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Expensive Apples – Thoughts on iAddiction

17th Oct 2012
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In some ways, Apple is beginning to resemble that universal joy bringer, Jupiter, in others, a state corporation of the Soviet era.

The big difference from Stalinist model is that while his cohorts were very strong on marketing and monopolising, they had no particular interest in pleasing the millions, often struggling to feed them. By contrast, the legacy of Steve Jobs keeps disciples in a semi-religious fervour of ecstasy.

It is a good bet that readers of this column aged under 35 will be surrounded by products that they have purchased from Apple. Their older colleagues may be a little more selective but those with not a single i- or Mac-anything are probably in a very small minority.

It might be informative to consider the global success of this mighty corporation and also to ponder whether it is a "good thing" in the 1066 and All That sense of the term.

Apple has somehow managed to combine the ethos of unbeatably desirable design with the mass appeal of products that would normally fit into the "pile them high and sell them cheap" category.

To an extent, their offerings are unique but this can never last for long, even if some competitors are obliged to cheat in order to get their copies to a satisfactory level.

Whether it is a wafer-thin computer, a particularly smart mobile phone, a mid-sized portable entertainment provider or a smaller scale audio/video/games centre, Apple has it all.

The corporation also knows how to charge. In many cases, Apple products cost at least twice as much as perfectly viable equivalents that will do all that anyone but the most discerning of users could require.

Despite this pricing model, the Apple brand sells like wildfire and the recent release of the iPhone 5 has beaten all expectations yet again. While this is clearly a very sexy bit of kit, it is stunningly expensive and many of the latest developments will be no more than gimmicks for most users.

The reason why Apple are so successful is partly down to mass hysteria, owes something to tremendous design values, that extends to their stores as well as their products. However, hidden not very far beneath the surface is the source of their monopolistic genius.

This is the concept of the app and its wider family. Since Apple uses its own proprietary operating systems you are obliged to purchase items sold or licensed by the corporation in order to get the most from their products.

In some cases, these will cost almost nothing, in others, for example a dedicated version of Microsoft Office or an iPod dock, the cost could be hundreds of pounds.

However, having persuaded people to invest in lots of these support tools, Apple have them hooked ever after since, like those on hard drugs, it is almost impossible to go cold turkey, ditch everything and move to another provider.

Is this a good thing? As a general rule, monopolies tend to be threatening and dangerous. However, it could be argued that since Apple Corporation makes so many people so very happy - witness all those people desperate to show you their new iPhones - perhaps we should all praise the company and embrace their products with enthusiasm.

One can see some developments as cynical now. Changing the connection at the bottom of the iPhone 5, new iPods and inevitably succeeding generations of iPads for the Lightning Connector, something that will not fit into all of those iPod docks that people have purchased over the years, seems like a cynical tool to make money.

Either people will be obliged to buy overpriced new adapters, or new products. It seems inevitable that manufacturers will have to create new versions of all of their favourite speaker docks etc. and it is really not clear at the moment why this change was necessary.

However, there was and is the possibility that this could backfire badly on Apple, if enough of us decide that while the attractions of their new iPods etc. are unbeatable, getting an old version at half the price but able to fit into a much loved speaker system could be a better bet.

In reality, Apple has created one of the most successful brands of the 21st-century and there is very little sign of any slowing down in growth, even through four years of desperate recession.

All credit to the memory of Steve Jobs. His vision might eventually make him better and certainly more fondly remembered than Stalin, as his creations take over the world. On second thoughts, perhaps he is Big Brother, though whether the Orwell version or that kindly family member who helps younger siblings to get the most from life might be open to debate.


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Replies (22)

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Nigel Harris
By Nigel Harris
18th Oct 2012 09:15

Form over substance?
What got me hooked on Apple products after my first iPod Nano (at the age of 54) was the design and ease of use. After a succession of MP3 players and mobile phones that took for ever to set up and never really worked properly, here was a range of products that worked exactly how I wanted them to, straight out of the box.

