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Apple Premium Pricing Buys More Than a Logo

By David Coursey
March 23, 2009 12:00 PM ET

PC World - I did not plan to take time out of my weekend to defend Apple, but Jeff Bertolucci's missive "Ballmer Is Right: Mac Users Do Pay Dearly for Apple Logo" is just wrong. Not in the facts, mind you, just the analysis.

Jeff compares a low-end MacBook portable to a similar Dell laptop. He concludes that the MacBook, at $999, costs $359 more than the Dell. Jeff never actually states an opinion on the relative value of the two machines--the headline does that work--but it seems clear enough where he's coming from: The Mac isn't worth the extra coin.

Still, he does give the MacBook some credit:

"Apple enthusiasts will counter that Mac users don't have to fuss with security worries, and that's true, at least for now," Jeff writes. It's worth mentioning that Apple has enjoyed a pretty long "now" in avoiding Windows-scale security headaches for, well, as long as there's been a Microsoft Windows."

"They'll point out that Macs don't come with the crapware that infests so many Windows PCs," he continues. "And they'll make the valid observation that the MacBook's preinstalled software, including iLife, is superior to the so-so apps, including Microsoft Works, that ship with most consumer Windows PCs.

"Fair enough. But are those advantages worth a $300-plus premium? In this economy, many consumers may think not."

Jeff is right about the apps. Apple hardware comes with high quality apps that Windows users have to pay extra for. That chips away at the price premium.

I find Mac users to be more productive than Windows users because they spend less time "messing" with the computer and solving (or not) various Windows hassles. In a business environment, this saving of staff time can offset the Mac premium so quickly it will make your head spin. Ease-of-use saves money.

In addition, many people will happily pay $300 to not be subjected to Windows Vista. Others, like me, do not find Vista that objectionable (and are liking Windows 7) but still believe Mac OS X is worth a premium.

For people who buy Macs--home users, small businesses, various professionals--the cost premium is clearly worth it. Although I have long been critical of Apple's premium pricing, after Jeff laid his example out for me, I find it hard to complain.

Another example: Which would most people rather own, an Apple MacBook Pro or Dell's Adamo laptop, complete with Vista Home Premium. That is a discussion I cannot believe serious people are having.

Of course, and this is where Jeff makes sense: You can only pay the premium if you have the money. As people economize and substitute real dollar savings for an improved experience, Mac sales are suffering.

I don't think the premium pricing Jeff cites is excessive at all, but I agree that if people don't have the money, they can't pay the premium. Moreover, customers who need a new machine right now may substitute the Dell they can afford for the more expensive Mac.

David Coursey uses a Mac and a Dell every single day and has nice things to say about both of them. Write him using the contact form at www.coursey.com/contact.

Reprinted with permission from PCWorld.com. Story copyright 2012 PC World Communications. All rights reserved.
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