It’s a tiny move that should result in a huge PR win: Apple will be making some computers in the United States starting next year, CEO Tim Cook says. Ironically, it was Cook who moved all of Apple’s manufacturing out of the country a decade ago to save costs. (See "Firm Inspecting Apple Supplier Facilities in China.")
“Next year we’re going to bring some production to the United States,” Mr. Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “This doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people and we’ll be investing our money.”
Mac sales represent just 15 percent of Apple’s revenues, and the firm is only going to manufacture “some” Macs in the United States. Actually, it will only be one type of Mac, the name of which will be revealed in an exclusive Cook interview with NBC News tonight. But since some customers have already reported receiving new iMacs that bear a “manufactured in the United States” sticker, it’s most likely the iMac, one of Apple’s iconic but also lowest-selling products; most Macs that Apple sells are portable computers, not desktop units like the Mac.
And unlike ThinkPad maker Lenovo, which earlier this year announced plans to build PCs in the United States and other markets so that the manufacturing could occur closer to customers, Apple won’t be building the iMac itself. Instead, it will rely on partners, as it does in China, where virtually all of its products are currently made: Apple doesn’t actually “make” any of its own products, though it does of course design them, mostly in California.
Still, it’s a start—hopefully one that will garner positive feedback and trigger more manufacturing—and jobs—in Apple’s home country. Apple says it is investing $100 million in the effort, a small slice of the $23.2 billion in Mac revenues it logged last year. Given the firm’s huge margins, it could easily absorb any costs related to domestic manufacturing.
Cook’s 16-month tenure as Apple CEO—he took over shortly before former Steve Jobs passed away in late 2011—has been financially successful, and Apple is worth fully 43 percent more now than when he assumed the CEO role. But it’s also been rocky: Cook presided over the botched launch of Apple Maps, and Apple has yet to enter the TV market, a move Cook himself confirmed this week was still coming. And the firm has never satisfactorily addressed the abysmal conditions of the China factories that currently make virtually all of its products. Cook says he’s “looking deeply” at the problem.
“We’re part of a global economy,” Cook said. “Over 60 percent of our sales are outside the United States. So we have a responsibility to others, as well. But this is our home market, and I take all of these very seriously: jobs, education, giving back, the environment.”