I couldn't believe how easy the setup of my first iPhone was - I just turned it on and it did everything for me. My previous smartphone took our IT dept over a week to configure and connect to Exchange!

I'm not sure why Apple is so good at this, or rather why its competitors are so poor. Is it down to money, leadership, Steve Jobs legacy...?

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18th Oct 2012 10:36


In some areas they are very intuitive (i.e. iPhone- - offering to reduce images when sending email) , however, in others they are incredibly predatory/proprietry

Apple also seems to change their own rules/product without a thought to others; almost as though they are trying to be deliberately difficult - i.e. iPhone 4 sim card size, battery access, change connection pins on iPod/iPhone etc. so that earlier purchasers of Bose docking stations are then completely stuffed without a factory change ... and so on ....

Just try writing an app & Apple want an excessive percentage chunk of your work for every sale.

Finally - never forget that Apple, along with others (Google) are avoiding UK tax on sales made here by setting up off shore & having 'artificial' expenses etc.


After all their taxes would help the UK Government pay for all manner of services - benefits, NHS, pensions etc.... so each 'tax-buck' they trouser is one less available to the country where they sell their products

and as for their working practices with Foxconn ... well ... perhaps the same attitude as avoiding UK taxes ... lets take what we can and to hell with right or wrong !

Personally I would 'whack on' an import tax on every Apple product at such a swinging level that they would be better off actually opting to pay the appropriate tax instead

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By justsotax
18th Oct 2012 10:39

or is it style over substance....

whichever it is, being the owner of an ipad and iphone i can see the sleek user friendly design...along with the many gimmicks/gadgets that you can show off to people....but in the end its the practical application that is key.  For me having paid out the cash i am still to be convinced that they are the best in the market...and whilst some of the gimmicks are 'cool'...the basics can be very frustrating....iphone4 poor reception/signal for phone calls and the appalling battery life....

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By mbdx7ja2
18th Oct 2012 14:21

The new connection issue

I'm getting tired of people berating Apple for changing the connector in the new iPhone (and presumably other new hardware to follow) as if this is somehow a money-making scam.  Whilst some of the complaints leveled at Apple are justifiable, this one just doesn't hold water.

Does any other company ensure all their products are backwards-compatible indefinitely?  The old connector has been in use for over 10 years, I'm surprised it has lasted as long as it has to be honest.  

The whole point about technology is it moves on.  I don't berate my new PC for not having a floppy disk drive or a Zipdrive, which were standard kit when I left uni.  Now all my old data is stuck on these obsolete formats.  My old mice with the PS/2 connectors, my old printers don't connect to my new PC, and good job too.  I've now upgraded to new ones as these are now incredibly dated.  But they would still work with the hardware I owned when I bought them in the first place.  To expect them to be future-proof indefinitely is not reasonable.

By definition people acquiring the new connector have a new bit of technology.  The fact that they have incompatible old technology comes with the territory.  In fact Apple are now moving to a stage where they are trying to get everything to work wirelessly with WiFi or Bluetooth so the connector is only really going to be relevant for the charger (which comes priced in with the hardware).

Apple's biggest crime is being held to higher standards than their competitors.

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18th Oct 2012 15:26

All About Standards ...


Last year Apple was supporting the International Electronics Commission's striving for a universal, micro-USB charging standard -

As the rest of the tech industry moves to a standard micro-USB charging format Apple has once again changed the rules

This year Apple have ignored the micro-USB standard and produced a proprietary new dock connector called 'Lightning' - meaning that it won't work with older chargers and music docks without the extra expense of cumbersome adaptors. And the only benefit is $$$$ in their bank account at $19 each, plus $29 for adapters

These are also current day issues and it is nothing to do with '..Apple's biggest crime is being held to higher standards than their competitors..'

