Microsoft Does the Math on the “Apple Tax.” Badly.

By  |  Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 8:10 pm

As I said in my post last Sunday on Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunter” ads, it’s unrealistic to expect TV commercials to contribute to a thoughtful discussion of anything. An exercise in comparison shopping between Windows and PCs that takes place in a sixty-second Microsoft commercial just isn’t going to be fair and balanced, any more than an Apple commercial is going to explain that it’s possible to get respectable Windows laptops for a whole lot less than the cheapest Macs.

But Microsoft’s latest salvo in the Windows-vs.-Mac war isn’t a commercial–it’s a ten-page white paper by veteran analyst Roger Kay (a friendly acquaintance of mine, and, like me, a former IDG employee). Roger is independent and knows the personal computer market as well as anyone on the planet, but his paper was sponsored by Microsoft, which means that even if it’s a third-party take on things, it’s going to be one that the company is comfortable with. But the whole point of vendor-sponsored white papers is bring an independent expert’s analysis and data into a discussion in hopes that it’ll be taken more seriously than mere marketing materials.

Roger’s paper includes a bunch of tables that compare Windows PCs and Macs–sort of like what I’ve been doing, although in less excruciating detail–and an analysis of the cost of ownership of the two platforms that concludes that a family than buys two Macs instead of two Windows machines will pay a cumulative Apple tax of $3,367 over five years.

In his laptop section, Roger compares the white MacBook, new MacBook, and 15-inch MacBook Pro against various notebooks from Dell, HP, and Sony, and finds, unsurprisingly, that the Macs cost more. He shows, for instance, that the $999 MacBook comes with a skimpy 1GB of RAM, a bare-bones 120GB of hard disk space, and Intel’s uninspiring x3100 integrated graphics. For hundreds of dollars less, the chart proves, you can buy a Windows laptop with double the RAM, more than twice the disk space, and better graphics.

Pretty compelling. Except that the $999 MacBook doesn’t come with 1GB of RAM. (It has 2GB.) It doesn’t have a 120GB hard disk. (It’s 160GB.) And it doesn’t have X3100 graphics. (It has the considerably more potent NVIDIA GeForce 9400M.) Here, look for yourself. The analysis is based on the old MacBook configuration that Apple refreshed more than two months ago, but the white paper talks about it in the present tense.

At least some of the Windows laptops that the white paper compares the MacBook to are also more richly configured today than the paper’s charts indicate. For instance, the chart has the $699 HP DV4 with 2GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive, but  HP will sell you one with 4GB of memory and 320GB of hard-drive space for that price.

The chart’s analysis of desktop computers is also stale, at least in spots: It features the old $599 Mac Mini rather than the better-equipped one which Apple started shipping more than a month ago. He’s also got the old $1199 iMac and a Mac Pro configuration that Apple no longer sells. Nobody shopping for a computer today will be confronted by the choices that appear in the paper’s grids.

Note that I’m not claiming that Roger’s conclusions would be fundamentally different if he was analyzing current computers. Any analysis of Windows-vs.-PCs will always show that it’s possible to get a Windows machine with a faster CPU, more RAM, and a bigger hard drive for less than the cheapest vaguely comparable Mac. But the numbers in his charts sure would be different if they were current, and it’s odd that his analysis is labeled “Where We Are Now” but the charts carry no footnotes indicating that he collected at least some of his data months ago.

[Side note: Roger also says that the $999 MacBook doesn't come with a keyboard or mouse, and I'm really not sure what he means there--all notebooks come with built-in keyboards, and I doubt that any of the notebooks in his chart come bundled with an external keyboard and mouse. Maybe he meant that point to refer to the Mac Mini?]

Roger’s analysis goes on to bring up a number of reasonable points–especially the fact that there are plenty of worthwhile items that aren’t available for Macs which are commonplace on Windows systems, such as Blu-Ray drives, HDMI ports, integrated wireless, and built-in TV tuners. But he stacks the deck against the Mac in ways that remind me of earlier Microsoft commentary, such as assuming that Mac owners will buy Apple networking products when the Linksys products he assumes a Windows users will buy work equally well with Macs. He factors a $99 iLife upgrade into his Mac math, but doesn’t account for getting comparable creativity software ont the PCs in the first place; he also assumes that the Mac owner will buy the MobileMe family pack each year without accounting for adding similar functionality to the Windows computers. (There are multiple free ways to get MobileMe-like features on a Windows computer…but just about all of them also work with Macs.)

