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Adobe takes UK price hikes to new level with CS3

Not just pounds for dollars any more

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Adobe Systems, producers of Photoshop, Acrobat and Flash, has long had a relatively chummy image compared to – say – Microsoft. But that might be changing, at least for some customers, as the company moves even beyond Redmond's position on price differentials between the UK and US.

Of course, British consumers are well-accustomed to being charged higher prices for the same product. Despite occasional efforts by the EU to prevent such milking of the price-demand curve, the baseline rule seems more and more to be that UK customers should pay the same price in pounds as Americans do in dollars. With the exchange rate almost two to one these days, that's a very expensive bitter pill to swallow.

The list of suspects is a long one. Microsoft Vista reportedly costs £100 Blighty-side against $100 in the States; iTunes makes you pay substantially more for the same download if your credit card is associated with a UK address rather than a US one. And so on.

Aggrieved UK taxpayers may care to note that even the British government sometimes has to contend with this kind of thing. The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, for example, is listed by US sources as costing $55-60m per plane. But the British government expects to spend £10bn to get “up to 150” aircraft: £65m each, for the same plane.

But Adobe Systems has taken things to a whole new level with the release of Creative Studio 3. Adobe's website uses cookies in such a way that it's not easy to view North American prices and UK ones in the same session, but it can be done. An upgrade to Creative Suite 3 Design Premium from CS2.3 costs an American $471.90 with Californian sales tax. The exact same upgrade in the UK costs £546.38, equivalent to $1080.31 as of going to press. That's a markup of almost 130%, significantly beyond the usual price-doubling that Brits have reluctantly come to expect.

When contacted regarding all this, Adobe said: “We set pricing in each market based on customer research, local market conditions and the cost of doing business ... the EU has 10 major languages, 4 major currencies ... the costs of doing business in European markets are significantly higher per unit of revenue than in the US.

“It is worth pointing out that Adobe's customers set high expectations in terms of seminars, training, events and value added reseller channels. We have a long history of serving our customers in local markets the way they want to do business. We therefore incur these additional local costs and have to reflect them in our business model.”

It's possible to suggest that the language issue isn't really a flyer for UK sales; also, perhaps, that one reason why it might cost more to do business here is that you have to pay more than twice as much for the same software. As for the rest, Adobe's UK customers will no doubt decide for themselves whether this really is the way they want to do business. ®

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