So forgive me for saying that the previous post titled 'The new connection issue' was complete nonsense and only demonstrates that even when Apple are wrong excuses proliferate and it is never acknowledged by their following

Just project Apples way of doing things into any other discipline - say accountancy. What would happen if every firm decided to ignore the standards and go their own way - either because they found it convenient (proprietry) or it simply made a lot more difficult for clients to go to another accountant?

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By Old Greying Accountant
18th Oct 2012 16:42

Proud ...

... to be a minority :o)

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By mbdx7ja2
18th Oct 2012 17:20

@ JC

What nonsense.  You might as well say why won't my Microsoft Word/Excel etc documents - or Windows based files work on Linux based or MacOS software platforms.  I presume all apps purchased under Android automatically transfer for free to any iOS hardware that person owns.  No?  Sounds like profiteering from Google/Microsoft etc.

As for the price Apple charge for people to sell through the store.  If you don't want to, don't sell through iOS.  No-one is being forced to.

Other examples:

My Nokia phone no longer works with my old Nokia chargers - making the in car charger I bought redundant - blatant profiteering!  I now have to buy another?


Returning to your chargers and music docks; firstly you will get one with the new hardware (how many do you need?) and secondly you surely still have hardware which works with the music docks.  And still works?

I might as well complain to Samsung for not making my Bluray player play my old VHS tapes.

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By Old Greying Accountant
18th Oct 2012 17:33

Reminded me ...

... of a recent phone-in on a radio breakfast show.

They wanted listeners ideas for things to put in a time capsule to perplex the future finders of the capsule.

One bright spark suggested putting an apple logo on an etch-a-sketch with the moniker "i-sketch".

Made me laugh anyway!




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19th Oct 2012 09:09

Mixing apples & pears ...

@mbdx7ja2 - what on earth are you talking about. The entire post is a non-sequitur and to equate MS Word/Excel with Linux etc. is like saying it doesn't work on my lawnmower - well of course not

First - we are talking h/w not s/w and in any case MS only produce s/w so they have no control over both elements; whereas Apple produce h/w & s/w and have been at great pains to control the whole product so the entire thing is in their court

Second - why support the International Electronics Commission's universal, micro-USB charging standard if there is no intention of adhering to it ?

Thirdly - '.. If you don't want to, don't sell through iOS. No-one is being forced to ..'. Whilst I could be incorrect I believe one cannot sell any software for iPhone/iPad without Apple controlling the situation and taking their cut/commission.

I have to admit on the subject of 'music docks' (i.e. Bose etc.) I did not realise that '.. firstly you will get one with the new hardware ..', although my understanding is that this is not provided

and furthermore '.. you surely still have hardware which works with the music docks. And still works? ..' The point is that it does not work because the connectors have been changed to Apples own rather than a universal industry standard

I am afraid that your post does not make sense and only goes to reinforce the 'fan-boy' blinkered approach.

It is worth noting that I have iPhone/iPad, Apple portable - but am mainly pc centric; so am well aware of the plus & minus points of the products being discussed

In fact many of the practices adopted by Apple are introduced purely a 'lock in' to make life as difficult as possible for customers to move to another supplier. This is totally in line with their overall predatory approach and out of place in todays world where everyone else is advocating seemless migration between systems of choice

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By mbdx7ja2
19th Oct 2012 10:48

@ JC

I really don't see the trouble you are having.  I agree with your first point re: lawnmower, but it then seems to be you are making the same point.  Are BOSE owned by Apple?  That's certainly news to me.

And as for deliberately misconstruing my comment on chargers (which I'm presuming DO come with new h/w?) and saying that they must supply adapters for other h/w such as music docks - I do not say that, or did not intend to.  Maybe instead of firstly and secondly I should have written "for the former" and "for the latter", but I don't think it was being that ambiguous and requiring such a leap of intuition to the reader.

