Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More on .Mac price discrepancies

In the last day or so, I've been doing some more thinking about this issue (rather than getting some real work done). In fact, I went so far as to make a spreadsheet (using the 30-day trial version of Numbers, thanks very much) of the various prices Apple charges for .Mac around the world. I listed the actual price in the local currency, then the equivalent of 99.95 USD in the local currency, and then the difference between those two prices, converted to USD.

As you can hopefully see from the chart above (click on it to view a larger size), .Mac subscribers in almost every country pay more than people in the the US do--sometimes significantly more. The only exception is the Japanese, who get a break to the tune of over US$18. The rest pay a premium ranging from less than $1 for those living in Hong Kong to over $40 for you poor suckers in Great Britain. The rest of us fall somewhere in between, with the average discrepancy sitting at just under $18.

What this means is that for every .Mac subscriber Apple has outside the US, the company is taking in about $18 more than it does for its US customers.

So I guess this isn't just about the exchange rates between two countries. This appears to be systematic for the .Mac service. Perhaps it's even Apple policy; maybe they don't want to "confuse" consumers by adjusting the price of .Mac. But it seems to me that by not periodcially adjusting their prices, Apple is hindering the adoption of what is at last shaping up to be a pretty nice service.

As a footnote to this post, just for fun I checked out the prices for the new low-end iMacs at a couple of the international Apple stores. I must say that we Canadians have it pretty good by comparison. For example, the Australians pay the equivalent of US$265 more for their machine than those in the US. The Brits have it even worse: the price of 799GBP works out to be amost US$430 more than the US price--That's almost 40 percent more. Ouch!

When will the Canadian price for dotMac reflect the exchange rate?

Among all the announcements Steve Jobs made on August 7, the improvements to dotMac were, to my mind, perhaps the most exciting and most overdue. The new web gallery feature and 10GB of on-line storage are significant improvements to the service that make its price tag a little easier to swallow.

However, for Canadian dotMac subscribers, one thing that has rankled for the last few years--and continues to rankle--has been dotMac's price. At $139, it is significantly more expensive than the $99 US subscribers pay. Now it was one thing to have a higher price when the Canadian dollar was valued at 65 or 70 cents US, but it is quite another thing to retain that price when the Canadian dollar has risen significantly in value against the US dollar over the last year or two. And this, for a service that is widely hailed even in the US as being highly over-priced.

As the US dollar has fallen over the last little while, many other currencies have gained value against it, and many goods imported from the US have fallen in price (though many consumers groups say this isn't happening fast enough). To whit, many of Apple Canada's products have come significantly down in price over the last 18 months, to the point where some are now being sold at par with US prices. This is true of the new iWork 08 and iLife 08 suites, along with the new keyboards and the Mighty Mouse.

I don't expect Apple to change its prices every two weeks to reflect the exchange rates, and I fully accept that a certain amount of rounding will occur. Indeed, I think for the most part, Apple has done a pretty excellent job of reflecting the currency exchange rate between Canada and the US in its prices. Which is why I just don't understand why Canadians still have to pay 40-percent premium on dotMac. As it stands, I refuse to pay $139; I have always managed to get it on sale, either at the one-day sale in November or from a brick-and-mortar retailer such as Future Shop. But I'd be happy to pay the full price if that price reflected the exchange rate a little more closely. Say $109.

So I'm challenging the Canadian dotMac-using blogosphere. Write a post about this issue, get people talking about it. Let Apple know you're upset about it. Maybe, just maybe, if we make enough noise about it, we can convince Apple to reconsider it's policy.

OK, so I'm living in a fantasy world, but at the very least, it's good to vent.