|Just look at these statistics!|
Apple has created or supported more than 500,000 jobs. Phishing attacks cost the economy $234 billion a year. And giving social and mobile CRM tools to salespeople makes them 26.4 percent more productive. All these preposterous numbers are floating around the Web these days, peddled by PR people who count on easy hooks to sell their products, burnish their clients' images, or advance an agenda.
Apple's attempt at statistical flimflammery is the most offensive because it's a transparent attempt to change the public conversation about Apple from the question of atrocious labor practices in the Chinese factories that make iPhones and iPads to job creation. (Of course, yesterday's announcement of "the new iPad" will help in the diversion as well.)
Apple's bogus labor study
Here's what Apple posted on its website last week: "Throughout our history, Apple has created entirely new products -- and entirely new industries -- by focusing on innovation. As a result, we've created or supported more than 500,000 jobs for U.S. workers: from the engineer who helped invent the iPad to the delivery person who brings it to your door."
Breaking down those stats, Apple says it is responsible for 304,000 current jobs across a wide array of industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and transportation, as well as another 210,000 in the "app economy."
Apple actually employs 47,000 people in the United States, so where did the other 450,000 come from? Multipliers, a standard statistical tool that economists use to derive the effects of spending (or not spending) on the economy. But as you learned a long time ago, garbage in equals garbage out.
Take, for example, this statement: "This figure [the jobs number] also includes workers in Texas who manufacture processors for iOS products, Corning employees in Kentucky and New York who create the majority of the glass for iPhone, and FedEx and UPS employees."
Wow. Sure, delivery companies derive revenue when its drivers drop off your new iPad. But -- duh! -- they'd be working anyway delivering books from Amazon.com and towels from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Do Corning employees do nothing but make glass for the iPhone, and do those folks in the bunny suits in Texas only work to make CPUs for Apple? Obviously not. But those are the kind of assumptions built into that projection. Speaking of projections, Apple assumes that its new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., will create 7,000 jobs.
Similarly, it assumes that "the 248,000 registered iOS developers in the U.S." develop only for Apple. I seriously doubt that. What's more, the success of iOS has obviously had a very negative effect on developers of other operating systems, such as BlackBerry, and those folks are out of work or now developing for Apple. How big is the actual gain? We can't tell, though I'm sure there is one.
I could go on at some length, but I'm sure you see my point. What's more, the timing of this release makes it all the clearer that Apple is desperately trying to clean up its badly tarnished corporate image.
Apple does create lots of jobs and makes real contributions to our economy. Inflating those numbers for the sake of favorable PR simply makes the company look petty, dishonest, and -- maybe worst of all -- contemptuous of the smarts of its customers. Likewise, security companies make products that are needed, but as their products have become more commoditized, they increasingly rely on scare tactics and bogus studies to sell their services.
If it sounds too good to be true ...
Generally, bogus numbers dazzle us with their sheer size. But there's another tactic to watch out for: amazingly exact numbers.
Witness Nucleus Research, which claims that mobile CRM makes salespeople more productive. It doesn't give just a ballpark estimate; it presents a precise number: 26.4 percent.
I read through the study and saw lots of anecdotal evidence that mobile and social CRM is helpful to salespeople. I believe it -- but how it derived that number is something we simply don't know, nor can we tell who paid for the study. One could guess.
Don't be fooled by the axis of fakery.