Daniel Eran Dilger
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Apple responds to Microsoft ads: “a PC is no bargain”

200904161306

Prince McLean, AppleInsider

Apple has responded to the new Microsoft ads promoting low-cost generic PCs as a cheaper alternative to the Mac, stating “A PC is no bargain when it doesn’t do what you want.”

Apple responds to Microsoft ads: “a PC is no bargain”
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The comment, from Apple spokesman Bill Evans, appeared in a BusinessWeek article by Erik Hesseldahl, which examined the differences between the $699 HP notebook Microsoft recommended to its TV audience over Apple’s 17“ MacBook Pro, a system in a considerably higher quality and price range.

”The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool,“ Evans added. ”With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price.“

What you pay

Hesseldahl did the math to find out, noting that the lower cost HP notebook ships with a 60-day trial Norton Internet Security 2009, but requires a $50 subscription to help keep Windows from falling to the onslaught of PC viruses and malware.

Some savvy PC buyers might be aware that they can find free antivirus tools on the Internet, but between the fraudulent malware posing as free antivirus tools and the heavily promoted, multi-billion dollar security industry that staunchly defends its right to profit from adding the security that Microsoft left out of Windows, there’s clearly a lot of PC buyers who will end up suckered into paying that extra $150 over the short lifetime of their PC to keep it as clean as the Mac would be without any antivirus software.

The analysis also points out that PC users who run into inevitable problems will face a $129 fee from Geek Squad just to diagnose the problem, while pointing out that Apple offers free help from its retail stores’ Genius Bar.

What you get

Hesseldahl also outlined the difference in what users get in terms of usability with iLife’s iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand, and other software. He noted that the PC ships with some third party movie editing tools that usually cost $184, but figures that collecting a few other software titles to match what ships on the Mac would easily cost another $340. Never mind that all those PC programs don’t offer much in terms of tight integration like the Mac’s iLife titles.

All that missing software and the extra fees can easily double the cost of the cheap PC hardware. And as the report describes, the bargain basement HP hardware isn’t very compelling, with a wimpy battery rated for 2.5 hours compared to the MacBook Pro’s eight, an extra 1.2 pounds of weight in a thicker case, and a far lower quality display with much lower resolution, 1440×900 compared to the MacBook Pro’s 1920×1440.

Compare

The article also notes that Consumer Reports ranked the Mac first among a half dozen notebooks with 17” to 18“ screens, while the HP came in fourth. Hesseldahl also cited a Forrester Research study that ranked Apple first in ”usefulness, usability, and enjoyability“ ahead of HP, Dell and Gateway, which is now part of Acer.

”PC makers in the Windows camp have done everything possible to make their products progressively worse by cutting corners to save pennies per unit and boost sales volume,“ he wrote. ”There’s good reason Apple is seeing healthy profits while grabbing market share. It refuses to budge on quality and so charges a higher price. Rather than running ads that seem clever at first but really aren’t, the Windows guys ought to take the hint and just build better computers.“

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  • http://www.systematicabstraction.com/ KA

    That last comment was a mistake.

  • gus2000

    “There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man’s lawful prey.” — John Ruskin

    Why does this quote seem so apropos whenever we discuss the relative value of Macs and PCs? Hmmm…..

  • RobC

    Here’s a hilarious parody of the Windows “Laptop Hunters” ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbJSuduTrPs

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    The problem with this analysis is that it takes the PC, then adds anything it can in order to match the Mac feature for feature (and drive up the price). But the person buying the PC may not care at all about ANY of the Mac’s extra features or niceties.

    For instance, would “Lauren” care about having something like GarageBand on her PC? Does she care that her PC’s display is only 1440 x 900 (which might still be a huge improvement over her old computer)? Etc.

    Look, don’t get me wrong – I’ve bought only Macs since 2002 and I definitely think they’re worth the price for the hardware/software quality. But I CARE about the things that set the Mac apart, so that’s why I buy them. A lot of people might not.

    Let’s do the opposite – take a Mac and start removing things from it that you don’t care about or have a need for so that it matches the features/price of the PC. You can’t – if you want a 17″ display, for example, that’s $2799 and that’s the end of it.

  • cfbandit

    I think daGUY is absolutely right. Most average people aren’t looking to take music lessons on the computer, produce movies, etc.

