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Apple to move some Mac computer production back to U.S.

NEW YORK — Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will move production of one of its existing lines of Mac computers to the United States next year.

Industry watchers said the announcement is both a cunning public relations move and a harbinger of more manufacturing jobs moving back to the U.S. as wages rise in China.

Cook made the comments in part of an interview taped for NBC's Rock Center, but aired Thursday morning on Today and posted on the network's website.

In a separate interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he said that the company will spend $100 million in 2013 to move production of the line to the U.S. from China.

"This doesn't mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we'll be working with people and we'll be investing our money," Cook told Bloomberg.

That suggests the company could be helping its Taiwanese manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology Group to set up a factory in the United States.

Apple representatives had no comment Thursday beyond Cook's remarks.

Apple and Foxconn have faced significant criticism this year over working conditions at the Chinese facilities where Apple products are assembled. The attention prompted Foxconn to raise salaries.

Cook didn't say which line of computers would be produced in the U.S. or where in the country they would be made. But he told Bloomberg that the production would include more than just final assembly. That suggests that the machining of cases and the printing of circuit boards could take place in the U.S.

Regardless, the U.S. manufacturing line is expected to represent just a tiny piece of Apple's overall production.

Chinese wages are raising 15 to 20 percent per year, said Hal Sirkin, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group. U.S. wages are rising much more slowly, and this country is a cheap place to hire compared to other developed countries like Germany, France and Japan, he said.

"Across a lot of industries, companies are rethinking their strategy of where the manufacturing takes place," Sirkin said.

Cook said in his interview with NBC that companies like Apple chose to produce their products in places like China, not because of the lower costs associated with it, but because the manufacturing skills required just aren't present in the U.S. anymore.

He added that the consumer electronics world has never really had a big production presence in the U.S. As a result, it's really more about starting production in the U.S. than bringing it back, he said.

More Apple news

• T-Mobile USA will begin offering Apple's iPhone next year, becoming the last of the four largest U.S. carriers to offer it. Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent, disclosed the agreement to sell Apple products in 2013 in a statement Thursday. Larger U.S. competitors Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Nextel all sell the iPhone.

• HTC will make royalty payments quarterly to Apple and pledges not to make "cloned" copies of Apple products as part of the settlement of their global patents battle, according to an agreement filed in a U.S. court. Fees paid by HTC for the next 10 years will be based on sales volumes and made 45 days after the end of each quarter, according to a redacted version of the patent license and settlement agreement signed by both sides and filed Wednesday.

Apple to move some Mac computer production back to U.S. 12/06/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 6, 2012 9:54pm]

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