Apple will begin manufacturing one of its existing Mac lines in the United States next year, CEO Tim Cook told several news organizations—a move that may address fierce criticism over the company’s overseas manufacturing processes.
Cook made the announcement in interviews with NBC’s Brian Williams and with Bloomberg Businessweek. Further details about which line or how many jobs would be created weren’t immediately available. (The video from NBC can be seen at the bottom of this story.)
“Next year we’re going to bring some production to the U.S.,” Cook told 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.”
That indicates that Apple will still outsource production of the Mac line—but to a company inside the United States, instead of outside manufacturers like China-based Foxconn, which builds the company’s iPhones and iPads for sale back in the United States and around the world.
Apple’s relationship with Foxconn has been the sources of increasing scrutiny in the year since Apple founder Steve Jobs died. The New York Times ran a series of stories about the “iEconomy,” scrutinizing working conditions at Foxconn plants overseas and questioning why popular products like the iPad couldn’t be manufactured here. (The company was also the focus of a later-discredited episode of This American Life in which playwright Mike Daisey purported to witness human rights violations at Chinese manufacturers making Apple products.)
The criticisms seemed especially painful to Cook, who—before ascending to the top spot as Jobs’ successor—spent much of his Apple career building the company’s manufacturing-and-supply chain. He said he was outraged by the reports in an email to Apple employees but has vowed that the the company will lead the way in improving working conditions at its suppliers’ factories. He submitted the company to audits by the Fair Labor Association in order to improve practices.
“No one is looking at this as deeply as we are or going as deep in the supply chain,” Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Apple had also, in recent months, defended its domestic hiring practices, in March unveiling a web page that touted 514,000 American jobs created directly or indirectly by the company. (That number has since grown to nearly 600,000.)
Still, the announcement that some Apple manufacturing is returning to the United States was something of a surprise. The Times reported in January that Jobs, in a dinner with President Obama, had flatly announced that “those (manufacturing) jobs aren’t coming back.”
Cook decided differently.
“We’ve been working for years on doing more and more in the United States,” he told Williams, in what was touted as his first interview since taking the helm of Apple.
Cook said he believed that there weren’t enough workers in the United States with the skills to support the manufacture of consumer electronics; re-establishing Apple, he suggested, might help reverse the trend and lead other companies back home.
“The consumer electronics world was really never here,” Cook said. “It’s a matter of starting it here.”
He continued to defend the company’s hiring practices, telling Bloomberg Businessweek: “I don’t think we have a responsibility to create a certain kind of job. But I think we do have a responsibility to create jobs.”
And Cook said that Jobs told him to ignore comparisons between the two men.
“He told me, on a couple of occasions—before he passed away—to never question what he would have done,” Cook said. “Never ask the question, ‘What would Steve do?’ just do what's right.”
The interview with Williams airs at 10 p.m. Thursday night on NBC.