Vista will cost you a lot more in the UK than our US cousins will have to pay. And it's not fair

This article appears as part of our comprehensive guide to Windows Vista in the March 07 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents. Click here to visit our dedicated Windows Vista forum.

Vista's consumer launch is slated to be tomorrow. Corporate users got their first official look at Vista at the tail end of 2006, manufacturers having received final code and being able to start installing the Business Edition just in time for the OS to qualify for a bona fide 2006 launch.

But if we want the improved security, the swooshy graphics, the desktop search utility that actually knows its ass from its elbow and so on, it's hellishly expensive. Or, to put it another way, if we want exactly the same product that our US cousins are getting we have to shell out a lot more.

It came as little surprise to me to discover that Windows Vista is going to cost a heap more here in the UK than it does in the US. I'm looking forward to working with Microsoft's overdue but impressive operating system, but my enthusiasm for its gloss and glass is dampened as I contemplate its cost.

Late summer 2006 brought news that Amazon US would be flogging Vista for $199. This excludes local sales tax, naturally, but prices Vista at a smidgen over £100. The dollar is weak against sterling right now, but the discrepancy doesn't add up.

The UK price premium for top-of-the-range Vista Ultimate isn't just 10, 15 or even 25 percent. It's around 80 percent; higher still at some sites. Microsoft says it doesn't dictate pricing, yet the retailers have got to be basing their prices on some criteria. We've always had a rough deal in Europe this way. Vista is simply the latest example. Food, travel, clothes, consumer electronics… everything costs more here. And it's difficult to shop around across international borders.

If we try, either we won't be able to make the transaction or some heavyweight corporation will protect its territorial assets and we'll be stopped in our tracks. Democracy, eh?