/ Technology

When it comes to tech, Apple’s the best of “British”

If I asked you to think of a modern British technology brand, I expect you’d struggle. America and Japan are at the top of the tech tree, with brands like Apple grabbing Britons’ hearts more than anything home-grown.

Pure… that’s the only popular UK brand I can come up with. They seem to be few and far between, although Which? Computing’s Sarah Kidner reminded me of Novatech, a British PC manufacturer.

They’re so rare that foreign tech brands now represent modern British life. Apple, Sony and Microsoft are the three technology names that Brits most identify with, or so says a “time capsule” survey by BritainThinks. By the way, those brands top the survey in that order, with Apple in first.

Apple means the most to Britons

It’s all about being an iBrit at the moment, whether it’s picking up a Mac, Pad or Phone (without the lowercase ‘i’ those words look a little less iConic, don’t they).

Apple also happened to come out on top in our recent computer satisfaction survey of 10,000 Which? members. Apple received the highest customer scores, with 94% for desktops and 93% for laptops – way ahead of the competition.

Sony came second for laptops (72%) and third for desktop PCs (79%). Which American or Japanese brand came out in second spot for desktops? Actually, it’s the good old Brit brand Novatech that Sarah mentioned above, with a customer score of 80%.

Of course, since Microsoft makes computer software, not hardware, it didn’t feature. But it’s still dominating in the former space – a massive 86% of Which? members’ PCs run Windows.

Where home-grown brands have done well is in retail. Britons identified most with Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the time capsule survey. Cadbury topped the survey’s food category, but it’s now owned by Kraft. Heinz and Kellogg’s took the other two food spots – both from the other side of the pond, despite being central to British kitchen cupboards.

The future of Apple

Anyway, back to technology. Brits are clearly Apple nuts, willing to spend huge dosh on iWares. However, Steve Jobs’ recent resignation as Apple CEO might impact the company’s dominance.

It’s been a long fight for Apple to top the tech brands, with Microsoft always being a step ahead. In 1996 Steve Jobs said: ‘The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago’. Back then Apple was worth just $6 billion, compared to Microsoft’s $250 billion. But the tables have now turned – Apple surpassed Microsoft as the world’s biggest tech company in 2010.

Still, without Jobs at the helm, we’ll have to see how Apple performs in the future. Will it still be Briton’s most loved tech brand? I expect Apple will be in the hearts and minds of British consumers for a long time to come, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a UK tech company coming close to its reign.

Inthesilence says:
25 August 2011

Whilst not well known we should not forget ARM. ARM I hear you ask? Cambridge based manufacturer of chips used in Mobile Phones and Computers – in fact the most widely used 32bit chips in the world. Sadly not as “shiny shiny” as Apple but a true British success story nonetheless.


Agreed on ARM – After all mobile Apple tech (and almost all mobile/tablet tech) is based on their processors – Plus now they have the Windows 8 nod from Microsoft they have even more opportunity to expand their licensing base. Just worried they will get eaten up by a bigger fish.

There are some other chip tech companies like IMI which are used by Apple as well which deserve some recognition.

Tweetdeck is UK based (although now part of Twitter) – Huddle is a cloud based collaboration tool doing very well – Mimecast is all about email archiving and continuity and well lauded – Plenty of tech companies and skills in the UK – but all will probably be eaten up by bigger overseas players at some point, but who can blame them when you get top dollar?

Rightmove also deserves some recognition for it’s total dominance of it’s market and a decent amount of innovation.

For me top tech brands are really now based online


Inthesilence says:
25 August 2011

Another oft forgotten brand, that I believe has a promising future ahead of it, is Novatech. I bought one of their top end laptops in early 2007 (a Core2Duo 2.0ghz machine) for University. 4 years, 1 graphics card and 3 DVD drives later it still works like a dream and runs Win 7 beautifully. It has more heart and soul than a plastic shrouded Dell and when I took it in for a repair it was clear why – the chassis was incredibly solid (justifying its 3.3kg weight!). The repair guy informed me that unusually it was far more upgradeable than most laptops due to its design and because of its solid build would last for years. On several occasions liquids were spilled on it (not by me!) and it survived and even came back to life! After surviving 4 years of intense gaming, encoding, downloading and being left on for very extended periods it has become a bit of a faithful friend. So Novatech – another forgotten British brand?

Gerard Phelan says:
27 August 2011

Apple products are more “British” that might be obvious. Products such as the MacBook, Ipod, Iphone and Ipad were designed by Jonathan Ive an Englishman hailing from Chingford who learned his trade – Industrial design, at Newcastle Polytechnic. He has been named as one of the most influential Britons abroad. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Ive

There are several British hi-fi brands, Linn, Naim, Cambridge Audio….

Absolutely, but these are makers of expensive high quality products with a fairly small number of users.

Vodafone tried with their 360 brand, fail!

