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Apple and Microsoft Take Heat for High Prices Down Under

The Australian parliament plans to ask Apple and Microsoft to defend their pricing policies, according to a report from Australian newspaper The Age.

The inquiry will also look at the pricing of software and “IT-related material,” according to the article.

From The Age:

Consumer advocate CHOICE, which has been lobbying for an investigation into the price differential, welcomed the parliamentary inquiry.

The excuses overseas technology companies use to justify the higher prices, such as the small size of the Australian market, the cost of setting up support centers here and the imposition of local taxes and duties, were not acceptable to local customers, spokeswoman Ingrid Just said.

Sydney MP Ed Husic, who is a member of the committee and has been raising the issue of price differences for more than a year, said he believed it would be the first time the computer giants had been called before a parliamentary inquiry to explain their pricing policies.

The Age has a graphic on their website which compares prices in the U.S. and in Australia. According the graphic, Microsoft Office 2010, for instance, costs US$349 in the U.S. and A$849 — the equivalent of US$884 — in Australia; the Greatest Hits of Richard Clapton cost $9.99 at iTunes in the U.S. and A$24 (US$25) in Australia.

According to The Age, the investigation will likely begin later this year.

British Mobile Network Pushing for 4G

Everything Everywhere, a mobile network in the UK, is lobbying for the introduction 4G service in the UK.

Everything Everywhere has launched a campaign called 4GBritain and is imploring business leaders and consumer advocates to join.

According to the BBC:Everything Everywhere (EE) — the merger between T-Mobile and Orange — has kickstarted the campaign, but potential members are promised that they will be treated as “an equal partner,” according to a document seen by the BBC …

Olaf Swantee, chief executive of EE since September, told the BBC that he was surprised how far behind the UK was.

“The UK had struck me as a place where mobile technology is deployed first and yet the infrastructure is behind Germany, Scandinavia and the U.S. I want to do something about this issue,” he told the BBC.

BBC goes on to discuss the litany of legal issues impeding the 4G launch.

Skype and Sweden

Telia, a Swedish wireless provider, is considering trying to block Skype’s mobile video and VoIP services unless customers are forced to pay an additional charge.

Telia signaled that it might put up a fight against Skype last month.

And the situation, according to Giga OM , isn’t getting better for Skype:

As operator revenues get squeezed by third-party services — both free and paid — this situation is more likely going to get worse before it gets better. And it also raises questions on Net neutrality for mobiles, something that will become increasingly important as the world population shifts online activities from fixed lines to mobile.

Some Telia users have formed a Facebook page to protest Telia’s possible block of Skype.

Logo Logjam

In China, a blogger has pointed out the similarities between the logos for Google Drive and a Chinese-made Android app called “Vplayer.”

From Tech In Asia,

Chinese startups and apps often get a lot of flack — including from us — for cloning and copying, and generally coming up with ideas that seem strikingly similar to what has been done before. But that ‘inspiration’ is a two-way street, as seen with the stylish triangular icon for Google Drive, the new cloud storage service that’s already block in China, which bears a striking resemblance to that of the Chinese-made Vplayer app.

I spoke with the Vplayer employee, Jane … who designed the distinctive icon. She told me via Weibo, “It’s amazing Google Drive’s logo [is the] same as Vplayer’s.” She then joked, “Yesterday I fine adjusted our logo. My workmate saw that, smiled and said to me, ‘Are you designing new logo for Google Drive again?'” Oh well.

Here is a link to VPlayer.

Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist currently living in the Netherlands. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here.

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