I don’t understand why his five-year cost analysis seems to assume that products like Blu-Ray players will cost the same years from now as they do today. I do understand why he doesn’t address issues like the money and time required to protect a Windows computer from all the security risks that don’t apply to Macs–but the fact that he doesn’t address them means that the white paper isn’t the work of a neutral observer.

Actually, I don’t think the paper is meant to come off as objective–it keeps coming back to Microsoft’s talking point that the primary difference between Windows computers and Macs is pricey, wasteful cool factor. (It uses the word “cool” twenty-five times.) And it uses the words “fairy dust” in referring to the Sony Blu-Ray player that a Mac owner will supposedly be forced to buy in a way that I don’t really understand…but which would appear to be snarky.

Can we get one thing out of the way here? I’m not an advocate for one platform over the other–I buy and use both, and recommend both to different people depending on their needs. I say nice things about Microsoft when warranted; I say nice things about Apple when warranted; I criticize both companies when appropriate.

But for the last couple of years, my primary computer has been a Mac laptop, and it has absolutely nothing to do with cool factor. I’m not cool. I don’t want to be cool, especially if it involves spending money that I don’t have to. I’ve spent more time with Macs primarily because the software involves fewer hassles and is more reliable (especially because Apple doesn’t lard up its machines with the junk that still runs rampant on many of the systems of Microsoft’s PC-manufacturing customers).

My choice, in other words, has had nothing to do with cool factor or fairy dust or the unicorn tears that Microsoft marketing honcho brought up when talking about Macs with Newsweek’s Dan Lyons. It’s been about practical matters and long-term value rather than initial cost.

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to Windows 7′s release is my hope that it’ll make the contrast between Windows and OS X at least a little less striking. But for now, any discussion of Windows PCs and Macs which fails to acknowledge the possibility that Macs might have virtues that are real, not fluff, is no more serious than the repeated mantra in Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads that Windows PCs are mostly about spreadsheets.

And here’s something I’m still confused about: Every time a consumer considers a Mac but buys a Windows computer instead, it validates the pros of the Windows platform–the lower entry-level price points, the far wider variety of hardware, and the multiple useful features which Windows PCs have and Apple chooses not to offer. Even in an age of increased Mac market share, the overwhelming majority of consumers decide to buy Windows computers. So why is Microsoft harping on the Windows-vs.-Mac issue? Why can’t its charts use current pricing information, and why does it have to put its thumb on the scale when analyzing the cost of owning a computer?

I’d love to know. I’ll ask Microsoft again whether it’s making representatives available for discussion of all this (I made an inquiry last week but didn’t hear back). Meanwhile, your thoughts would be appreciated. Knowing you guys, I’ll hear from both sides, and there will be plenty of food for thought.

[UPDATE: Here's another post on the white paper--it turns out its charts are insufficiently-updated versions of ones Microsoft distributed a few months ago.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt interviewed Roger Kay about all this. Roger attributed some of the paper's issues to changes to the Mac lineup after his deadline and a production gaffe on Microsoft's part. He also called Mac fans who dogpiled on him--not including me, I hope--"brownshirts." Which, when added to Microsoft's other recent comments about Macs and Mac users, brings to mind visions of Nazis who are overly concerned with looking cool and into unicorn tears and fairy dust. Roger also says that the glitches with the paper don't impact his thesis, and he's right--as I say above, I'm sure his overarching conclusions wouldn't have been different even if his data had been current, accurate, and quibble-proof.]

 
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22 Comments For This Post

  1. Glenn Fleishman Says:

    It’s your sane, calm, even-handed approach that I like most, Harry, although I think you could put more claws into this one. The Microsoft-sponsored Kay paper includes a lot of bizarre expenses on the Mac side that, when removed, compress the price difference quite a bit, but still leave a sizeable gap.

    Macs definitely cost more than PCs. People buy them in smaller numbers. Thus, the market has spoken, hasn’t it? Apple has a very nice market share in the higher price ranged laptops, and not in the “value pricing,” where PC makers are willing to sell underpowered computers that lack expansion, but are increasingly sold with at least enough RAM and hard drive space to be useful.

