Macs Merit Their Higher Price Tags

Apple’s software and user-friendly features justify their higher price compared with PCs. Pro or con?

Pro: Quality That Lasts

Do Macs (AAPL) really cost more? It seems that way at first glance when you see the $269 Dell Inspiron compared with the $699 Mac Mini, but if you look closely, you’ll see that the Mac Mini really has the components of a more expensive Dell (DELL). It’s a value proposition.

For low-end PCs, manufacturers achieve their lower prices by using low-quality components—and you need to watch very carefully in order to tell the difference.

The CPU in a budget PC might still have the Intel (INTC) name, but CPUs such as an AMD (AMD), Intel Celeron, or single-core processors will not be as failure-proof or future-proof as their midlevel counterparts.

This ultimately causes you to replace your new computer in a shorter amount of time—and this is why I would never advise anyone to get a low-end PC. You may save a little money up front, but it’s much better to buy a midlevel computer that will last five years than a cheaper one you have to replace in two.

One thing you can always count on with Apple is the highest-quality components. The computer maker doesn’t even try to compete in the low-end market, because it knows its customers will only suffer in the long run.

Furthermore, when it comes to appearance and usability, nothing compares with a Mac. Apple leads the industry in finding ways to increase battery life of its laptops in the thinnest possible form.

A MacBook Pro has a nine-hour battery compared with a Dell’s five hours, and the MacBook Pro is less than half the size—and has leaps and bounds more power than any netbook.

When it comes to software, I won’t even debate the merits of OSX over Windows.

Finally, when you buy a Mac, you don’t even have to choose between operating systems. I primarily use Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro. It’s the best Windows laptop I’ve ever owned.

Con: The World’s Choice

Macs aren’t cheap. They often cost twice as much as the PC alternative. Does that extra cost offer much more than sex appeal?

From a business perspective, PC is the obvious choice. It is clearly the most open platform. We work with companies all over the world and cannot afford to have compatibility issues for documents and programs. It’s quite common for PC users to customize their computer after purchase and optimize it for specific activities. With its universal pieces, this is very useful to do. Doing that for a Mac? Not so easy, and it’ll cost even more.

We develop products for the PC. Why PC and not Mac? Worldwide, the PC has a market share larger than 90 percent. We can’t limit our possible customers to such a small audience. We want our products to be accessible everywhere, including in emerging markets, where we hope to make an immediate impression in growing economies. Emerging and developing markets are always going to be incredibly PC-dominant due to the price point.

On a daily basis, I do about three things on a computer. I surf the Web (I’ll be honest—mostly YouTube videos), use Microsoft (MSFT) Office, and play games. As any gamer knows, the selection of games available for Macs is quite small. Sure, some great games work on Mac, but not nearly the same variety. The same goes for the entire software industry.

Still, I am a fan of Apple and admire the incredible business Mr. Jobs has built on innovation. But my iPhone and iTunes catalog work seamlessly on my PC, so why spend more?

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Businessweek, Businessweek.com, or Bloomberg LP.

Reader Comments

Raghu

I used to use a Windows PC at home for almost 10 years. This year, we bought a Mac to replace the PC. I have been so impressed with Apple OS in the last 6 months, I bought a MacBook Pro for myself. Yes, I do miss the convenience of having Office applications on my laptop. But most of my work involves e-mailing and communications. iMac and MacBookPro are far superior to Windows-based PCs. If you really want to do productive work without the annoyance of frequent crashes and software snafus, Mac is the way to go.

Been there

So why a Mac? That's easy, no security downloads every other week. No worries about the endless virus patches; many Mac users still don't use virus software. So why a Mac? A machine you never have to reboot every couple of days. And most important almost everything you need is in the OS except office. And if you have a problem, you just grab your systems disk and reload, almost never has a problem. Love these articles written by people who have never used a MAC for any period of time. Can all the people crowded in those Apple stores be wrong? Why do you think they're so fanatical about their Macs? If you don't know, you better ask somebody.

shane

PCs are cheap not because they use cheap parts, but because of economies of scale and because Windows + Intel era facilitated 3rd party innovation from the wider world in software and HW.

Mac charges more for fashion statement and "exclusivity." Because Apple controls the entire value chain, it does a better job of designing and integrating what it offers. Mac pros: Apple experience for what it was built is good. Mac cons: Slow in bringing out a lot of hardware and software innovation (a lot of applications and games not available), and hyper inflated price driven by marketing and hype.

Especially after Windows 7, PC/ Windows laptop is a much more practical choice for business and most users.

