Here We Go Again: Macs Are About Quality, Not Price

By  |  Monday, March 30, 2009 at 9:18 am

Apple MacBookMicrosoft’s “Lauren” ad continues to fan the flames across the blogosphere, rekindling the old Mac vs. PC debate anew. The central theme is price. Somehow bloggers are attempting to say somehow Lauren is right, proving some as yet undiscovered notion about this age old battle.

Along with this are trotted out some important looking statistics showing what a great disparity is between the two. If you take NPD’s numbers at face value, we’re lead to believe the Mac user pays a horrific $900 premium to own one of Cupertino’s machines.

There is just so much wrong with this way of looking at it to prove a point that its almost silly. First, comparing these two systems on price alone doesn’t work. By and large, Macs come with much more features for those “premiums,” so comparing the two is a bit like Apples and oranges.

It’s safe to say that a good portion of the Windows PC-based market is now clouded by those “bottom-feeders,” i.e. eMachines and the like, which skew the average selling price downward. Apple has chosen not to play in this realm, and for good reason: computers in this price range are typically made with cheap parts and are much less reliable–the profit margins are just not there for the manufacturer.

Apple prides itself on the quality and workmanship of its products, and it would have to throw these out the window in order to compete here. That’s not a smart trade off in my opinion for a few more percentage points of market share.

Take out those budget computers, and compare the two platforms. I bet you will see that the so-called “Apple Tax” is a heckuva lot smaller than many are making it out to be.

If Apple is smart, in any responses to Microsoft’s set of commercials they should hammer away on quality. If Apple’s Achilles’ Heel is pricing, then Windows PC’s is quality. There’s just too much junk out there right now that unsuspecting consumers are ending up buying, the computer that Lauren purchased apparently included from what I’m reading of customer reviews.

Microsoft’s OEM partners should be especially troubled by Redmond’s new tack, as essentially it creates a race to the bottom. That means smaller profit margins and less revenues.

Yes, Apple is falling ever so slightly behind in hardware specs. But they are making movements to compensate for that. Add to this that it just takes less for Macs to run –face it, Windows is a bloated mess (I’m hoping Windows 7 corrects this)– and that isn’t as much of a problem just yet.

But lets quit trying to compare Macs and PCs on price alone. Quality should be just as important, don’t you think?



24 Comments For This Post

  1. ArgosyCasinoKansasCity Says:

    It depends… a high cost can’t be for all.

  2. Matt Says:

    I enjoy watching the two fight it out.
    Each has their purpose, will you be editing video, or playing solitaire and checking email?

    If I were Apple, I would attack Microsoft’s lack of security. Let’s have a commercial of a red haired girl at the Geek Squad counter of that same Best Buy store, bringing in an HP notebook with 3,500 infections. The guy should say “with this kind of repair cost, maybe you should consider a mac.”

    Until then, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the battle. =)

  3. Scott Baker Says:

    For the price of a 17″ mac book pro I can purchase a 17″ windows laptop, a core i7 Windows desktop, and three 22″ monitors.

    Insert Apple Fan boy reponse below:

  4. Ari Says:

    Apple competing on quality not on price is one thing, but showing that Apple’s quality adds value to the consumer is something completely different. Many people do buy Apple’s for quality or for certain features, and for those buyers, the value is in the quality. But for others deciding which make or model to buy, that value can be in price, or design, screen size, etc. Maybe someone like Lauren could not see the value in purchasing a 17″ laptop for $1500+. Someone else might. There is no right or wrong, its just in perceptions on where the value is.

    Saying Apple competes on quality not price is not saying much. Just like saying MS competes on price, not quality. The question is where does each firm add value to the consumer. Unfortunately, its hard to have an effective marketing strategy on adding value.

  5. DTNick Says:

    @Matt: Maybe, though I have a feeling total cost of ownership will be Apple’s next vector of attack.

  6. DTNick Says:

    @Scott Baker

    Good for you. 🙂

  7. Evan Says:

    Good topic for the next article:

    How do Apple and Microsoft fanboys not even realize they are fanboys?

  8. nehalem Says:

    I wouldn’t be so quick to tout apple quality being so superior. They use the same components, are built in the same country (China) and have as many problems as any other major brand (as a visit to the genius bar will show you).