  2. Marty Says:

    Harry, you wrote: “Even in an age of increased Mac market share, the overwhelming majority of consumers decide to buy Windows computers.”

    I think a better phrasing would be: “Even in an age of increased Mac market share, the overwhelming majority of consumers decide to buy cheaper computers. And these computers come with Windows on them.”

    People choose Macs. People get Windows.

    I think that’s a big difference.

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    @glenn: Thanks! Discussions of Windows-vs.-PC are so heated on both sides that I probably err on the side of remaining calm.

    @marty That’s an interesting distinction, and a real one–there probably isn’t such a thing as a person who sort of randomly buys a Mac without thinking it over. It’s always a willful decision. Buying a Windows computer is too, sometimes. (Trivia: I once suggested to my sister that she buy a Mac, and she did, and wasn’t crazy about it; she very intentionally bought an HP laptop the next time around.) But it’s the economics of the Windows ecosystem rather than the OS itself that makes Windows computers the default choice for most people.

    –Harry

  4. mattyohe Says:

    That white paper is terrible, and Roger is playing fast and loose with the truth.

    My favorite part is where Roger adds the additional “freight” of MobileMe. First, he misquotes the price at $150 (that’s the family price yes, but he mentions it prior to his “family scenario”, the single price is $99), then his justification for purchasing MobileMe is that “Microsoft provides backup and synch free as part of its Windows Live, Mesh, and SkyDrive applications.” But… Those programs are available to Mac users too.

    He also makes the assumption that as a switcher, you are also ignorant to Parallels or Fusion. Thus, he makes you re-buy office for the Mac (save your money).

    He also compares a Mac Pro to a standard Dell or HP desktop. I wonder if Roger would also complain about the Ferrari tax when comparing to a Corolla.

  5. zato Says:

    “and why does it have to put its thumb on the scale when analyzing the cost of owning a computer?”

    Gamers don’t like to lose.

  6. augustus Says:

    Hi,

    That was a nice article.

    I bought an iMac for the first time since using Windows since the days of Windows 3.0.

    I have to say I love it. But I bought it thinking it was going to be more user friendly. Having used it now for over 3 months I can’t really say that the Mac or Windows is any more user friendly. I think one of the reasons is that Microsoft has been consistently copying Mac features.

    On the other hand what I like about my Mac is that it is quiet, reliable, light weight and fast operating and boy what wonderful graphics. I value what a company can do when they control the hardware and software.

    Also a big factor for me is that Apple is a wonderful company. Their product support is great. They release products that really works.

    I don’t think Macs will work for everyone but if people value the experience of working with computers and are willing to spend a little more its worth it. It works for me. I can’t imagine going back.

    -Augustus

  7. zato Says:

    MacDailyNews take sums it up:

    Microsoft is scared and Kay remains an Enderlean whore who’ll come to any conclusion, however absurd, that his cash-toting masters commission.

  8. pond Says:

    Whenever these company-funded ‘independent studies’ come out, skeptics usually look to the funding and say the results are paid for, that the funding process corrupted those carrying out the study.

    I’d like to look at it the other way around: what does this funding do to MSFT itself?

    First, the primary benefit of the Windows ecosystem is both price and variety — you can get much cheaper Windows-based desktops and laptops, and you can find a much wider variety of such computers, filling more niches. But the problem here is that none of this comes from what MSFT has been doing (outside of initiatives like TabletPC); all of it comes from the vendors, who are scrambling to cut their own throats in offering more models with ever-thinner margins. We can be grateful to Lenovo, HP, Acer, Sony, Toshiba, and their partners, but it’s got nothing to do with MSFT. All they do is collect their own ‘tax.’ Comparisons such as MSFT’s current ad campaign are not MSFT vs. Apple, but Windows OEMs vs. Apple as hardware seller.

    Second, when MSFT people get back these studies and look at them, they see an opportunity to pat themselves on the back. ‘See? We’re doing everything right, we don’t have to change a thing!’ NO: Microsoft, you are NOT doing everything right, and going into a friendly echo chamber where you are applauded does nothing to help you develop better software.

    Sure, this sort of study is commissioned maybe with the express purpose of being placed in ads as part of marketing. But the engineers at MSFT as well as the big seats read them too, and they are in most danger of falling into complacency.

