Apple orders PC builder to dump ASUS? Probably not

Don't believe everything you read in the media.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Yesterday, a report surfaced on the Chinese website Commercial Times (Google Translate here) claiming that Apple had approached PC builder Pegatron and told them to 'choose sides'. Either it can build the MacBook Air for Apple or the Zenbook for ASUS, but it cannot do both.

The report goes on to claim that ASUS has approached two other Taiwanese manufacturers, Compal and Wistron, asking them to build the Zenbook. Based on this one unsourced piece, dozens of tech websites have jumped on the story, claiming that Apple is acting anti-competitively and in a monopolistic manner.

There's so much wrong with this that I don't know where to begin:

  • First, there's no source for the story. Either that, or it has been totally lost in translation.
  • Secondly, this whole story hinges on the fact that Apple is somehow worried or threatened by the ASUS Zenbook, something which I highly doubt.
  • This whole 'choose sides' thing sounds too much like evil genius speak than it does the way a multi-billion dollar and multi-national company might carry out talk.
  • The business world is more complex that asking players to choose sides. Apple and Pegatron (and Pegatron and all of its other customers) will have contracts. Now it's possible that the Apple-Pegatron and ASUS-Pegatron contracts were in the process of being renegotiated, but if that wasn't the case, I don't see how Pegatron could be forced to choose sides (or even if willing, actually be able to do that without it being a breach of contract).
  • I've been hearing rumors for a while now that ASUS was looking to shift production from Pegatron for cost and scale reasons. Is entirely possible that ASUS is moving production, but that this has nothing to do with pressure from Apple.
  • If this story is true, why isn't ASUS using it to beat Apple over the head with in the media?
  • If Apple has a problem with Pegatron being involved in the design and manufacture of hardware that looks like Apple stuff, then why not pressure other companies such as Foxconn?
  • Apple can't really afford to throw its weight around with manufacturing and design companies like some in the media think it can. It can't just click its fingers and make sweeping changes because it is reliant on these companies to bring products to market. It would take Apple easily five years -- if not more -- to be able to get to a position where it could start doing he work of even a fraction of its supply chain. As much clout as we might think that Apple has, I don't see it having enough to start brandishing ultimatums and possibly burning bridges.
  • The story feeds into this image of Apple being some pushy, evil company treading on everyone and everything to get its way. It asks us to suspend disbelief and go on with that train of thinking without offering a shred of proof.
  • I've seen claims that Pegatron was using Apple proprietary 'ring fenced' technology to build the Zenbook. If that were the case, why would Apple want too deal with Pegatron any more? Surely the Cupertino giant would be displeased and have dumped the disloyal company into its purpose-built shark tank, Bond villain style.

Sorry, but when your entire house of cards story is built on a foundation of an unsourced 'rumor' (I've got to put that word in quotes) then it's hard to give the 'story' (more quotes...) any credibility.

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