In role reversal, Chinese PC firm to manufacture in U.S.

Wait, a Chinese company making computers in the U.S.? Yeah, you heard that right.

Wait... if Lenovo can make a ThinkPad Tablet 2 in the U.S., couldn't Apple make an iPad?
Wait... if Lenovo can make a ThinkPad Tablet 2 in the U.S., couldn't Apple make an iPad? Lenovo

China's largest PC maker, Lenovo, made a stunning announcement this week when it said it will make laptops, tablets, and desktops in the U.S.

So, why in the world would China's largest PC maker decide to manufacture devices here when America's two premier digital gadget suppliers, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, make virtually nothing in the U.S. and almost everything in China and/or Asia?

Needless to say, the answer is more complicated than "growth opportunities" in the U.S. -- as Yuanqing Yang, CEO of Lenovo, said in a statement.

And the move comes as the Obama administration ratchets up rhetoric on Chinese investment in the U.S.

But if this is indeed more than a publicity stunt, it raises some interesting questions, not the least of which is, why is Lenovo making this announcement and not HP or Apple?

"The U.S. manufacturing line will be capable of turning out some of Lenovo's newest and most innovative products, such as the recently announced ThinkCentre M92p Tiny desktop and ThinkPad Tablet 2," Lenovo said.

So, if Lenovo is claiming that it can make and/or assemble a ThinkPad Tablet 2 in the U.S. by "early" 2013, why can't Apple assemble a consumer device here? Or HP make a PC or a high-profile gadget?

No doubt, Apple and HP have a long list of reasons why they don't/can't make things in the U.S., but Lenovo -- which acquired IBM's PC business in 2005 -- at least challenges that notion.

And that's not all Lenovo plans to make. "Engineering workstations and servers" are also slated for production.

Let's not forget that a lot of PCs at one time were made in the U.S. Back in the '90s, I visited a giant IBM U.S. facility that was assembling the company's consumer PCs. At that time, I also took tours of Compaq's sprawling PC manufacturing facilities in Houston and Micron Technology's former PC assembly facility in Idaho (a business that Micron eventually sold off).

"Designed and assembled by Apple in the U.S." Hmm... that has a nice ring to it.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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