By the way, I own an ipad and ipod touch and like these (as they are best for my use in their category today). When it comes to laptops, I often go for Vaio and HP ones as they offer me the much better experience for my money.



Terence

Apple undoubtedly is extremely good in selling their products to those who know
not much about real value but know a lot about perceived value.

That much Apple is able to con.

Truth teller

Raghu...most of your work involves email and communications using what? An email client? Well, you could have simply tried a free web browser like Firefox. It's fools like you who overpay for a Mac that we are all laughing at.

Been there...Macs don't have viruses. You're so out of touch with reality it's hilarious. And if you have a problem you just grab a system disk and reload. You've got to be kidding: Reload the OS?

Yoko

Mac yes, iPhone no way. Apple is good at computers; that's a fact but never ever get an iphone from them. It just doesn't work as a phone. But when it comes to computers Apple is for sure No. 1. And you can have your Windows installed, too, if you need it.

Geo George

At less than 3% market share in laptops/notebooks/netbooks for Apple worldwide, one thing is clear: that the acceptance level because of compliance, affordability, compatibility, and other reasons--till then many live, survive, and thrive on their Dell HP Acer machines. Debate over--an iMac is not an iPhone.

Yotogi

Macs are not worth the cost. I paid around $1100 for a Macbook a few years ago. I loved the mac for about 2-3 years; after that things started to go downhill. First, the AC adapter broke. Not a big deal I initially thought--wrong. It costs a whopping $80 to replace the cord while a Windows laptop AC adapter is only around $20 or less. Next, the camera went out. I had this replaced for free when it was under warranty, but then it broke again when the warranty ran out. The cost to replace a simple little camera--$300-$400. Then the CD/DVD drive broke. Apple quotes me a cost of over $500 to fix this, and I ended up having to purchase an external one for $120. The keyboard was next to go, and it Apple quoted me a $500 price range to fix it again. I fixed the keyboard myself and then the AC adapater goes out again--ridiculous especially for a casual laptop user who only used it for school work and surfing the wbe. The total costs to own the Mac over three years--$2200+.

I ended up selling the Macbook and brought a cheap $500 Gateway laptop with Windows 7.

The cheap Windows laptop performs just as well as the Mac after two years, has not given me any problems whatsoever, and I have not had to put any money into it at all. Bottom line, when you buy a Mac you are basically buying a nice OS encased in crappy, cheap plastic. OSX is nice, but the premium is definitely not worth it nor is it really better than Windows 7. Unless you are an elitist who needs to validate their superiority with an overpriced Macbook, there is no reason to buy one.

Bill Odum

It's the operating system, stupid. It's also the synergy between software and hardware--and soon between Mac OS X and IOS (I-Pod, I Pad, etc.). This, added to the relentless push to improve their products that will meet the demands of users. If anyone doesn't like it, don't buy it. It would seem that many customers like it.

Christian

Macs are worth every penny. I used to have to replace PC-based laptops every 2-3 years because they would quickly become obsolete. People mention viruses but they forget to mention the real problem: constant "blue screens" and freezes in Windows-based PC's. My first PowerBook lasted for 5 years without ever crashing or slowing down. I bought a new MacBook Pro earlier this year and the PowerBook is still providing lots of use to my sister--even though it runs on a PowerPC chip. Now I have to agree with one of the replies above: I would never buy a Mac and use it as a PC (with Windows). That is throwing money away. You get none of the benefits of a Mac--other than the vastly superior design and great looks.

Al

You use Windows on a Macbook? Loser!

Mac User

I bought a Powerbook G4 when in 2005. At that time it was the most up to date mac available. Five years later, not a single problem, runs solid. Those aluminium cases are durable. This year I bought Macbook pro, just because i know it's gonna last another five years. I don't mind paying the premium, if I have to only buy two laptops in a 10-year period.Totally worth it.

Joe

Macs are objects of desire, very elitist and not ashamed of it--nor should they be.
For Mac's target users looking mostly for convenience and simplicity, they are great. For users seeking price-performance or absolute, raw performance, they can't compete.

In terms of hardware, it is really not that different. Most PCs are made by Taiwanese companies with factories in China--same goes with Mac. There are only two major CPU vendors, a handful of RAM, HDD providers, and most of the specs are dictated by the CPU's chipset--also made by the same two providers.

For business, because of compatibility concerns, the OS of choice is Windows--anything else can offer great day-to-day stuff (Apple or Linux, actually). Some customers will have a great experience on Apple, some on Gateway, some on Dell, and some won't. It is just luck and usage habits.

