While Apple products are famously designed in California, but "assembled in China," at least one big name gadget will be able to boast that it is actually "Made in America." Google Glass, the search giant's much-hyped augmented reality headgear, will be manufactured in Santa Clara, California.
According to a Financial Times report, the manufacturing will still be carried out by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, which most people will better recognize as Foxconn, the sprawling electronics maker behind many of the world's big name consumer electronics. However, the actual assembly will take place right in Silicon Valley rather than overseas.
As part of a limited initial manufacturing run, Google will give 8,000 people the opportunity to pay $1,500 to be the first ones to wear the internet on their face. The first shipments are expected by the end of this year.
More domestic manufacturing?
This isn't the first time that Google has flirted with manufacturing hardware in the US. The company announced it would manufacture its since-aborted media-streaming orb, the Nexus Q, domestically. While the Q had several issues going against it, one of its biggest minuses was the unreasonably high $299 price tag, which was twice the cost of several analogous, if not superior, streaming devices.
It's simply more expensive to produce items in the US than it is in China. While steadily rising, the average Chinese worker earns less than $2 per hour, compared to California's minimum wage of $8 per hour. To illustrate the point, a 2011 analysis surmised that a 32GB, 3G-enabled iPad 2 would cost $1,140 if were made in the US, compared to the $729 pricetag on the Chinese-assembled model.
Due to the experimental, complex nature of the product, it makes sense for Google to keep manufacturing on Glass close to home. However, other tech companies are at least investigating the possibility of bringing manufacturing back to the US. Even Apple recently announced that it would shift a small sliver of its Asian manufacturing base to the US, starting with a $100 million investment this year. While we should note that some components of Apple products are already manufactured in the US, (for example, a small part of Apple's Gorilla Glass supply is produced in Harrodsburg, Kentucky), the major assembly plants will likely remain in developing parts of the world for some time to come.
Some rabid early adaptors would happily have paid far more to be the first to own Google Glass. However, if the device is ever to take off with the public, the company will need to find a way to bring the price tag down dramatically. The unemployment rate is still painfully high in the US and workers will gladly fill the jobs if they come available, but if Google can't design a supply chain that will allow for lower prices at checkout, somebody else surely will.