When Apple CEO Tim Cook told NBC's Brian Williams the company plans to make one of its Mac lines in the United States next year, he offered an early glimpse of what the return of American manufacturing will look like. It bears little resemblance to a 20th-century factory floor.
"[It] likely means a few hundred new jobs," said Peter Misek, managing director of technology research at Jefferies & Co. "It's a big start and show[s] the wage and productivity gap with Asia is closing."
While it might be a big start, even hundreds of jobs won't move the needle on unemployment. What's promising is the idea that Apple's multimillion-dollar investment will spark demand for a more close-to-home supply chain that could have a ripple effect.
"It's possible they might do chip production here. They're more and more involved with designing their own processors," said Jason Dedrick, an associate professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University.
Cook said that some components — like the processor and the glass for the iPhone — are already made in the U.S. "Things like circuit boards, batteries, displays, chips — any of those could potentially be made here," Dedrick said. "Apple has a lot of control over their supply chain. They tend to dictate where and how things are done by their suppliers."
Although Cook didn't comment on which computers or what elements of manufacturing and assembly he was talking about, analysts say it's probably going to be the iMacs that are sold in the United States.
Apple sold roughly 4.7 million Mac desktops -- which includes iMac, Mac mini and Mac Pro -- in fiscal 2012, according to its annual report, and about 40 percent of the company's business is domestic. This adds up to a relatively small footprint, which would make sourcing both American labor and components easier.