By Harry McCracken | Monday, April 13, 2009 at 3:04 am
Last week, Microsoft sponsored a white paper that expanded upon the mantra in the company’s “Laptop Hunters” ads that Macs are overpriced computers that impose a price penalty based on an ethereal, needless “cool factor.” Said white paper featured charts involving Mac configurations that no longer exist, and calculations of the long-term cost of being a Mac user that seemed questionable at best and nonsensical at worst. I detailed some (but not all) of the issues in this post.
The white paper’s author, Endpoint Technologies’ Roger Kay, blamed some of the data problems on production gaffes by Microsoft. Microsoft has posted an updated version of the paper with updated specs and at least one clarification (it now makes clear that the $149 copy of MobileMe it’s talking about is the Family Pack version). Strangely, Microsoft hasn’t updated the inaccurate chart in the blog post that links to the white paper.
I said in my original post that I didn’t think Kay’s conclusions would be different if the white paper had gotten the specs correct, and I was right: They haven’t changed. And even though the tables now seem to have their specs right, there are multiple places where the math behind his calculation of the “Apple Tax” remains more partisan attack than honest attempt at analysis. Can anyone explain to me, for instance, why he he adds a hefty $750 to the Mac setup for five years’ worth of MobileMe for two computers when MobileMe, which is available for both OS X and Windows, is simply no more mandatory on the Mac than it is on Windows?
Oh, and the paper still has one relatively minor cost attached to the Mac setup–a $99 charge for the iLife Family Pack–which I think is simply indefensible no matter how partisan you might be. Kay doesn’t factor the cost of creativity software into the Windows PC setup in the first place–the theory is that the imaginary family in his scenario has already paid for it for an older computer–but he also doesn’t tack the cost of an upgrade on. Apparently the fact that he has his Mac-owning family upgrading their software after two years but not their Windows counterpart doing so constitutes part of the “Apple Tax.”
I can’t imagine that many people who actually reads the white paper (even in its new, more accurate form) who might consider buying a Mac instead of a Windows PC are going to take the case it makes very seriously. And those people who wouldn’t consider buying a Mac don’t need convincing in the first place.
Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt has theorized that Microsoft’s Mac attack constitutes a trap, and “the Apple press” (of which I don’t wanna be counted as a member) is taking the bait by responding and carping about it. Given that Microsoft is pouring so much money and resources into arguing that you can buy Windows PCs for a lot less than Macs–a point which is obvious to anyone who steps foot inside a computer store, and which helps to explain why Windows’ market share remains huge and the Mac’s continues to be quite small–I wonder whether it’s Microsoft that’s fallen into a trap. I mean, responding to the anti-Windows taunts in Apple ads in kind probably feels really good, but I’m still not sure just who Microsoft’s current round of Apple-bashing is meant to address.