What is actually in an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook? Apple doesn’t like to discuss it and its suppliers had long been an industrial secret. Reports of poor labor conditions at supplier factories have brought Apple considerable criticism over the years. This prompted Apple to publicize a list of its suppliers for 2011. 156 names were on the list which, according to Apple, meet 97 percent of its production needs.
But what was previously unknown was the fact that in addition to Asian firms, Apple has for years also been supplied by two Austrian companies, AT&S and austriamicrosystems (AMS). Both based in Styria, AMS makes semiconductors and AT&S produces printed circuit boards. Martin Theyer is communications director at AT&S. When contacted by futurezone he said, “Apple recently published a list of its suppliers, but we have strict requirements not to provide any more information to the public.” Theyer added that Apple reserves the sole right to issue any further information to the public about its supply chain.
The spokesperson for AMS, Ulrike Anderwald, says, “Apple is widely known to use extreme discretion, especially when it relates to the development of new products.” “Apple is a very discerning customer,” she added.
iPad, iPhone and MacBooksAMS, however, did allow a brief glimpse behind the curtain of secrecy. “Our optical sensors, these are primarily ambient light sensors and approach sensors, can be found in a large number of Apple products. This includes iPhones, iPads and iPods, as well as MacBooks,” according to Anderwald. Additionally, and to a much lesser extent, AMS chips are used in the power management (energy-saving) systems of various devices.
AMS says that Apple is currently one of the biggest customers of the company, which is based in Unterpremstätten, Styria. AMS, however, refuses to discuss the issue of direct profits from Apple. “We have been able to consider Apple a reliable client for a number of years. Involvement has increased with last year’s takeover of the American company TAOS (Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Systems),” says Ulrike Anderswald. AMS-TAOS is among the world’s largest suppliers of ambient and approach sensors. She explains that ambient light measuring and approach recognition integrated solutions allow for environmentally-friendly displays because they reduce energy emissions. AMS maintains that it is the “first choice” for Apple in the field of light sensors.
Internationally SuccessfulAT&S and AMS both don’t just supply only Apple, but also a number of other big players in the world of technology. With 7,500 employees worldwide, AT&S also supplies companies such as Nokia, Siemens, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Sony. 2010-2011 saw AT&S make sales of 487.9 million euros. Alongside its production lines for cell phones and industrial electronics, the company also is an important circuit board supplier for automobile electronics and medical technology.
AMS (with 1,300 employees globally) supply firms such as Siemens, Continental, Nokia, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson. Ulrike Anderwald: “ Many of our customers are leading international companies which trust AMS to be their sole supplier.” The circuit board manufacturer is mainly concentrated in the fields of power management, sensors and interface, as well as entertainment technology. 2010 AMS reported sales of 209.4 million euros.
Sound Solutions is another Austrian firm which has successfully made and supplied products to the giants of the IT world. It is a leader in the production of loudspeakers and amplifiers for cellular phones. The company has for years supplied cell phone-makers from Apple to Samsung to Nokia. Sound Solutions, which was originally a subsidiary of NXP Semiconductors (formerly Philips), was taken over in 2010 by the US company Dover in a deal worth 855 milllion euros.