Tech is a weird one. ARM are certainly going against the normal trend of UK manufacturers, but they are not a Brand that you buy in a shop, it’s not something you think “oooh I really love the new ARM12 processor in my phone/satnav”, you think of the brand. ARM is a component manufacturer.

Another point to mention is that british tech firms sell out before they have chance to really build their global brand. No-one in UK business seems to be interested with world domination. They want to build their company up, sell it at a massive profit and then retire.

The UK has never been able to exploit it’s position due to managers desires to sell up for an easy life. Other countries are more motivated to continue their climb up the global ladder.

krystov says:
7 January 2013

ARM is often mentioned — rightly so — but no-one notes that they were the makers of the BBC B, a magnificent machine running on incredibly little RAM and straightforward software that even a tyro like me could understand and use. They made the great mistake in the early days of concentrating on schools — and then when Sammie went home, what did s/he find Dad had got? Microsoft, of ciourse! End of story.

Your history isn’t quite right, krystov. Acorn made the BBC B. Acorn was also largely responsible for the joint venture to form ARM.

krystov says:
7 January 2013

wavechange: You’re dead right, of course — a short in my synapses, and that with an Acorn Archimedes sitting on the desk right next to me! I go into it quite often, especially for fiddling around with numbers — and I understand it!

Are no Consumer Association members ethical consumers any more? I wouldn’t buy any Apple product or service on principle. They are tax avoiders in a league of their own: “Apple Inc established an offshore subsidiary, Apple Operations International, which from 2009 to 2012 reported net income of $30bn, but declined to declare any tax residence, filed no corporate income tax return and paid no corporate income taxes to any national government for five years.” – US congressional report into Apple Inc’s tax arrangements. Job’s notorious aggression affected the whole supply chain, such that 150 employees in their Chinese supplier were ready to commit mass suicide unless things changed. Apple’s iTunes has denuded every town in the UK of its record shops and presumably the rest of the world’s towns too. All to save a few bob per tune (music reduced to penny ‘tunes’ – another Apple degradation of our culture), putting thousands of tax-paying family businesses out of business and funnelling all that money instead to the uber rich who pay little or no tax. Ditto: Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc. So what does the Consumers’ Association do? Gives them accolades and sycophantic reviews like this. Sickening – Michael Young must be spinning in his grave. “It’s only the little people [and businesses] who pay tax”. Too true! It’s about time the CA led the fight against tax avoiders and named and shamed them, instead of publishing fawning promotions of near advertorial ilk.
We’ve a Novatech PC which has done sterling service as effectively the family computer/server since 2010, as well as one of their powerful laptops, not much younger, which is now being used heavily every day by my daughter for college work. Neither of them has given a moment of trouble. And what does Which? say for them? Virtually zilch! Just two mentions: this c**k-eyed one and another one which asks my same question.

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Peter Spring said “I wouldn’t buy any Apple product or service on principle. They are tax avoiders in a league of their own”

Well, they pay tax on all their shops, all their employees, and VAT on all their products, so I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Many, many companies trade through Offshore havens, so I’m unsure how that makes them evil. And the biggest – the Cayman Islands – is owned by the UK…

But your basic logic is seriously flawed. You say “Apple’s iTunes has denuded every town in the UK of its record shops and presumably the rest of the world’s towns too. but Apple wasn’t even the first company to offer MP3 players and associated sales systems; that was Microsoft. And to blame the inevitable evolution of the entertainment retail industry on iTunes does suggest you have a rather weak grasp on technology, trade and social development.

No mega-corporation is perfect, but Apple produces a superb product and its customer service is better than any other electronics giant I’ve ever dealt with.

Yes Cayman is a UK Colony and I even dislike that word, , ,but “Owned by” could be seen as a little crude, , ,
If there’s any owning of it, , it would be The City of London but they dont dont give a damn about humanity there either..
When the money makes its way to Cayman there is still no tax paid on it, , not to the UK, , not to Cayman
The only tax payers in Cayman are the locals who have near to nothing but pay high import duty on everything they touch, , , Pack of fish fingers maybe £7 in Cayman
The BB gets to pay no tax now where no day
The local business person here pays tax on his/her business property but then they pay tax into “our” country, ,

Unless there are world-wide tax laws that prohibit corporations using lower-tax countries to minimise their bills, and don’t illegally fiddle their accounts then i see no real way to stop them. It is up to the EU say to harmonise tax levels and laws in its member states so as to get a level playing field.

The High Street is just as subject to “progress”, “evolution” or whatever you like to call it as any other industry and must change to survive. Artificial protection won’t help. One advantage of buying more stuff online may be fewer trips to the shops, thus helping to reduce car pollution?

I agree with Malcolm. It’s the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion.

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Duncan – I do want these large companies to pay fair taxes but until we have legislation, I cannot see them volunteering to pay more tax any more than you or I would give the tax man more than we are asked to.

Even if you and I boycotted the large companies under discussion, others would use them, so changing the law is the only practical solution. I’ve never paid Microsoft a penny and if I was a typical Amazon user it would have gone bust a long time ago.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user