    The answer for MSFT is not better ads or more back-slapping studies. It’s better software.

  9. scooterge558 Says:

    I have to wonder with your criticism of this white paper how long ago do you think the ‘study’ was started for this white paper. From the ‘white paper’ documents I’ve read in the past, it’s never up to the minute up to date. These things take time to get all the relevants to prepare the document itself, any sort of testing with a control (pricing across several vendors, etc…). I’m a little surprised that the big issue here is that date of the information and not the fact that maybe for the most part the information in it is still correct. Macs cost more than PCs, period.
    I’m not sure Microsoft funding the study says anything, do you think Apple is going to fund a study when they already know the outcome? That’s like Mercedes funding a study of which auto manufacturer’s cars are more expensive between Mercedes and Toyota and Ford, do you really think they’d be willing to pay to find out that their cars (Mercedes) are more expensive? I would think not.
    Personally I think Microsoft should take the information garnered from this as well as the information about the fact that there are more uses for the PCs vs. the Mac, sure Mac seems to be the platform of choice for audio and video encoding and editing, but when BUSINESSES think computers most of them think Windows PCs for their accounting department to use, and for their regulartory department to use, and for their network/IS depoartment to use, and for their sales force to use.

  10. Matthew Says:

    The point MS is trying to make is not about similarly spec’d products. Their point is in regard to the lack of choice. (ie Apple has their 17″ model as a high-end rig when 17″er have become commonplace in the sub-$1000 market.)

    I confess the MS is leaving out a lot of details, but Apple has been leaving out the details for almost a decade. Hopefully the competition sparks some change and innovation at Apple.

    Right now I see Apple in the same place that they were during their last downfall. No Jobs. Little internal innovation. Most following innovation or being the first to implement someone else’s idea. With the recession and MS ads hitting, lost market share may be next.

  11. Dave Barnes Says:

    I read the whitepaper and it had me fuming. So, here goes.

    Re: http://www.ndpta.com/ and “What Price Cool?”

    >>>Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood

    Well, a footnote would have been appreciated as I had forgotten that it is the opening line to Robert Frost’s poem: The Road Not Taken.

    >>> two major operating systems or platforms emerged: Mac and PC.

    The two (2) operating systems would be Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.
    The two(2) platforms would be Apple Macintoshes (Macs) and Windows-based personal computers.
    Your Sony and my Apple are both PCs (Personal Computers).

    >>> premium priced

    should be premium-priced

    >>> Bullying as a form of marketing.

    You can not bully when you have a 2% marketshare. Joseph Stalin could bully. He had the ability to kill you if you did not fall in line. Steve Jobs could not bully. The vegetarian wimp can not/does not bully.

    >>> plays nice with others

    My only reply is: “and Vista does?”

    >>> AirPort Extreme Base Station fetches $180 at Apple’s online store, for a total of $330. For $150, the same person can buy a comparable Cisco LinkSys dual-band wireless router.

    And, over an hour spent on the Linksys “support” phone to actually get it work. [Personal experience]

    >>> Many of the programs that Windows users either already own or enjoy as part of the Windows environment cost extra in the Apple world, on occasion a lot extra.

    I love the “on occasion” escape clause. I cross-graded Adobe’s products for $zero.

    >>> These technologies [HDMI, Blu-Ray, eSATA, media card reader, built-in 3G wireless, fingerprint readers and TV Tuners] revolutionary now, will one day be standard on all systems. Too bad if a Mac buyer has any interest in them.

    I will just get them when I replace my Mac in a few years. I guess that buying a $15 media card reader is just too complicated.

    >>> a number of popular devices don’t work with Macs, including Windows Mobile phones, Garmin GPS navigation units, Suunto run and dive watches

    Seriously. Suunto dive watches? Big market loss there. Don’t get me started on the declining market share of Windows Mobile.

    >>> Already Windows 7 is showing itself to be a far more worthy competitor for Mac OS X than Vista was. In beta now, speculation is that Windows 7 may release to market in early summer, perhaps soon enough to ship on machines by back-to-school season and certainly by holiday.

    Holiday? Thanksgiving? Christmas? How about Mac OS 10.6 is in beta now and will ship around the same time and have lots of “cool” features.