I'm really at pains to understand why someone would buy a music dock (say BOSE) which only docks with old iOS-h/w and then buy an iPhone 5 to use with it.  Do people really do this?  I presume that people who own music docks have an iOS h/w device which works with it.  And still does?  Their new h/w might not connect, but that's a different issue - and more akin to my Bluray-VHS analogy.  It's practically a given that technology will not be future-proof indefinitely, and around 10 years for a single format of dock seems pretty consistent.

As for the micro-USB, surely this would still have been a change in dock - leading to compatibility issues.  I don't know (and frankly don't care) why they've decided to go their own way but this is a moot point when the basis of the argument in the first place is they are changing their dock format.

And I still don't understand why you believe people have to sell through iOS?  If you want to sell on Apple's h/w / s/w then yes you do, but no-one is forcing you to.  In fact there is a plethora of worthless stuff on Android which isn't available on iOS (and probably the other way around too).  It's likely selling through eBay or Amazon and then [***] about their commission rates - no-one forced you to use them.  And don't go into the argument that if you don't then you can't reach that market.  If your product is good enough, and it's not available on iOS, the market will come to you.  

And for the record, I don't own an iPhone or an iPad (used to have a 3GS a year or so ago).  I'm just getting sick of people berating Apple for being successful.  You are not obliged to buy their stuff.  A lot of people don't.  But I'd be stunned if Microsoft don't closely control the add-ons and apps for their new Windows phones, and Google don't receive some form of commission for Android apps etc.  It's called capitalism and it's the worst form of economic set-up apart from all the others.

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19th Oct 2012 12:18

Of course they are successful - but at what cost ......

'.. Apple's biggest crime is being held to higher standards than their competitors ..' - why not?

Is it solely about success & profits at the expense of all else?

Profitable yes - ethical questionnable

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By mbdx7ja2
19th Oct 2012 13:16

Completely off topic from my original comment, but I'll bite:

Quote from the Grauniad article: "Foxconn is Apple's largest manufacturing partner and makes products for Dell, Sony and Hewlett-Packard among others. It said the Yantai factory was not making Apple products"

So looks like a problem for Apple's competitors, and not Apple.  Perhaps you would care to try again?

From your other link: "Second, and this is really important, since FLA was founded 12 years ago, of the dozens of companies that have joined FLA and invited FLA to perform factory audits, not a single one uses supplier factories with conditions better than Foxconn. From ten years of investigations at China Labor Watch, I can guarantee you; none of the corporate members of FLA have supplier factories with better overall working conditions than Foxconn."'

Now I'll admit that is no reason to hold back on legitimate criticism, which is merited, however again this looks like one for Apple's competitors to answer well before they have to.  At least Apple appear to be trying to do something about the working conditions. 

It would appear you have just helped prove my assertion that Apple is held to higher standards than Dell, Sony and HP (among others).

Next you'll be banging on about the suicide level at Foxconn, which has been shown to be significantly lower than the national Chinese average.  The raw numbers look shocking simple because they have so many employees.

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By Jimess
19th Oct 2012 14:11


I moved on to iPhone 4 just over a year ago having spent all of my mobile phone ownwership life with various models of Nokia and been very happy with them all.  I liked the idea of the iPhone so went with it at my last contract renewal.  I have had more trouble with the iPhone 4 than I have ever had with nearly 20 years worth of Nokia use.  It was not just a take out of the box, charge up connect and away you go experience for me - it took almost a week to sort out connectivity issues and to actually get the iPhone to work properly.  The battery life is so poor that I am currently charging it daily, the reception is absolutely awful, I still have not got the voicemail working over a year down the line, despite many attempts to resolve this with Apple and my mobile phone supplier, the camera is dreadful compared to my last Nokia phone and quite a lot of the features can only be used if you are phoning another iPhone user and so are pretty useless.  I wish to god I had hung on for one of the 3G models that came out very shortly after I got my iPhone4 - at around half the price of the iPhone4 contract.  Stuck with it now for another 6 months or so then I will be happily waving it goodbye. A very expensive mistake and I grit my teeth every time I get my mobile phone bill because of it.

