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
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What price would the UK pay to stop Brexit?

The EU could end Britain's budget rebate and demand that we join the euro and the Schengen zone.

Among any group of Remain politicians, discussion soon turns to the likelihood of stopping Brexit. After Theresa May's electoral humbling, and the troubled start to the negotiations, those who oppose EU withdrawal are increasingly optimistic.

“I’m beginning to think that Brexit may never happen,” Vince Cable, the new Liberal Democrat leader, said recently. A growing number, including those who refuse to comment publicly, are of the same view. 

But conversation rarely progresses to the potential consequences of halting Brexit. The assumption that the UK could simply retain the status quo is an unsafe one. Much hinges on whether Article 50 is unilaterally revocable (a matter Britain might have been wise to resolve before triggering withdrawal.) Should the UK require the approval of the EU27 to halt Brexit (as some lawyers believe), or be forced to reapply for membership, Brussels would extract a price. 

Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, recently echoed French president Emmanuel Macron's declaration that “there is always a chance to reopen the door”. But he added: “Like Alice in Wonderland, not all the doors are the same. It will be a brand new door, with a new Europe, a Europe without rebates, without complexity, with real powers and with unity.”

The UK's £5bn budget rebate, achieved by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, has long been in the EU's sights. A demand to halt Brexit would provide the perfect pretext for its removal. 

As Verhofstadt's reference to “unity” implied, the UK's current opt-outs would also be threatened. At present, Britain (like Denmark) enjoys the right to retain its own currency and (like Ireland) an exemption from the passport-free Schengen travel zone. Were the UK to reapply for membership under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty, it would be automatically required to join the euro and to open its borders.

During last year's Labour leadership election, Owen Smith was candid enough to admit as much. “Potentially,” he replied when asked whether he would accept membership of the euro and the Schengen zone as the price of continued EU membership (a stance that would not have served Labour well in the general election.)

But despite the daily discussion of thwarting Brexit, politicians are rarely confronted by such trade-offs. Remaining within or rejoining the EU, like leaving, is not a cost-free option (though it may be the best available.) Until anti-Brexiteers acknowledge as much, they are vulnerable to the very charge they level at their opponents: that they inhabit a fantasy world. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.