    >>> Have you seen the XPS One?

    Yes, I have. And, it costs more than the comparable iMac. Oops.

    >>> The Mac boots right up. That right? Shall we benchmark?

    Yes, we should.

    >>> With Macs, you lose variety and choice

    True. And, I don’t care.

    >>> [table 3] ATI Radeon HD 4870 at $260 added to a 2+ year-old $700 computer

    Are you kidding me? Who is going to spend almost 50% of the cost of the original machine to upgrade the graphics card? Ninety percent (90%) of consumers would buy a new computer. And, rightfully so.

    >>>[table 3] HP d5100t = Mac Pro

    Not with DDR2-800MHz dual channel
    Not when the Mac had 2.6 Xeon and the HP has a 2.6 Core 2 Duo
    Not when the Mac Pro video card has twice the memory
    Not when the HP has no Bluetooth, nor Wi-Fi

    With a comparable configuration the HP is $1100 versus the admittedly overpriced Mac Pro.
    Can we don comparison against the iMac which what the Bancrofts would actually buy?

    >>>[table 3] 5 years of Mobile Me

    and Dell and HP offer ??

    >>> [table 3] Blu-ray drive at the 4-year mark

    internal for the HP and external for the Mac Pro?

    >>>resale?

    Oh no! No mention of resale potential.

  12. Ken Says:

    It’s what Microsoft does NOT advertise that is revealing. Price is not the only factor in making a purchase. What is my post-cash-register experience like? What sort of quality and support do I get?

    PCs come with an OEM version of Windows, which means no support from Microsoft, and I’m stuck with the agony of Windows, the indifference of the manufacturer, and online chats. The last time my Dell broke I could only get support through an online chat with a guy in India–on my Mac.

    In my experience with computers, the cheapest is the most foolish.

  13. Harry McCracken Says:

    @scooterge558: There’s nothing in the white paper that justifies publishing data that’s more than two months out of date (especially when you don’t disclose that fact). (I’ve done similar comparisons myself over the past couple of weeks–they take hours, not months.) It’s just lame, especially since Microsoft is talking about how fast its advertising is going to move.

    –Harry

  14. Joe Says:

    I think this quote from Steve Jobs (thanks to AppleInsider) pretty much covers it:

    “There are some customers which we chose not to serve,” he added. “We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that. But we can continue to deliver greater and greater value to those customers that we choose to serve. And there’s a lot of them.”

  15. Michael Says:

    regardless of the Mac vs. PC argument, Kay is not ‘independent.” The ‘white paper’ is not worth the paper & ink I’d need to print it out. And everyone knows this including this blog.

    First, the paper is extremely poor in quality of data & assumptions. My 13 year old daughter could write a much better paper and a college student turning this in wouldn’t get higher than a D.

    Kay is a hack and he’s now a MS hack.

  16. J Marq Says:

    You are really picking a nothing. When was this whitepaper writen? Possibly 2-3 months ago before Microsoft reviewed and released the findings? It’s grasping at straws. The bottom line is most Mac buyers do not stray from the brand when buying peripherals and services associate with a Apple product. Bottom line is that MS based systems are alsways going to be more bang for the buck. This whitepaper does not even delve into the realm of refurbs. Where Apple gives a slight break in cost and the other vendors give a substantial break in cost at almost 50% of the system’s brand new cost. This is coming from a guy who wipes a system clean installs a Linux OS and revels in his free software, where there is no residual cost associated with usage of equipment.

  17. Greg Bulmash Says:

    Just one thing worth noting, the freeware ecosystem for the PC is a lot richer and more diverse than for the Mac. When I got my MacBook Pro, I had to pay about $150 to buy shareware to replace utilities I was able to get as freeware on my PC. And a couple of my freeware utilities, I had to buy Parallels and run Windows in it to have them since there was nothing available on the Mac that did what they did the way that they did it.

    And lets not forget that Mac’s growing popularity is making it a growing target for malware makers. And as it’s getting tested by these clever devils, we’re finding it’s not quite as secure as everyone thought. A few more years and you’ll have no choice but to buy security software for Mac too.

    Even if the hardware prices were *exactly* the same, the Mac is more expensive in the long haul, IMO, and it gives no major benefit. Switching to Mac has done nothing but make me OS agnostic.