Having said that I own an Apple iPod Classic and I love it to bits.  Compared to other iPods it was a bit expensive but it had a huge storage capacity that I am still less than a quarter of the way to filling even with my entire music collection and several hundreds of photos on there.  I was a bit miffed at first as I thought I would have to buy all the downloads through the iTunes/Apple store and they were hugely expensive, but very soon discovered that other  downloads could be very easily converted into iTunes format so I am now a truly happy bunny with it. 

Perhaps Apple should have stayed out of the phone market and concentrated on what they are very good at.


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Replying to pauljohnston:
By mbdx7ja2
19th Oct 2012 14:33

@ Jimess

I wouldn't hold out too much hope with other 3G phones - from reviews on Carphone Warehouse/Phones 4U they all have significant battery life issues.  Take my route - get a £30 phone - it calls, texts and only needs charging every 2-3 days (even with Bluetooth on constantly for handsfree in the car).  For photos I've decided to go with these devices called "cameras" - they work quite well! ;)


Jimess wrote:


Perhaps Apple should have stayed out of the phone market and concentrated on what they are very good at.



I'm sure they're crying into their morning coffee as they look over the latest sales figures.

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Philip Fisher
By Philip Fisher
19th Oct 2012 14:35

Lightning Conductor

The one thing that would have been good is for Apple to include the appropriate adapters as a "free" item in packs with new iPhones/iPods etc, at least for a period.

They charge enough to do this but seem have made it their mission to charge for extras, even necessities.

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19th Oct 2012 15:07

Sounds like the successful BritArt wealth-bashing thing

We have some very wealthy artists in Britain, most of them part of the baby boomer BritArt scene, and some doing extremely well for themselves ... but lots of people slag them off for being extremely wealthy whilst producing absolutely crap art ... but, folks, it's us who buy their art (well, the wealthier ones amongst us, that is), so it's our fault entirely that some crap artists are extremely wealthy.

The same is true of Apple. Nobody is forcing you to buy any of their kit. The fact that is sells so absurdly well is due entirely to us  ... we like it, and that's all there is to it.

As an aside, I think that some of the BritArtists, such as Tracy Emin, are brilliant, not on account of her work, but as a person who has bared everything to such an extent that she is practically inviolable .... now that takes real guts, even though I don't hold much of her art is high esteem (boys and gals, I'm real old fashioned when it comes to art appreciation).

And, as any of you know, if you ever read anything I put up, I do use Apple kit, purely because I like the look of it ... if I'm going to be working at a computer all day long, give me a good-looking computer. Having said that, I am having problems with fonts on OS10.6.8, which is a well-known issue, so I could upgrade to Mountain Lion should I wish to ... but my computer is just a couple of months too old to upgrade to that, so I'll just have to put up with the regularly occurring odd day of font problems until I get the latest shiny piece of replacement kit from Apple ... and yes, I'll be paying through the nose for it.

Regarding mobile phones, until the iPhone there wasn't one ground-breaking phone out there. So you might not like the iPhone, but your latest favourite incarnations of all these sleek mobile devices owe everything to Apple.

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20th Oct 2012 09:23

Part 1 - Don’t earn a living – no-one is being forced to ….


Of course you are quite right ‘..If you don't want to, don't sell through iOS.  No-one is being forced to ..’, however, many developers make a living from writing and selling apps in this way and telling someone blandly that they don’t need to earn a living is somewhat naive

Now let us take those making a living from accountancy. In most cases the requirement is to belong to a professional body before being allowed to practice; therefore the route to market is via ICAEW,ACCA etc. in a same way as the only route to market for developers is via Apple/Android.

Just supposing the ICAEW decided to charge you 30% commission on every invoice you rendered to clients; otherwise you would not be permitted to practice and therefore unable to earn a living because your route to market is being held to ransom.