    They want something to play games on their Facebook, chat with their friends and post movies – not edit and produce them. They don’t even know what a 1440×900 display resolution means, or if thats good or bad.

    At the same time, I know of few people who pay the Geek Squad to do things for them. They call their kids and have them do the tech support, call the neighbor, ask their work IT support person, until they are told things are so undyingly awful that it can’t be fixed – then they go to the professionals. I don’t think I’ve ever paid more than the cost of a dinner to get my laptop fixed – and I thought I had broke it completely.

    Look – I love Macs and would love to own one if I had the money, since they’re great for photo editing and other creative pursuits. But they can’t compete on price.

    That’s why I’m rather mystified that Apple responded at all. It doesn’t seem to be in their best interest to start a price war.

  • Mikael

    If she just gets a 1440×900 then she got lesser featured machine no matter how you choose to view it. Popular ways to cut expenses when building those Windows PCs is also to use old and slower memory, Intel’s crappy graphics allong with slower processor.

    So OF COURSE Lauren’s laptop is cheaper, it has so much less in it and just a fraction of the Macbook pro’s performance.

    I think this is close to fraud, i.e. a criminal act, to fool consumers into becoming customers by tempting them with low prices and at the same time saying it’s anywhere near the performance, quality and usability of the Macbook pro. It’s disingenuous to say the least.

  • bradpdx

    I must agree with DaGUY that there is a place for basic machines with elemental functionality – witness the rise of the lowly netbook, which speaks to the simple set of requirements many users appear to have.

    I can see that many users do not need or appreciate the “deluxe” experience of the Mac. However, it is a shame that for the time being they are stuck with a system as clunky and dangerous as Windows.

  • Ned Harwick

    Wow. I guarantee this lame new round of protest is coming from the exact same astro-turfed people that decried the iMac as “unexpandable!!!” despite the obvious lack of expansion undertaken by the majority of Computer owners–Mac or PC. Indeed, the person buying a Mac or PC “may not care at all about any of the … extra features or niceties.” Except for when they do. Only now, I guess, they don’t. Or not. Whatever.

    Most people don’t need “[insert feature here]”? What a moronic counter-point. It’s like saying “41 MPG? WTF? Most people don’t drive 41 miles per day!!!”

    “Good enough”? Uh… when did that become the rallying cry for PCs? These insulting commercials don’t claim they’re looking for a “good enough” computer, the featured POS machines are being pitched as replacements for Macintosh. The participants think they do know what they are looking for, despite apologists saying things like “they don’t even know what a 1440×900 display resolution means.” In each commercial the first choice is a Macintosh. Yes, I know, that’s to make some kind of point, the point being no more mature than “these grapes are probably sour.”

    As comparison after comparison points out, it is in fact PCs that don’t compete on price. Apparently, the very idea that they should compete on price is unfair. Higher quality components?! Faster memory?! pshaw! Now, PCs don’t compete at all–they just wait for people to give up & stop even trying. Nice.

    There is no “place for basic machines.” People looking for “games on their facebook” and “chat with their friends” are served well by their cheapo cell phones. Those people aren’t even looking for computers, and it’s an invented market that is attempting to sell them computers. Stop with the computer-for-grandma myth–grandma doesn’t want a computer, and isn’t going to use it. The crap machines offered in these commercials are loss leaders dangled as bait to upsell to the only market that matters–the 9% that Apple has already cornered.

    Oh, and btw: please, please, PLEASE stop the “I have [used/loved/bought] Macs for X years” line. It’s always, and obviously, a lie. No you don’t/haven’t/didn’t. Go back to your AlienWare box.

  • Mikael

    For simple surfing and email you DO have several alternatives in the mobile phones, the great iPhone and iPod Touch included.

  • GwMac

    As far as AV software, AVG and Avast are not only free, but far better than most commercial paid apps. Throw in Spyware Search & Destroy for good measure, which is also free, and you have a pretty well protected PC. That is what I use for my XP virtual drive with Vmware Fusion and no malware so far.

    In terms of prices, the weakest point about Macs is that are so few choices. There are no cheap 15 or 17 inch Mac laptops. Nor are there any “pro” level 13″ laptops that include an expresscard slot, real GPU, or firewire for example. Even on the Mac Pro you can not get a blu-ray drive or the current top end GPU cards. The consumer desktop Mac which is the iMac doesn’t even offer a quad core processor yet.