  18. cmodonnell Says:

    I don’t have a dog in this fight. I use both operating systems. I like (okay I don’t like Vista, I only sort of liked XP, but I loved Windows 2000), both operating systems.–side note: actually the most prominent feature of Vista for me is the flashback-like nightmares of Window ME–Okay putting aside peeves about operating systems, I have been having a real hard time trying to figure out what Microsoft is trying to accomplish with this advertising. I now have something like a theory…

    The TV ads seem mostly harmless. They go after Apple at the “cost-of-pretty” level, but that only reiterates what everyone in the world has secretly or publicly thought/said about Apple for the last 20 years.

    So I figure either one or both of the following has occurred: general consumer opinion about Apple’s worthiness beyond beauty has significantly increased (i.e. people are taking the operating system seriously), or Microsoft has learned that pretty matters. At the moment I think it is mostly likely that pretty matters and here’s why:

    When I watched the TV ads, the subtext reminded me of teenagers, who seem to equate the obscurity of musicians with the musician’s authenticity. So, for instance, as soon as Pearl Jam sells albums they are no longer “real grunge” and kids start to look for a newer, lesser-known (usually unsuccessful) group to represent the “real fill-in-the-genre”.

    [just a note here, I'm old so I don't know any new bands.]

    In the background, between the lines and oozing from the pavement of these ads, and even the crazy whitepaper nonsense, I can hear Microsoft shouting “we’re the real geeks; those apple guys are just posers”. Of course, the irony is what every teenager can tell you: obscurity and authenticity are almost always “cooler”.

    So I am wondering if Microsoft is having a “cool” problem. In terms of branding, they are corporate; not consumer. Consumers buy for lots of reasons, and at least one of them is that unquantifiable coolness factor–okay maybe not everyone, but a lot people. Do you think that what wakes Microsoft up in the middle of the night is the prospect of becoming this generation’s IBM?

    With 90% of the market share and many years of success it just seems odd for the slumbering giant to suddenly recognize the pesky 2% market share guys. Unless the 2% market share guys have something that slumbering giant needs or thinks it needs.

  19. Jim Frost Says:

    I also have and run both and while I feel I do pay more for Apple hardware I also find that it has a much longer life — seven years on the shorted-lived Apple laptop I ever bought, for instance. Other than the very price-comparable Thinkpads I haven’t managed two years out of any Windows laptop. That inverts the hardware value right there.

    But that isn’t why I started buying Macs again. I started as a purely defensive measure. My wife’s Windows 9x laptop would need a reinstall every three months like clockwork. At 10 hours a shot (because all the apps always needed reinstallation because god-forbid app preferences can’t be in plain files that are easy to back up and restore) that got old really fast. So I got her a Mac. I figured it was UNIX, how bad could it be?

    As someone else said, there were a bunch of software bits to buy when we first got it and there were a few minor annoyances with OSX 10.1 as well. It took a few weeks and a couple of hundred dollars to work through that, but I think back at all the things I have had to buy for Windows over the years and all the driver issues and compare that to what I’ve bought for the Macs over the years and the handful of troubles and the Macs still win pretty easily. An awful lot of software I have had to buy for Windows is either unnecessary on the Mac (antivirus, anti-malware) or bundled (iLife) and many stupid little hardware/software issues just don’t exist.

    Anyway, I found that my wife could keep the Mac running all by herself, and that it just generally worked more smoothly, and that it was so well constructed versus the Dells I’d been buying that I bought myself one six or seven months later. Six months after that I realized I was almost never using the Windows machines anymore, even though they were all more powerful than the itty-bitty 12″ Powerbook I bought from Apple.

    That was a shock. The significantly less powerful Mac was so much more useful that I didn’t use the Windows PCs. Huh.

    More than that, over time I found that the Macs just stayed useful longer — a LOT longer. I find that Windows PCs start showing how slow they are after 2 years, 3 at the most. Microsoft releases service packs that eat more CPU, or a new OS that is a total pig, or a new Office that chews up a lot more resources. Meanwhile every release of OSX runs better on the same hardware than the one before. I pull 5 years out of Macs, consistently, and the hardware gets handed down and lives for years beyond that until it just plain wears out. By that time, seven or more years after I bought the stuff, replacement parts are often unavailable due to sheer obsolescence. That’s value!

