Apple's global pricing sucks… still

I've complained about this before and every now and again it just annoys me to the point that I have to vent. This is one of those times. Feel free to skip this post if you'd rather not read my rant.

In the previous post I linked to above, my rant was about the price of Pixelmator on the US versus Australian Mac App Stores. It was, at the time:

  • In the US Mac App Store: US$ 59.99
  • In the Australian Mac App Store: AU$ 74.99

This when the Australian dollar was almost on par with the US dollar. It was actually only just slightly stronger, so the price in Australian dollars should've been just under $59.99. This is a constant source of frustration for many Apple customers outside the US.

Today, I decided to buy David Sparks new book, iPad at Work.

I wasn't sure if I wanted the iBook version or the Kindle one, so I looked it up in both stores.

In iTunes it's listed for AU$24.99 (in the Australian store. That's $24.40 US dollars at today's exchange rate).

In Amazon it's listed for US$15.29.

I checked in the US iTunes store and it's selling for $16.99.

So, within the US, the price for iPad at Work in the iBookstore ($16.99) is only slightly more than in Amazon ($15.29). No dramas there. But why is it a third more if I buy in Australia? Who's pocketing the extra revenue?

I wonder if the same price discrepancy happens with the Newsstand app.

I guess I should just give up on the iBookstore and stick to Amazon for all my books.

Microsoft's Office for Mac 2011 font absurdity

I installed Lion on my home MacBook Pro the day it came out. It’s an old 17 inch that I use mostly for testing and mucking around, and don’t mind if something goes wrong. My critical data is on a newer MacBook Pro 15 I use for work or on external drives.

As with every new OS, I’m eager to start playing with it straight away but I’m also concious that it could cause some issues or incompatibilities with the software I use. And there’s always the possibility of a few bugs that made it past testing. 1 So I always install them on a non critical computer first.

With Mac OS X Lion, everything went well and only one application had issues 2, so after a few days of testing I decided to install Lion on my work computer. The only software I did not install on my personal machine is Microsoft Office, as I do not personally own a license for it and I don’t use it for anything other than work anyway.

The actual installation of Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 went well. Although it did feel weird installing software from a disc after going through the Mac App Store and disk images. After it finished it had to download a bunch of updates, which is normal when installing from discs.

The interesting part happened when it finished.

I knew Office installs a bunch of fonts as part of the process, so I opened Font Book to check there weren’t any duplicates and sure enough, there were about 10.

One thing I found strange is that most of them were fonts you’d assume Microsoft knows would already be installed by default on any Mac (like Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Trebuchet, and others), so why include them on the installer? Apparently they don’t know Macs come with fonts (or don’t care).

But what I found really absurd is the actual versions of the fonts Microsoft includes.

Take Trebuchet for example. The version that Microsoft installs as part of Office for Mac 2011 is version 1.26 (copyright 1996). However, the version that comes preinstalled on the Mac is version 5.0 (copyright 2006). The best part is that the manufacturer of Trebuchet is Microsoft.

So, Apple uses a newer version (by 10 years apparently) of a Microsoft font than Microsoft themselves. Does this seem idiotic to anybody else?

Trebuchet version installed by Apple.

Office for mac font duplicate 01

 

Trebuchet version installed by Microsoft.

Office for mac font duplicate 02


  1. It’s strange that I don’t do that with iOS updates. Any time a new version comes out I just install without thinking about it.

  2. Blogo didn’t work. It’s an app that I loved, but after emailing the developers I decided to replace it with MarsEdit.

"Chess" can't be deleted because it's required by Mac OS X - Seriously?

I just upgraded the family iMac to Lion. Although I don't think I'll use Launchpad myself, it seems to be great for non-geek users, so I wanted to clean up the apps and only show the ones that are used often. I threw a bunch of them into a folder called "Stuff" to keep them out of the way, but then I saw Chess.

Does anybody really use Chess? I don't think I've opened it in ages and I deleted it from my MacBook a long time ago. But it was there in the family iMac. I tried to deleted and I got the following message:

Chess can't be modified or deleted because it's required by Mac OS X

Seriously? I can't delete it? And it's "required" by Mac OS X? What the hell does the OS need chess for? Playing while it's bored waiting for the user to do something?

I get preventing users from deleting some critical apps, but Chess? Seriously?

Pretty disappointed with Pixelmator's customer service

I bought Pixelmator 4 weeks ago and wrote about the ridiculous prices Apple has in the Australian Mac App Store, basically not respecting the exchange rate making prices about 25% higher.

In that article, I said I wished I could pay full price for Pixelmator instead of the discount price I had from an offer, but that I didn't want to pay more than full price just because of Apple's pricing system. So I didn't buy from the Mac App Store.

Sadly, just 4 weeks later, the Pixelmator guys announced the new version, which is a free upgrade only for those who bought on the Mac App Store. I emailed customer support and they basically said "tough luck, don't care". Not literally, of course. What they said is that, since Pixelmator 2 will only be sold through the Mac App Store, in order to get the new version I have 2 options:

  1. Buy the full version when it comes out at full price plus the 25% or so extra from Apple's international pricing.
  2. Buy the same version I already paid for a month ago at a "discount price" that's actually higher than what I paid four weeks ago so I can get the upgrade for free.

This sounds ridiculous. I've only started using Pixelmator and I'm already regretting having purchased it.

I'll write more on this soon. I just wanted to get it off my chest.

Skype 5 for Mac sucks

I don't understand who decided that the UI for Skype 5 was good. It sucks in so many ways. I'm using iChat a lot more these days now that most of my family and friends have Mac's, and while not perfect, it at least stays out of your way as a communications client should.

@JoeJoomla explained it nicely in a comment on an article in Rocket Theme about hacking the Skype theme:

I just updated Skype from version 2 to version 5 and almost fell off my chair when it started up. I thought I was being attacked by an IMAX Theatre...

