Comment: Apple to the core | following the Swedes

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Picture: AP
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Picture: AP
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BACK in the information Dark Ages – 2007 to be precise – a respected US market research company, Universal McCann, published a report proving there was no market for the new Apple iPhone. The late Steve Jobs is now laughing in High Tech heaven.

He had the uncanny knack of understanding what the public wanted before the public knew it. He did it again in 2010 – yes, only four years ago – with the now ubiquitous iPad.

But has Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor as CEO, got the same Midas touch? This week, Cook unveiled the Apple Watch, an iPad on your wrist. Sounds cool but will millions of us dump our smartphones and pay £200 plus for a smartwatch with no battery life?

Having been wrong-footed by Apple so often, the markets were in no mood to be too cynical and the share price was up on the week. True, there was an instant price dip after Wednesday’s much-anticipated annual product show, but this was more to do with disappointment over the new iPhone 6 and its lack of a sapphire screen. But they shot back up with the announcement of Apple Pay, a new mobile-payment system.

More worrying for the long term, is that investors and analysts don’t really know what to make of the Apple Watch. They are too wary to dismiss it, yet no-one is terribly enthusiastic. Watches these days are an expensive jewellery item – one of the few allowed to men. But nobody thinks the Apple Watch is good design, or even cool. My own bet is that Apple’s cash will come from smartphones, for the foreseeable future, and that if we move to a new device it will be Google Glasses. But I’m no Steve Jobs.

A true innovation that Scots could follow

YESTERDAY I was interviewed by a journalist from a Swedish business paper, regarding Scottish independence. She wanted to know why Scots were so enamoured of copying the Norwegian model when industrial Sweden – which has a general election tomorrow – might be more appropriate. She has a point.

Sweden has probably the most successful economy in Europe – proof that small, clever and nimble can beat big, bureaucratic and lumbering when it comes to escaping a global economic meltdown. GDP has risen by 12.6 per cent in the last decade and gross disposable incomes are up by 20 per cent. Yet the budget of the ruling right-of-centre government is actually headed towards a surplus. Unemployment is still 8 per cent, but private-sector jobs are being created at a clip.

Swedes are also thriving innovators in the new media. Sweden’s latest high tech coup is the Truecaller phone app, developed by a Stockholm start-up in 2009. Truecaller is essentially an instant world telephone directory (and caller ID) at your fingertips. It is a business godsend in countries that lack a reliable phone directory. As a result, Truecaller is adding a staggering 110,000 users every day in India.

Yet Swedish voters seem set to throw out the government in favour of the left-wing Social Democrats, and with it the man credited with this economic miracle. He is Anders Borg, finance minister since 2006 and famous for once sporting a pony tail. Borg’s big idea was to pre-announce corporation tax cuts. This encouraged higher investment without cutting revenues. John Swinney can find his number on Truecaller.