When buying a PC or Mac, pick what you like, make sure the drivers are updated, and add a basic anti-virus. In general, it should be a good experience--just always keep the receipt.

libby

My reason to buy my Mac is very simple. I refuse to deal with India-based customer/tech service again. I will only purchase a Mac in the future for my home and office. That reason alone is worth the extra cost.

You buy cheap, you get cheap, and that is why companies like Dell, HP, Gateway, etc. outsource to India. Apple is not dumb or cheap. They know that the U.S. consumer is fed up and wants to use U.S.-based customer/technical service representatives. Apple is very smart.

Tim Flowers

I've been to the Apple store and looked at Macs. I wasn't impressed. For laptops, one thing I check is how much the screen can wiggle or shake. When the screen is open, it needs to stay still, not bounce around every time I move. None of the Apple laptops passed the test...the screen hinges just aren't strong enough or tight enough.

Second, I take offense to the comment that AMD makes cheap processors. I've owned several computers with both AMD and Intel chips, and the AMD units were just as fast, never failed, and actually crashed less than the Intel rigs. Given a choice, I choose AMD.

Jim Jarvis

I switched our entire network over to MacbookPROs, three years ago. We run Office for Windows and Adobe Creative Suite and Firefox under OSX. The combination of speed and reliability has saved at least one man hour a day, per laptop. Computer: $2k. Results: Priceless. Business compatibility: Seamless.

christopher

interesting social phenomenon more than a technical one. i have managed and owned products from HP, Apple, IBM, etc., for many years and can tell that they are all machines and that they all have failures over time.

What is fascinating is how many folks buy Apple for status symbols and then evangelize their products while ignorantly denigrating all others.

Let's be honest--blues screens of death and freezing on PC's? I can't remember the last time I saw something like that. Apple products last 5 years or more? Yeah, right. Almost every computer will need to be replaced every 3 years or so if for no other reason than battery life and hardware/software performance.

There are also many of the benefits described by Mac owners available in Linux distributions, which are free and getting better and better at peripheral recognition and user experience.

Bottom line, if you like Windows and don't mind paying for it, get a PC, if you want the best performance at the best price, get Linux, and if you need to prove a point with social symbol computer, by an Apple product.

bc

I just like the look of Macs better and the iPod touch. A winning combination. iPad is not too bad either. More devices, Apple keep them coming.

TerryReport com

Apple's products are certainly worth more than a standard PC, but the price differential is too great. Apple, it seems to me, is using its halo effect from the iPod and iPad, etc., to prolong the time when it can charge four to five hundred dollars more.

Also, Apple's products, while not buggy generally, are not without their issues. I bought an eMac some years ago, and I found out that the OS could not be updated. As a result, it is essentially obsolete, and has been for years, because the updated browsers require a higher OS.

Apple sold me a product, then put it into forced obsolescence and didn't give me any information about how I might update the system to continue using it. This is a bit like a car company telling you, "Sorry, we no longer make engines for that car. You'll have to buy a new one." The eMac I bought years ago can be purchased as a refurb for 99 dollars.

All this, however, was intentional: The eMac was a relative bargain aimed at the educational market. Apple protected its more expensive models by making this one ready for the junkyard the day it was sold.

I am a technologist, but I am not in love with tech. Just because something is smooth, well put together and the latest this or that, doesn't mean I want to make love to it. What a thing can do is what matters to me. I like what Apple is doing, I wish they would throw a wider net into more areas of technology, but I have to consider very carefully the idea of spending 500 dollars more. Functionality is key.

The whole Apple Store scene, too, is a bit of a turn off. It strikes me as something like a clip from a sci-fi movie and I wonder when the aliens are going to come out and start eating their children. The cult of Apple is a bit much.

For the record, I have one iMac, one eMac, had a stolen PowerBook and I am using a lower end laptop PC. My stolen Powerbook got so hot when I used it that I could easily have done away with a hotplate for cooking when traveling. I sank, in today's dollars, 3,000, into that PowerBook.

Doug Terry

Lehman Sister

My MacBook crashed this year. I bought a new one only a few days after the other one had crashed. I didn't even think of buying a Windows laptop. Why? Computer crashes happen, I enjoy using Apple software, and the staff at the Apple store was very polite and helpful. They repaired the crashed computer at a very reasonable price.