Unfortunately, now that Microsoft owns Skype I don't see this improving any time soon. Microsoft doesn't have a track record of good UI (think the ribbon and why it sucks), so I'm not getting my hopes up. For now I'm going back to Skype 2.8 for Mac and getting everyone I know into iChat.

If you don't care, nothing else matters

About a year ago, Merlin Mann wrote an article titled “First, Care” which has stuck with me ever since.

His main point was that in order to be truly productive and focused you don’t need the latest productivity tool or distraction-free writing software. Those things can make your work easier or more enjoyable, if that’s the type of person you are. But they’re not be the magical secret ingredient that will help you focus on the task at hand.

No, to truly focus on something you need to do one thing at a time. Multitasking is a recipe for disaster. Trying to do multiple things at once will only get you half-assed results because no single thing will have your full attention.

But Merlin suggests that before you start messing with your to-do list and pick that one thing, that you take a step back and think about what you’re about to do. He writes:

…obsessing over the slipperiness of focus, bemoaning the volume of those devil “distractions,” and constantly reassessing which shiny new “system” might make your life suddenly seem more sensible–these are all terrifically useful warning flares that you may be suffering from a deeper, more fundamental problem.

And the problem is… you don’t care.

If you don’t care (truly, deeply care), about what you’re working on, you’ll always be distracted by something. You will always find something that will, in your own mind, give you permission to procrastinate. As Merlin says in his article, “Before you sweat the logistics of focus: first, care. Care intensely.”

This is something I deeply believe in. There is nothing in life worth doing if you don’t care. The only way to work is to care are about your projects, care about your goals, care about your teammates, care about your clients, care about your company, care about everything you do.

If you don’t care, quit. You’re in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing.

Blurb books without Flash... only on iOS?

Blurb is a company that prints books on demand allowing consumers to self-publish. It's a great idea. Also really cool is that you can see previews of the books online. However, these previews require you to have Adobe's Flash player installed.

This wasn't that much of an issue in pre-iOS days, but since the iPhone and iPad cannot view Flash content, it's a good idea for sites to at least have a non-Flash version. Those annoying "missing plug-in" messages are bad and give consumers a terrible experience.

Well, Blurb did the right thing and you can actually see previews on an iPad, and they look beautiful.

However, it seems the non-Flash version works only if you view from an iOS browser. I don't have Flash installed in my MacBook Pro as that's the way they now ship from Apple. I need to test sites as a normal person (ie. my mom) would see them, so I decided to live without Flash and downloaded Chrome for when I need it (got the tip on Daring Fireball).

Well, visiting a Blurb book preview from Safari on my MacBook Pro gives me a dreaded "Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player". I just don't understand why they would do this. If they've already built a non-Flash version why not just display that if no Flash plugin is detected? Seems like a no brainer to me.

Apple's global pricing sucks

One of the things I'm most passionate about is photography. It turns out this is where I tend to spend a large chunk of my disposable income. Too large. Luckily, I've controlled myself lately and haven't given in to gear or software lust in a long time. I'm enjoying my current cameras and Aperture does almost everything I want it to.

However, I still have the need to do more in depth retouching sometimes and therefore need Photoshop. As I mentioned yesterday, I haven't upgraded Photoshop. I'm 2 versions behind and refuse to spend any more money on it. It's just way too expensive for what I do with it, and every update just gets tons of more non-photography related crap and just one or two things I would like. It's now a bloated, confusing, and ugly application. So, I've developed a bit of an animosity towards Photoshop.

In yesterday's post, I mentioned the following regarding Photoshop:

I haven’t upgraded in ages and don’t have any plans to. Aperture and a few plugins do most of what I need. I’m thinking of giving Acorn and Pixelmator a try though as they seem to do most of what I use Photoshop for.

Well, today I received an email with an offer for 50% off on Pixelmator.

Because I like to believe in coincidences, I clicked through to the Pixelmator website to check it out once more before purchasing it. I had already decided it was time to buy it. I noticed the actual price was $59.99 and since I strongly believe in supporting developers, I thought to myself "maybe I'll just buy directly and pay full price".

That's when my disgust with Apple's pricing strategy started. Here's what happened:

The Pixelmator website has a 'buy' button. Clicking on it starts the following:

  • The Mac App Store Preview page opens and shows the price to be $59.99
  • The actual Mac App store opens and shows the price to be $74.99

Now, let me explain. The Mac App Store Preview page is the US store, so the $59.99 is in US dollars. Since I'm in Australia, the Mac App Store is the Australian version, so the $74.99 is in Australian dollars. But according to Google, the exchange rate today is "1 Australian dollar = 1.0672 U.S. dollars", and it has been close to 1 to 1 for months. That means I should be able to buy Pixelmator through the Mac App store for just under $59.99 and not $74.99.

Who are they trying to rip off?

The same thing happens with music in iTunes. The US$0.99 songs are AU$1.69.

I have two issues with this:

  1. Why screw consumers? Wouldn't Apple (and the developers/artists/etc.) sell more if they charged appropriately?
  2. Who gets the extra revenue when a consumer falls for this? I sincerely hope it's the authors (developers/artists) and not Apple, but I wouldn't bet on it.

This situation annoyed me so much that I almost didn't buy Pixelmator. It seems it's a bad situation for everyone. If I don't buy, everybody looses (including me). If I buy through Apple, both the developer and myself get screwed. If I buy through the offer, I'm guessing the developer gets a bad deal since revenue is half and they'd have to give a commission to the promoter. Plus I don't get to feel good for supporting the developer.

In the end I did go back to the email and clicked through and ended up buying it for AU$28.10 at the appropriate exchange rate. And I don't feel good about it.