­ploy­ees take up to two weeks of paid leave to work on pet projects that might ben­e­fit the com­pany. The pro­gram is sim­i­lar to a Google pol­icy that lets work­ers de­vote 20 per­cent of their time on en­tre­pre­neur­ial “hob­bies.”

In ad­di­tion, the com­pany matches em­ployee do­na­tions up to $10,000 a year. Cook him­self made $100 mil­lion in char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions early in the year, an­other con­trast to Jobs, who had lit­tle in­ter­est in phi­lan­thropy.

Un­der Cook, Ap­ple has also be­come more in­vestor-friendly. Jobs, per­haps scarred by Ap­ple’s lean years in the 1990s, was op­posed to Ap­ple part­ing with its cash re­serves. That led to the com­pany ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a nearly $100 bil­lion in cash by the end of his ten­ure — a hoard that in­vestors would have liked for them­selves.

This year, Ap­ple has be­gun shar­ing its wealth with in­vestors for the first time in two decades, by paying div­i­dends of nearly $10 bil­lion a year.

Cook’s di­plo­macy has ex­tended into en­emy ter- ri­tory. Jobs was fu­ri­ous that phones run­ning Google Inc.’s An­droid soft­ware mim­icked Ap­ple’s iPhone so closely and vowed to wage “ther­monu­clear war” against the com­pany through patent in­fringe­ment law­suits. The world­wide on­slaught of lit­i­ga­tion is still on­go­ing, but in early Novem­ber, Ap­ple agreed to a cease-fire on one front: It set­tled all its patent suits against Google part­ner HTC Corp., a Tai­wanese maker of smart­phones.

The terms were not dis­closed, but com­pany watch­ers be­lieve HTC will be paying Ap­ple roy­al­ties on HTC phones, and some saw it as a sign that Ap­ple was tak­ing a more ra­tio­nal stance and start­ing to put Jobs’ take-no-pris­on­ers fury be­hind it.

Carl Howe, an an­a­lyst with Yan­kee Group, says the emerg­ing im­age of a “softer” Ap­ple doesn’t mean Cook is a softie.

“Make no mis­take: he’s not nec­es­sar­ily a kind, gen­tle guy if he needs to get some­thing done. He’s a very hard-nosed, de­mand­ing boss,” Howe says.

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