    And will apple really win the total cost of ownership battle?

  9. l.m.orchard Says:

    @Scott Baker: That’s nice, but I only need one good 15″ MacBook Pro.

  10. Ken Jackson Says:

    Attacking Windows’ lacks of security will probably back fire as most security experts now say that Vista is more secure than OSX, although less safe. An analogy would be that a Brinks armored truck is more secure than your Nissan Sentra, but the Sentra is safer as its not a target of bank robbers.

    I do think Microsoft is doing the right thing and the Lauren ad is on the money. Sure there are problems with it, but there were problems with the “I’m a Mac” ads too.

    I *think* where MS should go with this is to show that for every price point they have a good solution. If you want a 17″ laptop for web browsing and writing reports then there’s Lauren. If you want a desktop for playing Crysis, well there’s the guy who spends $2000 on just the video card. There’s the business guy with the Thinkpad. Another commercial with the home media enthusiast that uses Media Center with cable card TV tuners. Another commercial is the real cheap-o who wants the netbook.

    At the end of the day it will not be about the “cheapest” computer. But rather there is a computer that is the right fit for you at the price you want to pay. And maybe the Mac is the right fit, but its just one fit in a huge spectrum of choices.

  11. Ian Betteridge Says:

    “Take out those budget computers, and compare the two platforms. I bet you will see that the so-called “Apple Tax” is a heckuva lot smaller than many are making it out to be.”

    Or, to rephrase that, “take out lots of real-world options that people actually buy, skew the market wildly, and surprisingly, Apple wins!” 🙂

    Yes, of course quality matters: but so does value. And paying for features which you don’t want or need is not good value. In my case, I need a 15in screen. But I don’t need the kind of leading-edge performance that a MacBook Pro delivers.

    So, when the time came for me to upgrade my laptop, I traded in my Mac for a Dell XPS 1530 running Ubuntu. It meets my needs exactly, and cost me (quite literally) half the price of a new MacBook Pro. It’s no slouch (2.5GHz Core 2 Duo, 4Gb RAM, 800MHz bus and a 256Mb NVidia graphics card) but not as super-fast as an MBP would be. And, of course, it has a 15in screen 🙂

    Is that a problem for Apple? Well, I’m sure they would have liked to retain my custom. But keeping their product range simple and clean has a lot of benefits for the company, and I’m absolutely certain that they’ve crunched the numbers and looked at the “sweet spot” specs – and that a 15in machine at the price I wanted to pay made no sense for them to produce.

  12. Michael Buhman Says:

    @Ken Jackson
    Probably the most concise, eloquent, correct answer to the Mac vs. PC war I’ve ever heard

  13. Relyt Says:

    “…computers in this price range are typically made with cheap parts and are much less reliable”

    My eMachines from 11 years ago is still in working condition, running fine. It’s not my primary PC, but still.

  14. Marc Says:

    move on. You think it’s worth it, many people don’t. Let’s agree to disagree. This blog is becoming more and more pro Apple, which makes it less interesting.

    There are many blogs out there with Apple in their name. I visit this blog often, mainly off the back of recommendations from friends and mentions in TWIT, because I have found it has an interesting take on tech news. Blinding mocking Microsoft and sucking up to Apple is neither interesting or original, and frankly is done better by others.

  15. Ed Oswald Says:

    Marc –
    I cover the Apple beat pretty much, and there were two good topics to talk about this weekend. Other days we’ll go 2-3-4 days without anything on Apple.

    I suggest you keep coming back, you’ll see we cover everything here.

  16. Googler Says:

    These are some common problems experienced by MacBook Pro users:

    *”sluggish performance” while “using graphics-intensive applications”
    *Battery Not Charging
    *Trackpad Button Failure
    *Keyboard malfunction
    *Dead Laptop
    *Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT chip “system lockups”
    *DVD drive disc mounting problem
    *battery “expansion”
    *screen display “vertical line problem”
    *screen glare (ergonomic defect)

    What were you saying about Quality for the High Cost?

  17. Marc Says:

    Ed: I will continue to come back. It’s not the volume of Apple relate stories that I was commenting on, rather the pro-Apple stance that often seems to be taken. Hey, I owned a Mac once. Back when V.90 ruled.

