Adams 'watching' Aussie inquiry into Apple, others' pricing


Chris Keall

Kiwis pay too much to Harlem Shake

Across the ditch, Adobe, Apple and Microsoft got a summons to appear before a Parliamentary inquiry on pricing - which Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy maintains is too high relative to the US.

They got the summons on February 12, and are required to front up in Canberra on March 22.

Adobe - without referencing its summons - immediately dropped pricing for its cloud suite (which includes Photoshop) from $A62.99 to $A49.99 a month. 

The cut put it on a rough par with the US version of the product, which sells for $US49.99 per month.

And it was a particularly good result for New Zealand customers, given Adobe charges the same $A price across Australasia.

It seems a little poltical pressure can make a difference - especially with a company like Adobe which holds a near-monopoly on parts of the publishing software market.

On February 12 I asked if ICT Miister Amy Adams had any plans to probe tech pricing here.

After several prompts, a reply came back this week. The minister has no plans, but is watching the Australian inquiry with interest.

Apple's hardware pricing varies by product, but it's generally okay here once you allow for the fact US pricing excludes sales tax (an iPad Mini, for example, is priced from $479 here, but $US329 or roughly $400 in the US. Factor in a sales tax of up to 14% - it varies by state - and you're up to $456, give or take).

The Herald has taken a ping at iTunes pricing today (also a saw point across the Tasman) where differences are more glaring - despite the fact that with online software and songs you can't use the old arguments about population size, or the cost of shipping a product to NZ (not that NZ is futher away from Apple's manufacturing plants in China at any rate).

It looks at the current number one song - Harlem Shake* by Baauer - and finds the following iTunes pricing:

  • USA: $NZ1.44
  • New Zealand: $2.39
  • Australia: $NZ2.69

"Shake" is number one across all three countries; it's just that all the songs in the US top 10 fall into a $US1.29 price bracket; in NZ the most popular songs are all priced at $2.39.

Senator Conroy has argued that Apple, and others, have not lowered their pricing enough as the Aussie dollar has soared to parity - and of course the NZ dollar has climbed too.

With iTunes restricting people to buying songs in their own countries' iTunes store, and Apple's dominance in the commercial download market, I suspect its pricing will stay elevated unless lawmakers or regulators give it a nudge (and remember we're talking about a National government that has out-Laboured Labour with its interventions in the broadband and mobile markets).

There is emerging competition, with Pandora, Spotify and Microsoft (via Xbox Live) all launching or expanding free/ad-supported music streaming services here over the past few months - and I believe this is a development that will apply some pressure to Apple over time. But only to a degree. The streaming services either don't let you play songs on all devices, or charge a monthly fee to do so. And many who want to keep a library of songs are reluctant to leave the iTunes universe for the often incompatible lands that lie beyond.

* For readers who've been locked out of the house for the past week, Harlem Shake is the latest internet meme.

As Mr Wikipedia explains:

"Videos last between 30 and 32 seconds and feature an excerpt from the song "Harlem Shake" by electronic musician Baauer. Usually, a video begins with one person (often helmeted or masked) dancing to the song alone for 15 seconds, surrounded by other people not paying attention or unaware of the dancing individual. When the bass drops, the video cuts to the entire crowd doing a crazy convulsive dance for the next 15 seconds."

The most famous local example was performed by the Shortland Street cast (above).

Below; a compilation:

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