Our Modern World

One of my laptop computers has finally died, after three+ years. Always a bittersweet moment: sad for the expense and hassle, quietly excited for the excuse to shop around and see what the intervening years have offered on the tech front.

So I order a new one, a snazzy improved model, about which intend to say more later. En route tracking info has just arrived from the major US-brand producer. (OK, Apple.) I have to compliment them on truth-in-advertising, or at least truth-in-tracking.


I don't remember manufacturers being this explicit about the pickup point the last time I ordered a computer online. The "picked up in Shanghai" notation is evidence of the process I described in the magazine several years ago - an order being placed on the website of Apple (or some other US company), and ten seconds later, work on "order fulfillment" getting underway up in a factory in Shenzhen, Xiamen (for Dell), or the environs. I'll assume that FedEx deserves the credit for being this transparent about where the package is actually starting out -- by which I mean, I'll bet that when the package arrives, Apple's "return" address will be in California, Illinois, or some place domestic-sounding, not "Shanghai CN." Whoever is responsible, I appreciate having this extra bit of realistic data about the world.

No implied policy point here: it's just interesting, and it's the first time I remember seeing such data on the "track your package" site for something I've bought. And, if you go back to the original article, you'll see an explanation of how so much of the money from this kind of transaction ends up in the hands of Apple (Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc), Intel (AMD, etc), FedEx (DHL, etc) rather than of the Chinese subcontractors who put it all together -- and of why the Chinese government is trying so hard to figure out how to capture more of those gains for its own companies.