If you're looking for the best travel deal possible, it pays to be a Windows user, because Mac owners are steered to higher-cost hotels at Orbitz. And that's likely just the beginning -- expect other sites to follow Orbitz and show Windows users better-priced goods and services than Apple users.
How much more expensive the hotels are varies by city. For Miami Beach, for example, the average price of rooms on the first page of results shown to Mac users were 11% more expensive than shown to PC users.
The reason is simple: Apple owners are bigger spenders than PC owners. The Journal reports that Orbitz found that Mac users spend $20 to $30 more per night for hotels on average than do PC owners. And there's good cause for it, because Forrester says that Mac owners have an average household income of $98,560, compared to $74,452 for PC owners.
Expect other online retailers to follow Orbitz, if they're not already doing so.
What's the message in this? The first one is obvious: Mac owners tend to be more spendthrifts than PC owners. So it makes sense that Web sites would point them at higher-priced goods and services.
There's another message as well, though. It's that you can't trust retail recommendation engines. You may think that when you do a search, they're out to get you the best deal, but clearly they're not. They're out to get the best deal for the retail site, not for you. Recommending higher-priced hotels to Mac users is a somewhat crude attempt at that -- expect this kind of targeting to become far more sophisticated over time. Given the amount of information known about you -- the sites you visit, the searches you perform, the products you've bought in the past and have recently bought -- engines will use behavioural analytics to figure out what products you're likely to pay a premium for, and then recommend them rather than lower-priced ones.
Even more dangerous will be when voice-recognition tools like Siri team up with behavioural analytics. Based on the current ad campaign for Siri featuring John Malkovitch, Apple clearly pitches Siri as a friend, not a piece of technology. The best way to sell products is via word of mouth, especially recommendations from friends. So what happens when Siri and the Google and Microsoft versions of Siri start making recommendations to you? You're likely to take them at face value. And you certainly won't be getting a good deal when you do.