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Apple brings manufacturing of Macs back to the U.S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event on September 12, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

The first cycle of headlines were about Apple's CEO promising to make some iMac desktop computers in the USA. A day later, some experts are realizing that a $100 million investment does not equal a manufacturing revolution.

"Apple only sold 4.9 million Macs in the last quarter," says Jacqui Cheng, senior Apple editor at Ars Technica. "Compared to almost 27 million iPhones and 14 million iPads, the number is relatively small already, and it's not likely that Apple's going to do all of its Macs in the U.S. -- at least not right away."

Apple's Taiwanese manufacturing partner, Foxconn, has gotten sustained heat for its treatment of workers at its vast factories. Cheng sees Apple's move as a response.

"It's significant in its symbolism," says Cheng. "I mean everything Apple does is sort of a PR move in some way or another. They would never announce it if it wasn't part of their kind of messaging to the public."

Many of the Mac parts will likely still come from overseas. And there's this related case study. In June, a New York Times headline read: "Google Tries Something Retro: Made in the USA." It was about the Nexus Q, Google's media streaming device that was not only shaped like a cool orb but also made right here at home. So where is this domestic beauty? Hard to find. Its $299 price tag was seen as too high. The company gave a bunch of them to early adopters and that was it.


Reasons to love the tech beat -- where else would you meet a guy who used to be a senior official with the Russian Central Bank, who later moved into currency trading, but now is in Seattle trying to convert not rubles or dollars but fake gold and diamonds from video games.

"People are trading their game assets for real money -- buying and selling it," says Denis Kiselev, Founder and CEO of a start up called SnapSwap. The more gold or other virtual assets you pile up playing online games the more cool activities you can do in the game. People who have a life and don't have time to amass much gold are sometimes willing to pay real money to buy someone else's spoils. An informal, gray market has sprung up to trade these things. Some game companies like the one behind the virtual community IMVU don't mind. Others, like the makers of super-popular World of Warcraft, officially discourage trading. Yet on it goes.

"The point is that they do understand the secondary market is an important part of the game experience," says Kiselev. "So they kind of put a blind eye toward the secondary market and say 'we don't want to know about it.' I think it's inevitable, and I base it on my experience in real currency. I can remember in Russia when there was a penalty of eight years in jail just for trading rubles for dollars. It's the nature of human beings. They like trading."

Right now people who want to sell their concert tickets can go through online markets such as Stubhub. Kiselev hopes Snapswap will become the market for video game treasure. Online today, someone was offering $100,000 in fake gold from World of Warcraft for $165 U.S.


Finally, the restaurant in San Diego that dispenses with bad reviews on Yelp by putting them on a audio loop in the restrooms. An owner of the Craft and Commerce restaurant thinks some reviews on Yelp are a little melodramatic, according the San Diego Bugle. What no ketchup? My life is, like, ruined.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio
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