And it gets better – not only charging commission on your direct work but also on income from any referrals

How would most of the profession react ?

Using your logic – if you don’t want to pay the ICAEW commission then don’t be a member; however, you cannot practice as an accountant - but after all no-one is forcing you to ….

Unfortunately, the alternative is that you cannot earn a living – so it is all very well standing on the side lines making comments such as ‘don’t work – no-one is forcing you to’ but that is a wholly unrealistic approach, that just demonstrates little respect for others and the excessively predatory nature of the controlling organisation (Apple)

No-one objects to a reasonable commission (i.e. 5%) but levels such as 30% are excessive and just demonstrate market abuse because of one’s dominant position. Furthermore, this same abuse is being demonstrated in countries where their products are being manufactured; so it is endemic with Apple (and probably with others)

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20th Oct 2012 10:18

Part 2 - Corporate Responsibility ...

Interesting statement ‘..So looks like a problem for Apple's competitors, and not Apple.  Perhaps you would care to try again? ..’

Simple - Does the Yantai factory belong to Foxconn ? .... Does Apple use Foxconn to manufacture its products ? ....

The issue is supplier (corporate) based rather than site specific and really has nothing to do with where an actual component is made.

Alternatively, are we really saying it is acceptable to ignore abuses in different areas of a company provided the part of the groups factory we use is does not have these practices – good thinking ! - which would open the door to all manner of interesting structures.

How granular do you want to take this approach - why limit it to specific factory; let’s have department within same factory or different floor level or even different work space, so that the Client (Apple) can claim that it did not occur on their work-bench ..... mmmmm

Anyway how many times have we all read about a Company’s overall 'Ethos' and corporate responsibility etc. which just goes to reinforce that one simply cannot partition areas within a group to suit oneself in a debate

As for the comment '.. however again this looks like one for Apple's competitors to answer well before they have to ..' – Why ? Surely it is a collective responsibility and Apple is down on record as knowing about the situation for many years and not addressing it properly unless coerced  by public opinion – this is the issue

Surely the question is not about '.. Apple's biggest crime is being held to higher standards than their competitors ..' but rather – why have they known about these matters and failed to resolve them.

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By jimeth
23rd Oct 2012 11:27

Never owned an Apple Product

I am one of those who have never owned an Apple product.  And I never intend to.  I would prefer open standards to a proprietory monopoly product any day.

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Philip Fisher
By Philip Fisher
24th Oct 2012 08:38

The Perfect Apple Add-On

If you are into Apple products, you might well be interested in the Arcam rCube.

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By Old Greying Accountant
25th Oct 2012 19:47

The only apple's I'll buy ..

... are for eating, but each to their own.

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By Anne Fairpo
26th Oct 2012 17:44

"The one thing that would

"The one thing that would have been good is for Apple to include the appropriate adapters as a "free" item in packs with new iPhones/iPods etc, at least for a period."

Why? They do include a cable and plug with the iPhone 5 so it's not as if you can't connect it to a computer and charge it.  Why should Apple pay for you to connect to third-party equipment that you bought from someone else?  Blackberry changed their connection (ok, from one USB standard to another) but didn't provide any free adapters. Should they have done?  That said, I agree with the previous commentator who said Apple's support for the common micro-USB standard seems to be all words and no action!

And, from the article itself: "Since Apple uses its own proprietary operating systems you are obliged to purchase items sold or licensed by the corporation in order to get the most from their products. In some cases, these will cost almost nothing, in others, for example a dedicated version of Microsoft Office or an iPod dock, the cost could be hundreds of pounds."

For heaven's sake: who gives away Android docks? Amazon seem to have rather a lot of them for considerably more than £0 (as for hundreds of pounds? The kit had better do more than dock for that money).  As for MS Office, the Mac version costs the same as the Windows version (at least, it does at PC World where I just checked). And that's less than a hundred pounds (ok, for the Home/Student version).

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