  18. Ed Oswald Says:

    Marc: Look through my previous posts.. especially the MobileMe one. Tell me if that was pro Apple 😉 I got the riot act read to me by about 100 Mac enthusiasts 🙂

  19. MacGizmoGuy Says:

    Judging from my website’s statistics – there are two keywords that stand out across the board: ‘CHEAPEST’ and ‘BEST’. And this is really more about a demographic and the human side of the technology equation, and less about the computer hardware itself. About the haves and the have-nots financial resources. About wisdom and experience. The younger want the Cheapest, and older visitors want the Best.

    The old saying ‘You Get What You Pay For’ is a truth one learns over one’s lifetime. One only has to buy enough cheap JUNK at Wal*Mart over the years to learn when quality doesn’t matter for certain things, and when it does for other products. And when it does, you gladly pay more knowing why.

  20. GT3 Says:

    The Microsoft ad isn’t about price or quality. It’s about options, especially on the mid to lower end of the spectrum. Lauren was ‘right’ in that she correctly identified that Apple didn’t meet her specified needs/wants.

    No where did she (i.e. Microsoft) claim that Apple wasn’t a good buy in general. Just that there is a segment of the market not currently well served by Apple, a segment of the market made more popular currently by the condition of other markets.

  21. Toshboy Says:

    Personally I think the argument Apple is about quality is a bit too easy, I have yet to see any proof of this. Almost every pc brand claims the quality statement, are we supposed to accept this as a given? I’m a Toshiba fan myself, I’m sure there are also examples of things going wrong with a Toshiba too but they let their laptops be tested by an independent institute (TüV), drop test , spill test etc. At the very least that is a decent shot at an objective judgement, not like just shouting it’s about quality ro rationalize paying twice as much. All credist to the splendid Mac marketeers, they have succeeded in making people feel good about paying a lot of money to join an elite group, looking down on those who can’t afford or choose not to pay extra.

  22. Adrian Says:

    @ Googler

    I have one and I have experienced two of those bugs. Both of those bugs were fixed within’ 10 minutes of updating my system after purchasing. Don’t believe everything you read off google my friend.

  23. Marco Says:

    Guys, c’mon, PCs do cost less than MACs! This is not an opinion, it is a fact.

    The inside of MACs and PCs are very similar, similar chips and board manufacture. Hell, an HP quality wise is just as good as a MAC, just look it up on the net.

    I like MACs, they are nice machines, but you are paying a large premium for the operating system. The money doesn’t go into the hardware.

    I bought a quad core HP for $600 on special. You can’t get that deal with a MAC, no way.

  24. P Smith Says:

    Apple lost me and many others because of two basic mistakes they made for 25 years since the first Mac and have only yet corrected one of them.

    1) They closed the box.

    What made the Apple II great was the ability of third party makers to build cards that were compatible with the Apple II such as memory boards, the Mockingboard sound card, etc. It set the standard that still exists in the Intel-based PC world.

    By closing the Macintosh, Apple made themselves the sole source of both hardware and software. With their high prices and lack of software options, not to mention the bugginess and black-and-white only screens, people moved to PCs for both cost and flexibility. Apple has still barely recovered from this, and only since they allowed users to add on external components.

    2) Deliberate obsolescence of software.

    If you buy an Intel-based machine and use Microshaft’s lousy OS, it can do one thing that Macs are deliberately designed not to do: run old software. Some people still use older software for specific reasons (e.g. custom made POS programs, internal accounting packages, etc.) and the idea of being prevented from using programs integral to their business is horrifying. Add to that, there are a lot of people who still use old programs simply because they like them: Word Perfect 5 is still considered “the best word processor ever” by some (not me), and many others are nostalgic like to use old games, whether their own or “abandonware”.

    An Intel machine made today can run software in a command window that was made for an 8086 4.77MHz PC, or sometimes old CP/M software. (Why anyone would need to, I don’t know.) With a Macintosh, however, trying to run anything designed for more than one previous OS generation is near impossible. Today’s OS X seems to be deliberately made to be incompatible with anything designed for Mac OS 8. Who would want to buy a computer that forces you to also buy overpriced software every year or two?

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