Apple shipped just 8 new MacBook Pros to Britain

Company favours American stores

Apple's CEO Tim Cook has a reputation as a logistical genius.

Recent reports, for instance, have highlighted the fact that the company, of which he was Chief Operating Officer before he took over from the late Steve Jobs in August last year, turns over its inventory every five days. The only company in the report which does it faster is McDonalds – which is somewhat less able than Apple to keep products on the shelves. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal comments:

A typical company in manufacturing might do 8 inventory turns [a year]. Samsung does 17. Dell, which practically invented hardcore electronics supply chain management, does 36. Apple is doing 74!

Which means that the fact that the company's flagship new laptop isn't stocked in any of its British stores, and has a month-long lead time for online orders from the UK, represents one or more of the following things:

  • A minor snarl in the supply chain for the company's most important product launch this year.
  • An unexpectedly high level of demand for a computer which starts at £1800.
  • A shafting of British customers to ensure American stores stay supplied.

The fact that the American online store is showing the same delay as the British suggests that it may be more the first two points; while the fact that Apple experienced the same problems with the launch of the new iPad suggests that even Tim Cook can't run a company that keeps everything in stock throughout massive demand for new products.

But it certainly is true that the company has focused on the US to a certain extent. The Regent Street Apple store in London was the only one in Britain to be shipped any of the new MacBook Pros at all. It only received eight, which were supposed to be used as display units but were accidentally sold to members of the public. Someone got in a lot of trouble for that. You can run the best logistics operations in the world, but cock-ups still happen.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook introduces the new laptop. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Theresa May gambles that the EU will blink first

In her Brexit speech, the Prime Minister raised the stakes by declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain". 

It was at Lancaster House in 1988 that Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech heralding British membership of the single market. Twenty eight years later, at the same venue, Theresa May confirmed the UK’s retreat.

As had been clear ever since her Brexit speech in October, May recognises that her primary objective of controlling immigration is incompatible with continued membership. Inside the single market, she noted, the UK would still have to accept free movement and the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). “It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all,” May surmised.

The Prime Minister also confirmed, as anticipated, that the UK would no longer remain a full member of the Customs Union. “We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe,” May declared.

But she also recognises that a substantial proportion of this will continue to be with Europe (the destination for half of current UK exports). Her ambition, she declared, was “a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement”. May added that she wanted either “a completely new customs agreement” or associate membership of the Customs Union.

Though the Prime Minister has long ruled out free movement and the acceptance of ECJ jurisdiction, she has not pledged to end budget contributions. But in her speech she diminished this potential concession, warning that the days when the UK provided “vast” amounts were over.

Having signalled what she wanted to take from the EU, what did May have to give? She struck a notably more conciliatory tone, emphasising that it was “overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed”. The day after Donald Trump gleefully predicted the institution’s demise, her words were in marked contrast to those of the president-elect.

In an age of Isis and Russian revanchism, May also emphasised the UK’s “unique intelligence capabilities” which would help to keep “people in Europe safe from terrorism”. She added: “At a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain’s servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.”

The EU’s defining political objective is to ensure that others do not follow the UK out of the club. The rise of nationalists such as Marine Le Pen, Alternative für Deutschland and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) has made Europe less, rather than more, amenable to British demands. In this hazardous climate, the UK cannot be seen to enjoy a cost-free Brexit.

May’s wager is that the price will not be excessive. She warned that a “punitive deal that punishes Britain” would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”. But as Greece can testify, economic self-interest does not always trump politics.

Unlike David Cameron, however, who merely stated that he “ruled nothing out” during his EU renegotiation, May signalled that she was prepared to walk away. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she declared. Such an outcome would prove economically calamitous for the UK, forcing it to accept punitively high tariffs. But in this face-off, May’s gamble is that Brussels will blink first.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.