Microsoft's 'rip-off Britain' pricing strategy (or did Bill set the price of Vista in March 1985?)

Did you catch Huw Edwards’s toady performance with Bill Gates on the Ten O’Clock News? He did ask the ‘killer question’ of why we were paying double what the Americans are being charged for Vista… and clearly had The World’s Richest Man on the ropes. But no knockout blow. A clearly unbriefed Bill’s best answer was that: ‘We try to keep our prices largely inline from country to country.’ Well, Bill, you clearly aren’t trying hard enough.
Joke Microsoft agenda
And you can’t get away with blaming exchange rate ‘drift’. has Vista Home Premium Upgrade for $153.99 (equivalent to £78.63 at today’s exchange rate of $1.96-ish). has the exact same item for £144.99. That would equate to an exchange rate of $1.06 to the pound. It hasn’t been anything close to that low since March 1985 (as this US government data proves). That would be eight months before the release of Windows 1.0. You’re either the world’s greatest forward-planner, Bill, or… well, you tell me.
Incidentally – I’ve checked the recording, and Bill definitely said: ‘You’ve always got to obsolete your old products’. Aside from the inherent crime against grammar there, I’m with the Green Party on this one. We’re looking at ever more power-hungry components, and lots of perfectly adequate machinery being chucked in the nearest landfill. Your current XP machine simply is not obsolete, no matter what the Vista Upgrade Advisor thing tells you.
But while we’re at it… it’s generally A Good Thing to see a UK translation of the Apple ‘I’m a Mac / I’m a PC‘ ad campaigns from the States, featuring Mitchell and Webb. Internet-only apparently, although I did see a poster at Oxford Circus tube station earlier today. If only Apple would like to consider applying the same transatlantic conversion principle to its prices. Based on today’s exchange rate, we should be paying £561 for a MacBook. Not £749. ‘And that’s a bad miss,’ one might say.

4 thoughts on “Microsoft's 'rip-off Britain' pricing strategy (or did Bill set the price of Vista in March 1985?)”

  1. I’ve done a bit of extra research as well, and found this post that I saw I while ago on James O’Neill of Microsoft UK’s blog.
    Overpriced and over here
    It can be summed up in one of his paragraphs:
    “We don’t use a free floating exchange rate internally, and while the pound is going up this increases the difference between UK and US prices. There are further complications such as UK prices quoted with Tax and US prices without and issues of European law which stops us charging more in (say) France and Germany, than in Britain and Ireland even though we have to translate the product for those markets.”
    He also addresses UK ‘grey imports’ (imported vista from the US). Whilst Microsoft UK don’t like them, Redmond doesn’t really mind as they are still getting a sale. And he says that a grey import will work fine.
    Interesting to see a well informed microsoft perspective on this point.

  2. Thanks Huw. Is it cynical of me to interpret those comments as ‘sorry Brits, but you’ll have to subsidise the translation effort for the rest of the EU’?
    Anyone fancy starting a sideline business in cheap imports from the US? That interest rate isn’t looking like dropping any time soon…

  3. No, I don’t think that would be cynical at all!
    They obviously feel that they should fit UK prices into the EU market rather than the American market.
    What I think is at the heart of this is that Microsoft (and others like Apple and Adobe) are able to get away with charging a much higher amount in the UK than the US. Given that that is the case, it seems unlikely that the status quo is about to change.

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