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ACS Week in Review: July 11, 2014

Friday, 11 Jul 2014

Price gouging will face renewed scrutiny

THE Abbott government says it will formally respond to recommendations aimed at tackling price gouging of Australian consumers by technology companies.

The report, tabled in federal parliament in July last year, recommended relaxing restrictions on parallel importation of goods set out in the Copyright Act and the Trade Marks Act. This would allow hardware and software to be imported by a third party more cheaply and sold for less than what a manufacturer sells it for directly.

It addressed one of the bugbears of consumers shopping online — geo-blocking — where they are unable to access some overseas online stores selling goods more cheaply in Australia. It recommended the government investigate options for educating consumers and businesses about how to circumvent geo-blocking mechanisms although it recommended a ban on geo-blocking as a last resort.

The inquiry is probably best remembered for uncovering graphic disparities with Australians paying up to 50 per cent more for IT goods. Technology giants Microsoft, Apple and Adobe were hauled before the inquiry to explain their price discrepancies.

Computer users seem too busy to be efficient

After decades observing the computer industry and its victims, we have concluded that most users are too busy to save time. They are completely occupied with extracting productivity from hardware and software that seems to have been engineered, like the iceberg, to make many potentially useful features opaque.

People could be so much more efficient if they studied user manuals or, even better, trawled online forums for information on how other users – those comparative few who delve more deeply into IT tools – put them to use.

Instead, they struggle on with the status quo – generally a state of minimal effectiveness – applying whatever they have found that works and denying themselves what might be vast improvements and efficiencies.

We call this phenomenon the ‘‘Paradox of the Diligent User’’.

SBS celebrates World Cup streaming success

SBS’s Matt Costain says he is absolutely confident the network’s popular World Cup app will make it through the critical final games of the tournament without relinquishing its flawless uptime record.

The sophisticated app, accessible via the web and mobile, was developed by FIFA’s own production contractor Host Broadcasting Services, and supported on the SBS side by Akamai which provided video streaming, security and analytics.

Costain, the broadcaster’s technical director for online and emerging platforms, expects Monday morning’s final between Germany and Argentina to eclipse the record for concurrent Australian users live-streaming the game, which was set during the Socceroo’s match against Chile when traffic hit 103,000 Mbps.

The SBS app has been downloaded 450,000 times so far.