Willing to Pay a 'Mac Tax'?

Are you paying the "Apple tax"? If you own a Mac you are, according to Microsoft. Late yesterday Microsoft whipped up some talking points and had its PR machine Waggener Edstrom circulate them to the media explaining why Apple users pay more for a computer. What sparked the memo? Perhaps Apple's big MacBook announcement today, when it is expected to introduce notebooks priced as low as $800.

Microsoft's basic thrust is that Apple consumers pay more for less choice, and will find far more freedom and flexibility on a Windows machine. (see below for the complete memo)
Brad Brooks, vice president of Windows Consumer Product Marketing, went beyond the memo yesterday and made his case for why consumers should look to Microsoft Vista instead of Leopard when he spoke with CNET's Ina Fried.

"There really is a tax around there for people that are evaluating their choices going into this holiday season and going forward," Brooks said. "There's a choice tax that we talked about, which is, hey, you want to buy a machine that's other than black, white, or silver, and if you want to get it in multiple different configurations or price points, you're going to be paying a tax if you go the Apple way. "

Brooks has a point that you will find a lot more flexibility when purchasing a Windows machine than an Apple. There are a few Mac exclusives, but as Harry McCracken says on his Technologizer blog, TV tuners, e-Sata, fingerprint reader, 3G, and other features are currently Windows exclusives. However, Apple hardware is also high quality, and a lot the add-ons I just mentioned really don't impact a computer user's experience today.

Brooks also says: "There's going to be an application tax, which is if you want choice around applications, or if you want the same type of application experience on your Mac versus Windows, you're going to be purchasing a lot of software. And even at that you're not going to get the same experience. You're not going to get things like Microsoft Outlook. . . "

Not true. Windows machines have far less usable software out of the box than Apple, and any problems that Apple users have with Microsoft Outlook or other parts of Office should fall squarely on the shoulders of its designer . . . Microsoft.

Brooks: "That is a fallacy to think that Macs are somehow invulnerable, or impervious to virus, or phishing, or spyware. And we will tell you that based on our own data that you're 60 percent less likely to get any type of virus. . . if you're running Windows Vista versus Windows XP SP2."

Hold on -- comparing Vista to XP SP2 is not entirely fair. Windows XP is by far the most widely used operating system in the world today. Vista may be its successor, but it is not widely used enough to really hold up to a comparison with XP. As far as Apple versus Vista, it's true that everybody is vulnerable to phishing and spyware, but virus attacks on Mac, while on the increase in recent years, don't even come close to infection numbers on Windows machines.

So, what's going on here? Well, as Brooks says in his interview, Microsoft is tired of having their products framed through Apple's "Hello, I'm a Mac" commercials, and I can understand why. For years, Apple has been suggesting that Windows computers are less able to do fun things than Mac, which is also not true. Reality lies somewhere between the Windows and Apple advertising campaigns. Both systems have their die-hard proponents who think the other side is complete garbage, but it seems to me there is very little difference between Windows and Leopard these days. The choice between systems really comes down to personal preference. But as Mac starts to pull in a larger consumer base, you can expect the Mac vs. Windows rivalry is starting to heat up! The question remains, who will you be voting for?

Here's Microsoft's Memo:

The economy is impacting consumer choices, but Macs, due to their high upfront, won't sell in a more conservative market. On Sept. 29th, Morgan Stanley noted: "PC unit growth is decelerating and the remaining source of growth is increasingly the sub-$1,000 market where Apple does not play." Even if Apple were to drop pricing, the Apple Tax still prices Macs well outside of the sub-$1000 range.
You can get a PC laptop with a bigger hard drive, more RAM, a media-card reader, more USB ports, and a bigger screen, for much less than a Mac. See the comparison chart below for just a few examples of what you can get today...we'll send out an updated comparison chart after Apple's announcement tomorrow.
You can upgrade just about any Windows desktop PC, but the only significantly upgradeable Mac is the Mac Pro listed at $2799.00.
Repurchasing software to make your Mac do all the things your PC does will cost you hundreds of dollars. Buying a Mac means scrapping your software and buying new applications (for up to $1,100) that run on Mac, just to do what you can still easily do on a new PC with the applications you already have. We've listed a set of common applications below.
HDMI, Blu-Ray, eSATA, MediaCard Readers, built-in 3G, Fingerprint readers, TV Tuners, all have been shipping as built-in features on PCs for years, but none are available on a Mac. Not only does this mean you get to use the latest and greatest now, but since it's so easy to upgrade PCs, it also means that your computer is more future-ready...you can get today's technology now, and tomorrow's technology the minute its available.

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