    I think the biggest sore point for many Mac users like myself is the fact that since we do in fact have to pay an Apple tax to get the goodness of OS X, we expect the specs to either match or exceed thos of far cheaper PC’s. I think it is no secret that many PC’s will come standard with much larger and faster hard drives and more memory, 4 GB is pretty common now. Apple has a bad habit of charging exorbitant prices to upgrade components. Even the cheapest of laptops usually offer at least a 250 GB drive and 3 or 4 GB of Ram nowadays.

    Apple can keep their margins and focus on the above $1,000 price point, but it certainly would be nice if they also chose to include bigger hard drives, more standard memory, and maybe better GPU options in the Mac Pro for example. In other words for the money we are paying we should be getting the latest and greatest in technology and specs, and in many cases you can’t help but feel like you are getting ripped off a little bit when it comes to the specs at least.

  • Mikael

    If you want a better PC, may it come from Dell or HP, you’ll have to pay more. No surprise there. If you want cheap laptops then tough, you’re out of luck with Apple at least since they refuse to sell crap.

    And don’t forget that the highest end graphic cards aren’t exactly for free.

  • GwMac

    A $1,600 laptop that doesn’t include a discrete GPU, or an expresscard slot that would allow to to add USB3, Firewire 400/800, eSata, etc..and only includes 2 GB of Ram and a 250GB might be considered crap in some circles.

  • enzos

    But not here, GW; people around here are smart enough to know that it isn’t a pissing contest.

  • http://www.yale.edu/chinesemac/ TenThousandThings

    So the RD forum is defunct?

    Anyhow, the Microsoft campaign isn’t really about comparing specs — it’s about trying to create a sort of backlash against Apple. Lauren declares herself not “cool” enough for Apple, and Giampaolo tells us that Macs are all about style over substance. The kid in the third ad says Macs are “pretty.”

    This response addresses this theme first: ”The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool, …“

  • http://www.jphotog.com leicaman

    GwMac, since when were you not able to connection eSATA or Firewire 800 and 400 to a MacBook Pro? They have express card slots. You can put 4 gigs of RAM in for $99 if you really want it. And you can put bigger hard drives in. You get what you pay for, but you have to give up your straw men first.

  • GwMac

    leicaman , the $1,600 laptop I am referring to is the top of the line Macbook, not Macbook Pro. $1599 to be precise. Am I the only one that finds it ridiculous that Apple chooses to leaves out an Express card slot on the Macbook line? That option would allow you to future proof it with USB3 not to mention all the other great uses for this slot like the ones you mentioned. If Netbook makers can make room for one on $300 computers, why can’t Apple?

  • PNutHed

    You just can’t compare on price. The cheap computers they promote in the commercials can’t even be compared to a MacBook Pro. They don’t even belong in the same discussion. You get what you pay for. If you build a MacBook for that same price, you would no doubt have a similar performer.

    That doesn’t mean you automatically get a better computer by buying Apple either. Don’t get me wrong, I love my MacBook Pro. But I game on a PC and I do so simply because you can take the PC architecture much farther than you can an Apple.

    The best Mac money can buy can not run three nVidia graphics cards in tandem in a SLI configuration. My PC can. No amount of performance you can cram into a Mac can match that kind of SLI performance. I know – I have both. Besides that, and speaking strictly from my own personal experience, 64-bit Vista is way more stable than OS X.

    When I tell Vista to shut down, it does. OS X might, it might not. When I boot Vista I can use a mouse, every time. Sometimes on OS X the mouse prefers to just hang out motionless in the upper left corner. Why? Who knows? When Vista has a problem, it tells you what it is. OS X often just cops an attitude and it’s up to you to figure out what is wrong. I believe there is a common misconception that OS X has fewer problems. I believe this is due to the simple fact that OS X chooses n0t to report them. I could be wrong. I do know that I cuss a lot more at my OS X machine than my Vista box.

    My Vista PC crashed three times in the last three years. Two of those I times I was monkeying with the bios. My Mac crashed three times last night. I was trying to download the latest patch for WoW (because I like to play when I’m on the road) and trying to use Firefox at the same time was apparently too much. I tried the fix disk utility, but it hangs.

