Apple profits up 90 per cent, credibility down slightly

Jobs’ pet project takes shine off bumper quarter.

Apple enjoyed its best non-holiday quarter ever, with sales up 49 per cent and profits up a whopping 90 per cent. But it's gone all coy on just how many iPads it has shifted so far, and its failure to address iPad buyers' concerns has dismayed some of the most loyal Apple fans.

The shiny white gadget and computer maker sold 33 per cent more Macs than a year ago, 131 per cent more iPhones but 1 per cent fewer iPods.

It didn't give official figures for the number of iPads it has sold, saying that they went on sale after its latest financial quarter had ended, but the lack of detail may just be telling. It was happy to brag about selling 450,000 in the first five days they went on sale, but that was before news of their flaky Wi-Fi connectivity hit the media. We shall have to wait for its next set of results to see if it's going to give iPad sales figures.

So far Apple has also been characteristically quiet about the scores of complaints about iPad Wi-Fi lodged on its own discussion boards and technology blogs. There were nearly 600 comments posted about the issue on one thread alone.

It did post a support article which dealt with some users who couldn't get any Wi-Fi signal whatsoever, but those complaining of a very weak Wi-Fi signal or signals being dropped have been told to simply move nearer their wireless router or move their wireless router nearer to them.

"We're thrilled to report our best non-holiday quarter ever, with revenues up 49 per cent and profits up 90 per cent," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We've launched our revolutionary new iPad and users are loving it, and we have several more extraordinary products in the pipeline for this year."

I always thought the 3G version of the iPad - which will give you true roaming capabilities - would be a far more compelling proposition than the Wi-Fi only model. Obviously now that the iconic company has managed a Wi-Fi tablet with iffy Wi-Fi, we must hope that its 3G version has decent 3G: otherwise you're going to be told to move nearer the mobile phone mast, or move the mast nearer to you.

Jason Stamper is technology correspondent for NS and editor of Computer Business Review.

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496