Designed in California; Built in the USA?
It has been all over the tech new sources today that Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple plans to build a line of Mac computers in the United States. This is welcome news. But it was not clear from reports just what type of Macs will be built in the US, or where.
As Goes Apple, So Goes the Industry
The Tech Industry has used Apple as its free design shop for decades. Recent and ongoing lawsuits may stem the tide on the most blatant of the copies; the ones where a typical consumer might not even notice that it isn’t an Apple device, as the Apple products have been so closely emulated. But even if competitors now feel obliged to make their products visually distinguishable from Apple’s (and the recent crop of “UltraBooks” cloning the look of the MacBook Air don’t show much indication of that), the industry is still following everything Apple does closely, and emulating much of it.
But Will Others Follow Apple’s Lead in Manufacturing Locations?
It does not automatically follow that other tech companies will immediately look to move manufacturing of products to the US, however. Many of these companies are Asian-based, and would have no basis for such a move. The few international enough, large enough, and flexible enough, to possibly place some manufacturing here, such as HP, still do not have Apple’s margins on their products, meaning that such a move might either shift them from modestly profitable to unprofitable; or for others, from unprofitable to more unprofitable. So while Apple is an important precedent in this area, an immediate response-in-kind can’t be predicted.
What May This Mean for Apple Customers?
The impact on Apple customers will be modest, unless they happen to be in the tiny percentage of the US population which gets a manufacturing facility or other related job from the project. While building Apple products in Brazil may significantly lower the price of those products in Brazil’s controlled exchange environment, production in the US would not offer Americans lower prices. But the line of Apple products manufactured in the US is another factor that will affect the results.
Will it be iMacs?
The general gossip has pegged iMacs as the line most likely to be manufactured in America. There is a certain amount of sense in that, as they are larger and more expensive to ship than laptops and other mobile devices. But there is another Mac line that would make even more sense for in-country production: Apple’s tower computer, the Mac Pro. There are several reasons for this. They are also a large, bulky product, with a hefty case, that it would be ideal not to be air-shipping from Asia. But the Mac Pro is also a more specialized product line, meaning it sells in smaller quantities, making it the easiest product to set up a new facility for, and train new personnel for. And over time it has become a premium priced product for specialty uses, so the margins on it could better support US wages and manufacturing costs. And, finally, it is a product whose main markets are in North America and Western Europe; mostly heavily in California.
Gnawing Hope Returns
The possibility of Mac Pro production in the US is bound to fuel a resurgence of hope amongst Apple professional users, in fields such as Graphic Design, Photography, and Video, of a significant update to the long-in-the-tooth Mac Pro line currently being sold. No one is looking for a new case design, or superficial changes, but significant upgrades to drives, communication protocols, processors, and video cards would release years of delayed purchases at the high end of the Mac line. In particular photographers now working with video would find the price of new premium Mac Pro models worthwhile for the increased speed and capability that FusionDrives, Thunderbolt ports, and other updated capabilities would provide.