On Wednesday at the "Beat goes on" iPod launch event, as is often the case, Steve Jobs had a surprise announcement to make - a significant price cut to the iPhone.

As well as dropping the 4GB version from the iPhone line-up, Jobs revealed that the 8GB version will now cost US consumers $399, a substantial $200 reduction on the previous $599 price tag.

Although this news will no doubt be received in an overall positive way by most consumers ("iPhones for everyone!"), I can't help feeling outraged on behalf of the early adopters that splashed out the full $600.

Many of these Apple fans not only paid full whack for their phones, but queued for hours in order to do so. Some reward for the loyal who wanted to own the new product as soon as possible...

This third-off price cut means, roughly speaking, that anyone who bought an iPhone at launch - and as we know hundreds of thousands did - have paid $100 per month early adopter "tax" for the privilege.

It's hard to gauge just why Apple has made this price cut so soon - by all accounts the phone, or at least the 8GB version, is selling well (although not as well as some investors would like). Jobs stated at the event they are on track to ship the millionth unit.

To be more "aggressive" in the market was the only hint Jobs gave for the price cut, apart from PR-babble about wanting as many people as possible to own such a fantastic device, blah, blah, blah.

It is certainly a major sign of weakness from Apple, no matter what spin Steve Jobs puts on the reasoning. To own Apple products you

always

pay a premium - they have never been the Robin Hood of the consumer electronics world so there's

no way

this price adjustment is down to love for the common folk.

Unsurprisingly Apple's shares have dropped following the news as speculation grows about this development that makes the company appear nervy - and even a little desperate.

Apple does offer a 2-week refund window in the event of a price cut for a product that you've just purchased.

USA Today, granted an audience with Steve Jobs, asked if refunds will be forthcoming for people that paid the full price, to which Steve Jobs replied:

"That's technology. If they bought it this morning, they should go back to where they bought it and talk to them. If they bought it a month ago, well, that's what happens in technology."

If I were a $600 iPhone owner today, I would be outside an Apple store with a placard until this policy is extended to include

all

iPhone purchases since 29th June.