Trouble may be brewing for Microsoft over its UK pricing policy on the now infamous e-petition section of the Prime Ministers’ 10 Downing Street website.

Even as Tony Blair’s people were gearing up to reply to the 1.7 million anti-road-charging signatories, Paul Milne has started a new petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/VistaOverchargenew that urges: “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to bring pressure on Microsoft to stop them overcharging the UK for its Vista operating system.”

In his entry on the site, Milne claims that in the UK a full copy of Vista Ultimate costs £350, whereas in the US it costs £195.

He says: “Therefore I can see no reason for there to be such a huge difference in prices between the UK and the US other than Microsoft’s belief that the UK customers will pay more than their US counterparts. I ask people to sign this petition in the hope that the Prime Minister will bring pressure to bear on Microsoft over their pricing as it is my belief they are simply overcharging the people of the UK and therefore are ripping us off.”

While the petition is unlikely to prompt a response from the PM, it does highlight the manner in which US computer firms use the increasingly weak dollar to their advantage. As an article on The Register website (“When is a dollar not worth a dollar?” http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/20/exchange_rate_ripoff) pointed out last week, Microsoft is certainly not alone in taking advantage of the near 2-to-1 dollar/sterling exchange rate.

The article’s author, Brian Betts, cited an iSCSI box from EqualLogic that sells for £40,000 here and $67,000 in the States -- a conversion rate of 1.67 dollars to the pound. He also highlighted a NAS box from Adaptec at $15,695 in the US and £9,995 in the UK, an exchange rate of 1.57, and AirMagnet's latest LAN analyser at $9,995 in the US or £6,000 here, a 1.67 conversion rate.

Jim Stirling