Editing an Apple MacBook Pro review recently (yes, we do edit them) I was shocked by the price differential between the US and the UK. For the same specification of 17in Apple MacBook Pro, UK users are paying a lot more money.
The same 17in Apple MacBook Pro cost around £400 more in the UK than the US. Sensing a scoop of the 'Apple rips off UK consumers' variety, I immediately hot-footed it from the cramped, functional offices of PC Advisor towers and decamped to the glass-fronted, palm-fringed, boho-chic of Macworld.co.uk HQ.
There, over a quick game of frisbee, some Jenga and a calming glass of guava juice, resident Apple expert Mark Hattersley pointed out that US prices don't include VAT. D'oh. Scoop over.
So the £400 difference is immediately slashed to around £150. But hang on, that's still a hefty amount of cash Apple is squeezing out of the humble UK consumer. Even that smug bloke off the annoying adverts doesn't deserve that. What's Apple's excuse?
According to Macworld, Apple charges the extra money for the same reasons Microsoft gave for Vista being more expensive on this side of the pond. Namely the cost of 'localising' products and the relative strength of the pound. Plus, there's the difficulty of shipping things around cramped old Europe, compared with the ease of movement across the wide open plains of the good ole US of A, lugging a sackload of Macs on a chopper down Route 66, or something.
Which, to be fair to Apple, makes more sense when you're dealing with bulky hardware products that have complex power requirements than it does when you're shipping an operating system that's native language is, er, English. (The clue's in the name, Microsoft.)
But then Apple charges more for its software in Europe than it does in the States, so I'm not letting it off the hook just yet.
Again, according to Macworld, Apple has an answer. Apparently Apple sets prices for a five-year period (how many IT products have a five-year sales cycle?) and in order to ensure a stable price, it takes account of currency fluctuation and market conditions, and sets the price in the middle of the range at which it expects to make a (small) profit. Which sort of makes sense, but still leaves me feeling short changed.
The more I look into the curse of rip-off Britain, the more I find that the biggest problem lies in the fact that I can't just up sticks and buy my product from any market in the world I so choose. In order to buy my MacBook in the States, for instance, I'd have to have a US address.
More irritating still, I can't download software from abroad without those clowns down at Euro city hall climbing all over my ass. We're living in a quasi global market with half-assed capitalism. It's a crazy mixed-up world and the British consumer gets it in the neck. And I'm grumpy about it.
I'm also still slightly peeved with Apple, but a quick stroke of my lovely MacBook will solve that.