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Mailbag: What Price Mac?

Are Apple laptops worth the price tag? Readers chime in with their thoughts:

In reality, I recognize hyperbole when I see it. Apple stuff is not all that overpriced in the overall scheme of things. Rejoice and relax -- you still have the lower parts of the market all to yourselves.

You stated by saying that buying a Mac instead of a PC is like buying a Cadillac instead of a Hyundai. I think a better comparison is buying a Mac is like buying a Toyota instead of a Ford. We all know Ford could build a better car if it wanted to, but it doesn't want to. So if reliability and performance are issues, you buy a Toyota, not a Ford. Same for Mac vs. PC.

Apple will never be able to afford to sell entry-level PCs. It simply cannot generate the volumes necessary to absorb the narrow margins that Dell and HP must maintain on entry-level products.

That's not really the question, though. OEMs like Dell and HP routinely offer steep discounts on mid-range to high-end systems in order to attract high-volume enterprise customers -- and they still make a profit. If Apple DID care about IT (or perhaps if it simply understood the enterprise market), it would understand that enterprise customers are not consumers and they will not pay premium prices for PCs. But when they do buy, they buy in large enough volumes to make it worth their while.

Have you ever met anyone using a Mac that wasn't passionate about their Apple product? They don't mind paying extra for the look and feel of the Apple products and love the interface, so why would Apple ever cut its profit margin in hopes of attracting newbies? It already has a dedicated fan base that's bringing up children and influencing others with their preferences.

Not for me though -- I'm hooked on Windows and prefer it even with all the security issues and OS flaws. It's what I use at work and prefer to use at play. Even if Apple cut its prices down to the $500 level, I'd be no more drawn to its product line as I'm sure many others would agree. Bet many others are worked up over this posting!

Apple obviously doesn't care about a presence in the enterprise. Most line-of-business applications won't run on a Mac. There's little in the way of management, no good story for remote access. Even ignoring the price difference, there's too much functionality lost with Mac. They're fine for home users or business users who only need an Office app, but other than that, I don't see much of a role for them in business. For the foreseeable future, I'm a PC.

I support PCs and am sick of the instability. If Macs are stable, the $500 premium is worth it. But are they? Based on what evidence?

As the lowly network admin, I'm not really that worried about money per se; the boss has to pay for it. I'm more worried about my own frustration regarding malware, users mucking where they shouldn't and general OS instability. If I could make a defensible claim of higher uptime, higher user productivity and lower support, I'd be interested in making the case. For now, we are moving to a dumb terminal configuration using Wyse terminals and Citrix.

Interesting to note that Apple once dominated computers in elementary and high schools, but is now in second place to Dell in sales. Was Bill Gates smart to settle his antitrust suit by giving away PCs to poorer schools? Not only is he giving away PCs, Microsoft is providing millions of dollars in training and technical support for teachers to learn how to effectively use PCs. Smart move by Microsoft, but will Apple respond with affordable computers for these low-income students?

Since I've always thought (with few exceptions) that Apple customers represent the best of the snobby, elitist, socially unconscious "arty" crowd, why would Steve want to stoop so low for the rest of us? Thank goodness laptops have gone down in price. Hey, maybe someday I can replace my old clunker.

Apple taking its prices down to PC levels would destroy its business model, since it wouldn't be the cool, limited club that it is. Its fanboys would move on to something else if every Joe Six-Pack also owned an Apple; it wouldn't be special anymore. The coolness is a critical part of Apple's business least for others. I'm too old to worry about coolness anymore.

Check in tomorrow for more of your letters! In the meantime, leave your comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on October 20, 2008