We reported earlier today on news that Apple is preparing to undertake maintenance work on iTunes Connect today from 9am to 4pm PDT. Although we cannot confirm anything, we think there is (strong) reason to believe that this maintenance is being undertaken to rebalance iTunes prices internationally which over the past year have (to be quite honest) spiralled out of control. The above diagram illustrates this fact quite clearly and it also exists for Apps and other iTunes content. Yes, that's right, there is an 81% surcharge for an Australian buying the same song as an American and those in Switzerland have to pay more than double at a 105% surcharge.
My thinking of this occurring started last Friday when Australian politician, Ed Husic, tweeted that Apple will “be getting back to me in mid July” regarding issues he had raised about (Australian) Apple pricing in Federal Parliament back in March. Now whilst he did (mostly) focus on hardware disparities in his speech, I still felt (on Friday) that Apple’s response could be about “re-calibrating” the iTunes ‘exchange-rate' - mostly because the Australian dollar has been sitting around US$1.03 whereas the iTunes ‘exchange-rate’ expects it to average at US$0.60.
Fast-forward to today’s news that iTunes Connect is facing maintenance. If you read the notice, it makes it clear that something is happening to the price mechanism, as the letter reads: “pricing changes made between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. PDT will cause the app to become unavailable for purchase until maintenance is complete”.
Whilst that alone doesn’t suggest much, the fact that the notice explicitly mentions that customers may not be able to purchase content from iTunes if in Mexico, U.K., Australia, Switzerland, Japan or Norway really stood out to me. Because (with the exception of Mexico), those mentioned are (mostly) the worst affected regions of the iTunes price disparity - just look at the above or below graphs. Whilst Mexico is the opposite, they have actually been able to purchase content at cheaper than US customers.
To be absolutely clear, I re-iterate that we have no inside knowledge that this is the definite reason for the maintenance today. But the dots (if you will) just all connect: disparity has gotten ridiculous, Ed Husic's tweet, it being mid-July, the affected portions of iTunes Connect and the regions affected. Nonetheless if by the end of today there isn't a change, I think it's still safe to say that Apple will inevitably act and I think that will be sooner than later.
You can read more about this global iTunes price disparity in this article we published in January.