update Microsoft is set to charge Australians a premium price for the Kinect for Windows unit when it hits shelves in February, with the Redmond giant confirming that it will charge Australians $50 extra for the unit than their US counterparts.
Microsoft's Kinect sensor
Microsoft's commander-in-chief Steve Ballmer announced during the company's last Consumer Electronics Show (CES) keynote yesterday that Kinect for Windows would finally grace store shelves on 1 February, with Amazon listing the device for pre-order at a price of US$249.99 mere minutes later.
ZDNet Australia has now learned that Microsoft will charge Australians $299 for the same unit when it goes on sale down under on 1 February.
Microsoft said in a statement that it has a lot of factors to consider when pricing products, and can't always mirror prices across different markets.
"Many factors determine Microsoft's recommended retail prices locally, including, but not limited to, the size of the market, taxes, government regulations and costs. It is difficult to make a straight pricing comparison between countries, given that the conditions vary between markets," Redmond said.
Although this inflated price means that Australians will be paying more for the Kinect for Windows bundle, users can access the product in another, cheaper, fashion. Gaming news site Kotaku highlighted yesterday that the original Kinect unit, intended for Xbox 360 consoles, and priced at $148 locally, will work with Windows computers running the Kinect software-development kit.
Taking this several steps further, it means that Australian Windows users keen to get their hands on Kinect for Windows while holding onto $151 can do so by picking up the Kinect from a games retailer and installing the Kinect SDK, available from Microsoft's website for free.
Microsoft, however, said that it wasn't that simple. The Kinect for Windows unit, Microsoft said, is specifically designed for use in close-quarters gesture work, and includes beefed-up USB support.
"The new Kinect for Windows sensor is a fully tested and supported Kinect experience on Windows, with features such as Near Mode, improved USB support across a range of Windows computers and Windows-specific 10-inch acoustic models. It is the only sensor optimised for this use with the SDK," the tech giant said.
Microsoft also sought to defend the $150 disparity between Kinect for Windows and Kinect for Xbox 360.
"The ability to sell Kinect for Xbox 360 at its current price point is in large part subsidised by consumers buying a number of Kinect games, subscribing to Xbox Live, and making other transactions associated with the Xbox 360 ecosystem.
"In addition, the Kinect for Xbox 360 was built for and tested with the Xbox 360 console only, which is why it is not licensed for general commercial use, supported or under warranty when used on any other platform," Microsoft added.
This isn't the first time that Redmond has charged Australians extra for the privilege of using its kit.
Microsoft has been caught out at this before, by offering its Dynamics CRM software at a higher monthly cost compared to the US market, with Aussies slugged an extra $10 per month for the software as a service suite.
Yet, Microsoft isn't the only big tech company slugging Aussies with what's become known as the "Australia tax". Digital downloads of software, music and movies are often charged at inflated prices for the Australian market.
The price gouging hasn't gone unnoticed, however, with Labor MP for Chifley, Ed Husic, last year taking the fight against the Australia tax to the floor of the House of Representatives.
Husic denounced big companies like Microsoft and Apple for charging Australians extra for the same products, especially when foreign currency rates between the Australian dollar and the US greenback are at parity.
"I suspect these companies believe they can ride out this sustained public focus," Husic said at the time.
Updated at 1.31pm, 11 January 2011: added additional comment from Microsoft on Xbox vs. Windows Kinect.