The argument that someone should buy a PC because that person has to use MS Office is ridiculous. Ever heard of MS Office for Mac computers? There is even a new version of this software to view and compose Word documents with the docsx extention. The notion--as stated in the article--that a PC is better for watching youtube and playing games cannot be viewed as a serious argument. Would you buy a computer to watch youtube videos?!

Old time mac user

I remember clearly an interview with Jobs in the late 1990s: "Bill Gates deserves all of his success, but my only problem with him is that he has no taste." I think that sums up the difference between Mac and PC. A PC is a collection of cost-minimized specifications; a Mac user recognizes that tecnology should be more than that. Of course, aesthetically minded people will always be a minority, with never more than a 10% share of the market :) .

I've used both for years

I'm an Apple fan as I appreciate things that 'just work,' and I find the physical design and GIU of the OS beautiful. But my MacbookPro sits right next to my HP Laptop. Why both? There is just one bloody website I can't get to on my Mac unless I load windows on it, and I really don't want to do that. I'm not a fan Microsoft.

BMW's are more expensive than Kias--big surprise! If you compare a Mac to a PC... a PC that is actually built similar (components, hardware & software) you'll find the price is virtually identical.

I've had Apple's since 1985 as have I had PC's, although I've never loved a PC. Generally in life you get what you pay for. I'm not a geek; I'm just a person who wants a hassle-free computer experience, and for that reason I'll sit in front of my Mac 99 times out of 100.

To those who believe that Apple is just pulling the wool over all of our eyes and we are all just stupid folk, well it's possible. I mean if the church can sell Christianity, then anythings possible.

Beach

I think the real issue between Mac and PCs comes down to the type of user. If you are a casual user of the machine and mainly email or build docs for work, then a Mac is probably for you. Most strictly business people I know barely know how to multi-select or cut and paste.

If you are a programmer building applications for multiple devices and platforms, PCs are the way to go. Macs make it too hard to change settings easily; it wants to do everything for you and run wizards. This is fine for the casual business user, but when I am constantly changing system settings for various reasons this is very annoying, but I am a command line person.

I have never had problems with my PCs crashing, and when they did it was usually my fault for trying to stretch some of the system resources to the max. Or the machine was 10+ years old and I was experimenting.

GD

PCs are crap.

Derek

I consider Mac computers an insult in terms of retail prices. Just compare prices of harware components (specs) in any Mac computers with component prices listed on newegg.com. You can buid a Windows computer even more powerfull (with a good video card, by the way) for less than 1/3 of the price of a Mac computer including costs for OS and monitor.

Jeremy

I switched to Mac after my endless aggravation with PC blue screens, freezes, reboots, and lags. A mac is worth every penny!

For business software purposes you may need Windows in the background (Fusion or Parallels). Like most people, I do this. Windows runs better on a Mac--don't worry!

A Mac is only difficult to operate if you don't have any common sense, since the OS is designed around this.

Tal

You're living in la-la-land if you think that Macs are higher quality. Macs are made by Asus, not Apple. Beyond software code Apple doesn't manufacture anything. Asus makes the MacBook in the same Chinese factories as Quandra and Compal, the two largest outsourcing companies that build probably 90% of the world's laptops for the biggest brands. Higher quality components? Ugh yeah, in your dreams. I know it's a bitter pill to swallow for the Mac evangelists, but it is what it is.

Apple may have more efficient electronics on board that consume less power, but let's not forget that a Mac isn't necessarily put to the pace as a PC. A PC can run dozens and dozens of applications while a Mac is limited to the number of programs that can run on it.

The operating system is an underlying factor when it comes to power consumption. Windows 7 is more powerful than Apple's OS, so it's understandable that battery life will be lower. But with the price of extra batteries significantly dropping over the past decade, you can get a spare 6-cell, which is good for another 4 hours, for less than $75. That's still a better deal than paying double for the Mac.

Jim Stjernstrom

My son has an Mac. I have a Dell B130. His is new, mine 5 years old. We both email, watch videos, and do some light office work stuff. He paid $1,500 and I paid $700. His Mac is sleek and beautiful and can do more than he ever asks it to do. My Dell is industrial looking and it, too, can do more than I ever ask it to do. He has had no problems with the Mac during his first year of ownership and enjoys using it. I have had no problems at all during my five years of ownership and I enjoy using my Dell. And if I ever do have a problem I'll just crank up my 10-year-old IBM laptop (which of necessity must be replaced because software is no longer supported) running Millennium with which I have had no problems. Yes, the Mac is sweet looking, but when I must purchase a new laptop I'll probably go for the one I saw recently at Amazon, similar in power to my Dell but for $379 delivered to my front door. I'll use the rest of the money I would have spent on a Mac to cover the increases in my health care costs.

