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Cheap e-books or real competition?

POOR Apple. I know, that's probably a difficult phrase for a lot of people to agree with. After all, the company has become the most valuable corporation on earth and is showing no sign of slowing down.

True, the release of the latest version of the iPad last week underwhelmed some analysts, but the market since has disagreed, with the company's shares adding another 3pc since the launch.

Indeed, some company watchers are claiming the new version means Apple is now likely to dominate the tablet market in a similar manner to the mp3 player sector, where, 12 years after the iPod's launch, the company still has an estimated 78pc market share.

There is one cloud on the horizon, however, and the cloud is in both Europe and the US.

The US Justice Department is to sue Apple and five publishers, accusing them of fixing the price of e-books. The probe is a mirror image of one launched last year by EU authorities.

According to the complaint on both sides of the Atlantic, Apple and the publishers colluded to set the price of books on its iBooks store, giving Apple a 30pc cut as long as the lowest price of the e-book was on Apple's store.

This runs counter to the traditional model of book selling where the retailer buys the book in bulk from the publisher and then sets the price itself.

Amazon followed the traditional model when it launched the Kindle e-reader and has been accused of setting book prices artificially low in an effort to corner the e-book market. This strategy was largely successful for Amazon and gave us lower prices but at the expense of any meaningful rivals in the e-book space.

This is where "poor Apple" comes in. Steve Jobs wanted a piece of the e-book market and worked with publishers, including Penguin, Simon & Schuster and MacMillan, to get into that market.

As a result, consumers may have been hit with higher prices, but they also got a real choice in the e-book sector. And now Apple is being sued because of it.

Yes, the Kindle still dominates, but in Ireland alone, iBooks, and a host of e-readers that can be used with Waterstones, WH Smith and Easons are all on the market now as well. And there's the rub. As consumers, do we want to maintain abstract competitive ideals? Or do we just want cheaper prices?

UPC adds RTE channels

UPC will extend its selection of content further with the inclusion of three new RTE digital terrestrial television channels.

RTE One+1 became available from Tuesday, while RTE Two HD and RTEjr can be seen on UPC from today.

RTE Two HD will show the RBS 6 Nations triple header this Saturday, Champions League, key GAA championship fixtures and many more key sporting events across the year in high definition, while RTEjr will provide younger viewers with the best home-produced children's TV.

RTE managing director of TV Glen Killane said: "We're delighted to partner with UPC to bring our new channels directly to over 380,000 homes."

UPC's head of television Simon Kelehan said his firm was "committed to bringing our customers the best possible digital TV service".

Get started with DCU business school

DCU Business School is looking for Irish entrepreneurs, SMEs and start-ups to come to the Helix on March 20 for this year's "Get Started" mini-conference. Speakers include Gavin Duffy of 'Dragons' Den' and social entrepreneur Caroline Casey, who will share their advice and knowledge.

"Entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses need inspiration but also practical advice," says Dr Theo Lynn, director of industry engagement at DCU Business School. To register, visit www.techspectations.org.

Indo Business