    Another huge surprise happened when I bought my first desktop Mac and wanted to transfer software from that 12″ Powerbook. During setup the Mac asked me to connect the old Mac to the new one with a firewire cable then it copied everything — drivers, applications, user accounts, user data, EVERYTHING — to the new one. When I logged in for the first time the new Mac was just like my old one except much, much faster.

    You ever tried to use Microsoft’s migration tool? I have. It is worthless. Buying a new Windows box is a migration hassle, buying a new Mac is not!

    But the huge win, the one the whitepaper ignored entirely, is just how much time and money I don’t spend on fixing OS issues. No defragging. No registry cleanups. No antivirus software with its massive daily disk scans. No malware. No crapware to clean up when I get a new one. No reinstalls to fix inscrutable errors.

    These days Apple even fixed the annoyance of back-ups. Time Machine integrates with a filesystem change logging facility in order to avoid the necessity of sweeping the filesystem. It knows what changed and just backs up those things. It’s so lightweight that doing back-ups every 10 minutes is not only possible, it’s nigh transparent. So I have current back-ups for my Macs with an average age of 5 minutes and incrementals going back months. There is no comparable system available for Windows at any reasonable price. Acropolis TrueImage is really nice stuff, but not especially lightweight, and not bundled….

    YMMV, and as I said I run both (and Linux as well). I spend more time using the Macs and less time fixing them than any other OS I have ever used, bar none, and *especially* compared to Windows. There have been cases where I just went out and bought someone a Mac mini just so I didn’t have to keep fixing their Windows PC … and have never regretted it.

    Apple provides a remarkable value, and that is why I keep buying their stuff.

    It does look really cool, too, but that’s just gravy.

    jim frost
    jimf@frostbytes.com

  20. elgarak Says:

    Why is Microsoft attacking at all? It doesn’t make sense at all.

    Let’s ignore advertising for a moment, and look at some basic facts:

    When it comes to computers (and not media players, accessories or gaming consoles), Microsoft makes software. Apple makes computers that, incidentally, run all of Microsoft’s software products.

    Apple does not allow their own software to be used outside their own computers; they do not play in Microsoft’s market. But they allow and advertise Microsoft to play in theirs, as they allow Windows to be installed and run on their computers.

    So why is Microsoft attacking them at all?

    Just because Apple attacked the “PC platform” (i.e., the combination of Windows with other companies hardware) in their “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac campaign? What else could they do to convince people to buy a Mac instead of a Wintel box?

    However, the reverse cannot be done by Microsoft. In particular not because they still have a vastly larger market share.

  21. Brad Says:

    I think that cost is important when you are on a budget and need to buy the family computers. But buying a computer should not just be on a cost basis. I believe it is all about preference if someone like windows let them go to it. If they are only buying it because it is cheaper they might be missing out. I am willing to spend what it takes to get a computer that I like. I am tired of mac and windows alternatives like linux. I am also tired of building my own PC’s. Now days I will gladly pay the Apple Tax to make sure I get what I want. It is worth the money. Although if I didn’t have the money you better believe I would get out the screw drivers and thermal paste and start building again. But I feel lucky I bought a mac I like it and I am not playing Jenga with computer parts anymore and I haven’t had issues. Although I didn’t have the issues most people rant about with MS. I am just happy that if this breaks someone else can fix it.

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14 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Microsoft Does the Math on the “Apple Tax.” Badly. | Harry McCracken | Voices | AllThingsD Says:

    [...] Read the rest of this post Print all_things_di220:http://voices.allthingsd.com/20090410/microsoft-does-the-math-on-the-%e2%80%9capple-tax%e2%80%9d-badly/?reflink=ATD_yahoo_buzz Sharevar obj = SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Microsoft Does the Math on the “Apple Tax.” Badly.”, url: “http://voices.allthingsd.com/20090410/microsoft-does-the-math-on-the-%e2%80%9capple-tax%e2%80%9d-badly/” },{button:false});var elem = document.getElementById(“share-10550-0.65857200 1239347127″);obj.attachButton(elem); Comment Tagged: Apple, Microsoft, Voices, advertising, television, commercials, Harry McCracken, Laptop Hunter, laptops, Mac, PCs, Technologizer, TV, Windows | permalink Sphere.Inline.search(“”, “http://voices.allthingsd.com/20090410/microsoft-does-the-math-on-the-%e2%80%9capple-tax%e2%80%9d-badly/”); [...]