Sachi

Macs are computers built for aesthetics. Yes, they are sleek and lightweight and portable with their all-aluminum casing and what not. Yes, they may be produced using better quality components, or so they say. But the true Mac connoisseur will never be caught dead with an outdated MacBook. The fact is, they would probably end up purchasing another computer in a couple of years anyway. All lithium-ion batteries have limited lifespans, and for the first year of problems, Apple will replace the unit for free. There is no battery replacement in a MacBook, Ipod, etc., there is no customization, no nothing. Definitely not worth $1,600.

Sam

People talking about blue screens of death must be living in a parallel universe to mine. Since Windows XP came out I cannot recall a BSOD on any of my computer--multiple computers at work and at home. Those who talk about Macs not having problems should just visit the support forums at Apple's website. All systems have problems from time to time. Some of it is luck. If PCs were as bad as Mac users like to claim, they would not be used as much as they are. In today's world, it is relatively easy to start developing software for another platform (see Android success), but there needs to be a real business reason. Macs are just not compelling enough. An iPhone is easier to use than most phones, but the same is not true for a Mac. Give a Mac to someone in their 80s and see if they find it easier to use than a PC. By the way, I have a dual boot Macbook and never boot into OSX. Why did I buy it? It's the only way to program for an iPhone. The one comment I agree with as a pro for the Mac is that you don't keep getting updates that require a reboot. This is annoying to deal with.

David

My first PC was purchased two months after IBM brought out the PC (1980-81?). I suffered with error messages and weird things happening for 25 some odd years, even though I upgraded my hardware and software often. In January of 2005 I had finished a long document, was about to do a final save, and got the message: "An unexpected error has occurred, this program has closed unexpectedly." The program was Word and my entire file was gone.

The problem is not the software but the incompatibility between some hardware manufacturers and Microsoft.

I ran out and bought an iMac and have never looked back. I never get errors because the software and hardware are so well integrated, even Windows for Mac runs smoother although I have now migrated to Apples PAGES word processing.

I now own two iMACs and a PowerBook. Why buy Microsoft? Price is not the only metric...reliability and quality are also important.

shadow

My 6 year old PC that cost $400 in 2004 has crashed fewer than 10 times in 6 years. It still runs all my apps perfectly. I've never gotten a blue screen, and I've never had spyware or viruses. I use a personal firewall and a few virus/spyware protectors. Anyone who claims that Macs are somehow safer and more stable is just repeating a market myth that has been proven false over and over again. Mac OS is not safer, it is not more stable, and it is just as subject to crashing as Windows. If you like it because for more subjective reasons, then more power to you. But don't say something stupid about its structural superiority--that is plain bunk.

AT

I value my time more than I have in the past, so I went Apple

I'm a non-technical user who has owned 4 wintel computers for home and personal use since 1995. I now own a Mac.

What changed?

I'm no longer willing or interested in investing my limited time in figuring out and solving wintel problems. More of them, more 800# hold time, and I now have a family and they are far more interesting than solving someone else's product design flaws.

Macpeoplecalmdown

AT,

Did owning a PC prevent you from having a family in the past? If so, I highly recommend that you [learn to manage] your time like a regular human being.

Best Wishes,
A PC owner who doesn't have OS issues and is fine living without the Mac's social status

Paul Moloney

"Most of my work involves e-mailing and communications"

If that's all you do, why do you need an expensive Mac to do it in the first place? Get a very cheap Windows-based netbook.

mlw4428

Macs and PCs (most of the major brands anyways) are all made by the same company (Quanta Computer). For Apple to claim they're any better, higher quality, or even made different is just a bunch of BS. They submit their designs for the case of the computer and a list of components they want in them. Quanta just assembles them like any other PC. High end PCs are made exactly the same way.

Apple is not and never will be better then a PC (on the hardware front; you can argue software all day).

Gibi

mlw4428,

I am going to have to disagree with the high-end PC's part. If I am not mistaken Alienware has production facilities in Florida and Ireland.

The rest is true, though.

C. A.

Why are the Mac people so delusional?

Steve Sopko

Come on, Folks,

What a worthless debate--something like asking the world's populace "which is the best religion?"

(Yes and even in regard to those, some are more expensive than others.)

Opinions are like A-holes...everybody has one.

Find what works for you and your needs, and go for it!

Steve

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