Manufacturing consumer electronics in the United States hasn’t proven to be the easiest task in the world for companies who have tried it recently. Google tried it with the Nexus Q, and the media streamer never made it to widespread commercial availability (though it had plenty of issues that weren’t related to its country of origin). High labour costs and a lack of the right manufacturing infrastructure make it a tough place to make gadgets.
None of this appears to have deterred Apple, however, who will be manufacturing Macs in the United States soon, apparently. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with NBC that they’re working on plans to have one line of their Mac computers made in the USA. Which line it will be is still unknown, though the fact that some of the latest iMacs have an “Assembled in USA” badge on them might provide a bit of a hint.
“We’ve been working for years on doing more and more in the United States,” Cook said to NBC’s Brian Williams. “When you back up and look at Apple’s effect on job creation in the United States, we estimate that we’ve created more than 600,000 jobs now.”
That’s a lot of jobs, and when you consider all the indirect jobs created by Apple, like those of iOS developers, in addition to all their own employees both in Cupertino and in the hundreds of Apple Stores across the country, it’s not too unrealistic of an estimate.
There’s still a lot of Apple jobs overseas, however, particularly in China. Apple has faced some bad press for their involvement with Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer who assembles a wide variety of consumer electronics, including iPhones and iPads. The Chinese company has become notorious for their poor working conditions, so Apple would do well to distance themselves from that process as soon as possible. Moving some of their manufacturing back to the USA could be an effective way of doing that.
Cook says it won’t be easy though, and not for the reasons you might think. Rather than a cost issue, it’s a skills issue: it’s been so long since there were consumer electronics manufacturing jobs in the United States, Cook says workers in the country may not have the requisite skills for them now. Apple will be endeavouring to find and train workers to have these skills, which may enable other companies to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States as well.