  2. Windows Laptop Hunters 3: Lisa und Jackson wollen spielen « 11k2 Says:

    [...] (via crunchgear, technologizer) [...]

  3. Bites from the Apple: Closer to iPhone 3.0 — What I Would Buy Says:

    [...] white paper that was sponsored by Microsoft. Not surprisingly, many have found the white paper heavily padded in favor of [...]

  4. Microsoft amends ‘Apple Tax’ return slightly at galattaindia.com Says:

    [...] the main points I (and others) made last week regarding Microsoft’s bad math haven’t changed. Kay’s report (and [...]

  5. Apple Responds–Briefly–to Microsoft’s Laptop Hunters Ads | Technologizer Says:

    [...] pretty straightforward and dignified, making for an interesting contrast with the snarky tone of Microsoft’s recent anti-Apple salvos. It’s an interesting role reversal, given that in the past it was usually Apple who snarked [...]

  6. Bill Evans antwortet auf die Microsoft Werbung und Apple Steuer Says:

    [...] der ersten Seite folgenden Hinweis liest: “Sponsor: Microsoft”. Übrigens hat der Technologizer-Autor Harry McCracken selber mal für die Laptop nachgerechnet und kommt zu einem anderen [...]

  7. Microsoft to Best Buy Salespeople: Windows Good, Macs Bad! | Technologizer Says:

    [...] See all:&nbspNews Over at Ars Technica, there’s an interesting piece on training materials prepared by Microsoft for Best Buy staffers making the case that Windows 7 PCs are preferable to Macs. Most of the points in Windows’ favor that the materials raise are true; it’s just that anything that might tend to favor the Mac is left out. I guess that’s an improvement over earlier Microsoft PC/Mac comparisons that involved both truth-stretching and errors. [...]

  8. memoer.net » » – apple-responds-briefly-to-microsofts-laptop-hun Says:

    [...] pretty straightforward and dignified, making for an interesting contrast with the snarky tone of Microsoft’s recent anti-Apple salvos. It’s an interesting role reversal, given that in the past it was usually Apple who snarked [...]

  9. Microsoft’s Latest PC-Mac Comparison is…Almost Reasonable Says:

    [...] By Harry McCracken  |  Posted at 10:01 am on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 For years, Microsoft’s marketing efforts for Windows ignored the fact that Macs existed. That changed last year. In the wake of rising sales for Apple’s computers, Microsoft went on the offensive. But the case it made for Windows PCs and against the Mac was touchy and evasive. It ran PC ads that knocked Macs as overpriced but couldn’t find anything nice to say about Windows. It got pointlessly insulting about Mac users. And it commissioned a white paper on the “Apple tax” that was rife with fuzzy math and outright…. [...]

  10. The Smartphone Wars are the Early PC Wars All Over Again. Good! - Techland - TIME.com Says:

    [...] are most competitive with the iPhone typically don't have a price advantage over it–there's no "Apple tax" involved in choosing an iPhone over an Android. For another, Android phones don't offer the the [...]

  11. Apple, the Low Cost Leader? at CodyClark.org Says:

    [...] way you slice it, the iPad is competitive–there’s no ‘Apple Tax,’ unless you want to argue that the iPad needs to be sold with a subsidy. (Anyone who buys a [...]

  12. Office for the Mac: The Same, Only Different Says:

    [...] some people, the fact that Microsoft–a company who has been known to deride Apple’s customers as trendy spendthrifts–still makes Office for the Mac is apparently hard to reconcile. Microsoft’s press site [...]

  13. Ballmer’s Right: Five Reasons Why Microsoft Should Open More Stores Says:

    [...] You can’t beat personalized customer service. Apple skeptics love to talk about the Apple Tax. Up until the Apple Stores opened, I would have agreed. I look at it differently now though, and [...]

  14. New MacBook Airs: Thin, Light, and Utterly Mainstream Says:

    [...] Series 9 and Sony’s Z Series, slick but pricier than an Air. (What was that about an Apple Tax again?)  Or, like Dell’s Adamo, just plain unsuccessful. I hope that the new Airs inspire [...]