Thursday, April 9, 2009

MSFT Publishes On 'Apple Tax'

Microsoft's ad campaign targeting Apple (video linked here) now includes an "Apple Tax Return" depicting the additional cost for a family buying either PCs or Macs for the household.

The price comparison has some interesting features. The hypothetical Apple buyers are assumed to buy Microsoft Office at retail price as well as Intuit's Quicken and an upgrade of iWork, plus both Mobile Me and a one-to-one personal support agreement. Think about this for a moment. Do you actually buy this stuff when you buy a new machine?

Moreover, the hypothetical PC buyers are assumed to buy none of this. No online data synchronization tool or other service (storage, web hosting, etc.). No prepackaged accounting software. Instead of two office suites, zero. The "Other Software" budgeted for Mac users at $70? Nada. Maybe they aren't allowed, or can't afford software. Who knows?

Outside the computers themselves, Apple buyers and PC buyers are expected to buy entirely different wireless router/firewall appliances, at completely different prices. This, despite that I've used both the mentioned devices on Mac networks, and both work just fine with PCs. Some of the extras are priced similarly: an external hard drive and and 2GB RAM are shown at similar prices, for example, though I rather doubt all the vendors offer RAM at the same markup. (Maybe Microsoft expects RAM sticks as after-market add-ons?) However, when both buyers are assumed to buy a Blu-Ray player for the PC (on this point, I'm kinda mystified; why does my PC need a Blu-Ray player if I'm not recording data to it? maybe I'm outside the demographic MSFT is targeting), Microsoft charges the Mac buyers more for an external unit.

One interesting feature in the comparisons is the difference in price of the ATi Radeon HD 4870, which costs more from Apple than is reported from HP. Sometimes, these cards are clocked differently from different OEM vendors, but I don't have any information that Apple's part in this case delivers a different customer benefit. If you have info on this, leave comments :-) The fact that Apple's 3-year extended warranty costs $59 more than Dell's might be explained by the company's relative customer service rating, so I don't attribute much to it. I've talked to people who called Dell's support, and I wouldn't pay any price for that kind of "service".

The most belly-laugh garnering item on the list is the "Other Software" the Mac buyer is expected to pay for. The PC buyer is apparently not buying "Other Software". Not depicted for PC buyers are the likely relative costs of anti-virus, the relative time (or money) spent reinstalling (or having someone reinstall) an operating system atop infected installations for several years, or the like. The possibility that a Mac user might be happy with OpenOffice, or might not upgrade the still-working-just-fine but free-with-purchase iWork installation seems to escape Microsoft utterly. Why Dell or HP buyers won't spend money on software a Mac user would buy is sort of perplexing.

The hardware purchase price difference is listed at $1751, and that might be legit -- assuming you believe the computers listed are otherwise substitutes for one another. You are free to check out the supposed comparables and determine whether you believe one or the other is actually a better machine than its supposed equivalent. Personally, my experience with the longevity of Macs is that they work for eight years. That is, they remain useful years longer than most assume a computer will even run. I am not into modding hardware or buying upgrades, so this reflects what I get out of a single hardware purchase. Obviously, your mileage may vary; but I strongly suspect that the cost per year of the machines over their actual use -- and under actual software budgets as they occur in a real household -- will be rather substantially different than depicted by Microsoft in its anti-Apple ad.

The interesting thing is that Microsoft has felt it necessary to advertise against Apple as a competitor. I mean ... if Apple is no threat, why bother?


Elliott said...

I'm a community collge music prof who's been hearing for years from all his colleagues about the superiority of Apple vs PC, particulary in the realm of music software. At first I wrote it off as the fanatic dedication of a persecuted minority. I must confess, however, that recently the siren song of the apple laptop has become more enticing, especially as I see the sleek machines some of my students carry around. Price is the thing that holds me back, but you've raised an interesting point about cost per year and lifespan. Any chance you could be persuaded to post your own comparison of the total cost of two equivalent machines over their projected lifespans?

Jaded Consumer said...

Elliott --

Thanks for the comment and question. The reply was a bit much for comments, and became another post.

Best regards,