Petition demands Vista price cuts in U.K.

Why is the Microsoft OS so much more expensive in the United Kingdom than in the United States? More than 1,250 Brits are angry.

As businesses and consumers grapple with Microsoft's new operating system, Windows Vista, one question is increasingly being asked. Why is it so much more expensive to buy Vista in the United Kingdom than in the United States?

Anger over the issue has prompted an electronic petition on a government Web site that acts as a forum for public petitions. In less than a day, it collected more than 1,250 signatures with a regular stream of people signing up throughout Friday morning.

The petition is posted on the 10 Downing Street section of the government site and will be sent to the prime minister's office after it closes on April 20. It calls on Tony Blair to put pressure on Microsoft, "to stop (it from) overcharging the U.K. for its Vista operating system."

It points out the "huge difference in the price that people in the U.S. and the U.K. are paying for Windows Vista," claiming that Vista Ultimate, the premium version, costs $683.80 (350 pounds) in the United Kingdom but can be bought for $293 (150 pounds) in the United States.

It's not clear where these figures come from, as retail prices for Vista vary. For example, according to the recommended retail prices on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, Vista Ultimate is pegged at $399.99 (203 pounds) in the United States, and $722.85 (369.99 pounds) in the United Kingdom.

For the purposes of the petition, the organizers have picked the most extreme difference in price between Vista in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

Generally, many versions of Vista are nearly twice as expensive in the United Kingdom as they are in the U.S. But Vista Home Basic, the version for people who qualify for an upgrade to Vista, costs $193 (99 pounds) in the United Kingdom and $159 (81 pounds) in the United States--a U.K. premium of almost 20 percent.

Colin Barker of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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