Out of the Xbox and into the fire

And in the news . . . Microsoft Corp. won’t ship its spectacular, hipper-than-thou Xbox gaming console to Hong Kong or China. The official line is that there isn’t sufficient consumer demand.

Granted, retail sales to Hong Kong’s 7 million residents are only about $40 billion a year. By comparison, Ontario’s 10 million souls spend about $100 billion in retail stores. Much of the Chinese mainland is still part of what we politely call the developing world. Yet, it still seems a large market to overlook.

Perhaps the unidentified Microsoft source who spoke to the South China Post was being a little more ingenuous. He told the Post that piracy is so widespread in the Far East that it’s hard to make a business case to sell there. Apparently, Sony won’t market its new PlayStation there, either.

Well, it serves ’em right. Any region in which 40 per cent of software in use is pirated deserves . . . oh, wait, that’s a Canadian figure.

And I would certainly never suggest that someone with a little bit of extra cash and a connection in the Orient could double his or her money in fairly short order. That would be wrong.

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The debate continues about how governments can wring their mandated sales taxes out of online operations, and whether they actually should, a tax-free Internet sales channel being the last bastion of free-market blah-dee-blah. I’ve always felt a sale is a sale, Chester, and if the government uses consumption taxes to pay for your roads and cops and public servants, cough it up.

Wyoming’s Republic senator Michael Enzi has taken on the unpopular task of ensuring that government revenues don’t erode when everybody and his dog starts buying tax-free over the Net. The legislation he’s introduced extends a moratorium on taxing Internet access and allows and encourages states to create a fair “blended” tax for remote sales.

In other words, we’re not touching it. It’s up to the states. I thought it sounded too reasonable.

There will be sales tax on online transactions — eventually. A government is going to have to step up to the plate and devise and legislate a reasoned, binding, enforceable solution, BEFORE public revenue erodes too far and lawmakers have to cobble together desperate, ham-fisted measures that only serve to further alienate.

dwebb@plesman.com

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