    I put way more money into the PC than the MacBook Pro and I am rewarded with far better performance.

    Look, everyone has their own experiences. These are mine. Draw your own conclusions, but if you don’t run a Windows OS, don’t even comment on one. What you hear, what you choose to believe to justify buying the much slicker Macintosh, the whole oh-so-hip image factor – none of that matters next to real experience (and not the kind other people have).

    I’m just saying that they both have their own merits. The only place price has in the discussion is in knowing that you get what you pay for.

  • harrywolf

    Frank the Homeless Guy says it all.

  • beetle

    Understandably, Apple is trying to encourage customers to purchase the more expensive product. The conundrum for Apple is that the MacBook is such a good machine that the performance gap between the MacBook and MacBook Pro is quite narrow, certainly not enough IMHO to justify the price difference. So Apple dropped FireWire, and an Express card slot was never an option. (The latter practice is at least consistent with the historical difference between iBooks and PowerBooks.)

  • http://www.jphotog.com leicaman

    GwMac,

    There’s a netbook with an Expresscard/34? What good would it do? What kind of high-speed data connection would such a computer use when it can barely handle checking multiple email accounts?

  • GwMac

    Have you even used a Nettbook? They are a lot speedier than you think. Light years faster than my old Powerbook G4. I have no lag whatsoever using mine, in fact it is pretty snappy. Check out this review running OS X. http://www.xlr8yourmac.com/systems/OSXonDellMini9/OSXonDellMini9.html#storytop

    As far as an express card slot, it is all about expandability and options. You could add USB3 peripherals when they are released, firewire, video capture, not to mention being able to add a cheap 32 or even 64GB flash memory card for Time Machine backups for example or increased data storage. The point I am making is there is no reason for Apple not to include an Express Card slot on a $1,600 laptop when 95% of laptops include this basic option. Not to mention that more and more Netbooks also include this. They are only doing that to force you to buy the more expensive Macbook Pro. What about people like me that want an express card slot but don’t want to lug around a 15″ laptop? The newer Netbook models expected later this year will have much faster integrated graphics, a faster CPU, HDMI out and express card slots. Apple can only buck the trend for so long before they must respond. It will be interesting to see what this rumored 10″ Mac tablet looks like. I just hope they give it a decent amount of ports and power.

  • gus2000

    “…there is no reason for Apple not to include an Express Card slot on a $1,600 laptop…”

    Have you even HEARD of Steve Jobs? This is the same guy that put Torx screws on the original Macintosh to keep the users’ little fingers out. He also banned any expansion slot of any kind, including the “diagnostic” port that the engineers tried to sneak in. The philosophy is that a machine should ship with what it needs to operate, not with some wishful thinking about “future expansion.” The only Apple computers that have an expansion slot of any kind have the word “Pro” in them; even my $2000 iMac lacks one (and frankly I don’t miss it).

    I will consider the mythical iTablet to be a complete failure if it includes “a decent amount of ports.” It should have a dock connector (à la the iPod), a headphone jack, and MAYBE a USB. Maybe. I’ve always been drawn to Motion tablets but they just felt too much like folded-over laptops instead of slates, mostly because of the ludicrous arrangement of ports that circumnavigate those devices, adding bulk and heft.

    Expandability is for people that aren’t satisfied with what they have.

  • Dmitri

    I’m with gus2000 on this one… Apple is about actual user experience and usability. People who get off on what they COULD do with all them ports and that expansion slot (and I admit, sometimes I’m one of ’em) are NOT the target audience for the consumer Apple equipment. People who want a non-complicated experience that works with minimal fuss are Apple’s audience. Those who are heartbroken by not having every option in the world — no matter how difficult those options are to use, or whether or not they ever use them — need to look elsewhere.

    This is NOT a flaw in Apple’s strategy. It’s an expression of what Apple has figured out and almost no one else has: Features can only be viewed in the context of user experience. Outside of that framework they are just adding complexity and difficulty that most people will NOT want.

    That’s why Apple can be so successful with fewer features, that people enjoy using — vs. the everything and the kitchen sink in a device that is so hard to use most people never use the features.

