Weekend news round-up: Grads choose tech over finance, Apple’s Asian supply chain

11 Nov 2013

In our round-up of tech news from the weekend, the sheer scale of the Apple iPhone supply chain in Asia, Evan Williams’ start-up Medium, and researchers reveal a way to hack smartphone PINs using cameras.

Apple’s human supply chain

An article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek highlighted the sheer scale of the supply chain in Asia making Apple’s iPhone juggernaut happen. At the heart of it is people, and the all-consuming phone-manufacturing machine can’t get enough of them.

“Apple, of course, is a designer, not a builder – it says so right on the back of every iPhone box. The builders, such as Foxconn, get the parts for Apple’s products from suppliers that are gigantic companies in their own right. One of Apple’s largest suppliers is Flextronics International, a contract manufacturer based in Singapore with about 28m sq feet of factory space spread across four continents, including a plant in an industrial area south of Kuala Lumpur. That’s where the cameras (Apple senior vice-president of worldwide marketing) Phil Schiller raved about would be made. That meant Flextronics had to crank up its own supply chain. And that required sourcing and importing people – an army of them – to man factory lines.”

Rationally speaking … in long form

As the dust settles on Twitter’s extraordinarily successful IPO, the New York Times published an interview with co-founder Evan Williams and his new start-up Medium.

“Williams is a contemplative 41-year-old Nebraskan turned billionaire, at least on paper, as of Thursday when Twitter went public. If Twitter redefined the frontier of communications, Medium is trying to reclaim some of the lost territory.

“Broadly speaking, Medium is a blogging platform, meaning it’s a place for people to write and read posts. And Mr Williams, as its CEO, hopes that it will allow thoughtful, longer-form writing to flourish. Mr Williams frankly acknowledges that the medium of Medium is not new. In fact, he says he’s reaching back to the once-du-jour notion of blogging because, in the frenzy to build social communications tools, something has been left behind: rationality.”

Business grads choose tech over Wall Street

The Wall Street Journal reported that a record number of business-school graduates from top schools are choosing jobs in the technology sector, as interest in finance continues to show marked declines.

“At Harvard Business School, 18pc of job-seeking students landed tech-sector spots this year, up from 12pc in 2012. A similar shift is under way at the business schools at Yale University and Cornell University, where the share of graduates going into tech more than doubled over the past two years. Meanwhile, just 27pc of Harvard Business School graduates took jobs in finance this year, down from 35pc last year. That figure dropped to 16pc from 27pc at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

“And at Stanford Graduate School of Business, historically a haven for digitally minded graduates, tech companies overtook financial services for the first time this year, with 32pc of the class accepting tech jobs and just 26pc heading into finance. Two years ago, those figures were 13pc and 36pc, respectively.”

White House considers civilian chief for NSA

America’s bruised and reeling National Security Agency (NSA) may get a civilian chief as revelations by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden continue to emerge, TheHill.com reported at the weekend.

“The current head of the NSA, Keith Alexander, a four-star Army general, plans to step down in the spring. The move could help lead to more transparency and oversight in the wake of disclosures by Edward Snowden about the scope of the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs. But finding the right civilian candidate with the technical understanding and familiarity with intelligence gathering would be a difficult task.”

Security is in the eye of the [smartphone] holder

GigaOM reported that researchers at the University of Cambridge have demonstrated an attack that can reveal the PIN codes for sensitive apps, such as those for banking, by tapping into the device’s microphone and camera.

The researchers said: “By recording audio during PIN input, we can detect touch events. By recording video from the front camera during PIN input, we can retrieve the frames that correspond to touch events. Then we extract orientation changes from the touch-event frames, and we show that it is possible to infer which part of the screen is touched by users.”

Business grad image via Shutterstock

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years