  • GwMac

    Wow, so an extra USB port or an Express card slot now confuse consumers? Interesting logic there. What keeps me with Apple is the software, mainly the OS itself and not the hardware. I would think that most people fall into this camp as well. This applies to both computers and the iPhone line as well. Having an extra USB port, or a firewire port, or an Express Card slot will not “confuse” anyone. People will either to choose to use them or not.

    We are not talking about adding everything and the kitchen sink here so stop the hyperbole. We are simply talking about a very common port that 95% of laptops offer that would give the Macbook a great deal more usefulness. If you think Apple’s decision to leave off an express card slot has anything more to do about than pure greed and hoping to sway users to buy the Macbook Pro you are delusional.

  • Dmitri

    Hey GwMac, cool your jets, I didn’t mean to insult you, there’s no need to get into my delusional or non-delusional state. Of course Apple wants to make money and wants to differentiate their MacBook Pro from their MacBook.

    For me, I’m just glad they stopped doing what they did in the 90s, which was differentiate by making their cheaper machines slow as molasses, even though they COULD run faster. Now THAT was irritating.

  • macmatte

    For all Microsoft’s frailties, you can’t generally fault it for running away from its responsibility as running the OS that runs the world. They do their best to make an OS that can run all the gamut of hardware and peripherals out there.

    That’s where Apple does not take that same responsibility as the only one we can turn to for hardware that runs OSX.

    Case in point: the lack of matte, anti-glare screens for the iMac and MacBooks (except the 17″ MBP). Regardless of Apple’s marketing hype — that everyone loves glossy screens — there is a substantial portion of people that love and/or need matte screens. The arguments for and against are valid — which means it is not a clear-cut division that everyone loves gloss. But Apple refuses to supply matte screens even as a paid-option.

    To register your protest against the loss of matte screens, there is a website dedicated solely to this topic:

    http://macmatte.wordpress.com

  • onlymyprivatemail@yahoo.com

    As it has been for a long time, the Mac and the generic PC are targeted toward different folks. For those who are proficient with PC technology, there is no need to get a Mac. For those who generally don’t care about technology but just want to get the job done, buying a Mac may be safer and easier. The price for this is higher price.

    A higher resolution display is not necessarily a higher quality display, and you may not like it or need it. At 1920×1440, even on a 17-in screen, the text becomes so tiny that you’d have to be under 20 years old to be able to see clearly!

    I recently bought a similar HP notebook PC instead of a MacBook because of its nice metallic look and much cheaper price. I do not need all the “hand-holding” offered by Apple’s software. Specifically, my HP Pavilion dv5 notebook PC offers me much higher value than a MacBook or MacBook Pro. To make my PC safe, I simply download and install Avast anti-virus and ZoneAlarm. They are both free and extremely capable.

  • Clowndip

    Wow, is everyone missing the point. A cheap PC with cheap components, that will become virus and malware ridden and need to be repaired/replaced in a couple of years is no bargain compared to a better PC, be it a Mac or a better laptop from another company that will still be quite functional down the road. These “average” consumers that everyone is referring to do not know how to maintain their own machines and will be blowing wads of cash on tech support and maintenance. I’ve watched my brother do this-he has spent three times as much on computers as I have since I bought my last Mac. The extra features in a Mac are icing on the cake, really. The cheap machines are no bargain because they’re junk, plain and simple.

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    Clowndip,

    If there’s one point nobody who reads this blog never misses, and that’s exactly what you wrote. It’s kind of like saying ice cream is cold, or Steve Ballmer shouldn’t be leading Microsoft.

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    Of course, I did not mean the double negative my fingers typed.

  • Ogoff

    The smell of the biggest industry faults is somehow connected with Vista.
    Here are the frequent said keywords on some keynotes……
    What I did is to take the text from Microsoft Keynotes and to see what they’ve spoken about just searching how often some words have been used, without reading all bla-bla-bla.
    On Keynote on International CES 2006 Bill Gates mentioned Vista 32 times, Windows Live 7 times, Windows Mobile 2 times.
    On Keynote on International CES 2007 Bill Gates mentioned Vista 48 times, Windows Live 4 times, Windows Mobile 3 times.
    On Keynote on International CES 2008 Bill Gates mentioned Vista 9 times, Windows Live 17 times, Windows Mobile 12 times.
    On Keynote on International CES 2009 Steve Ballmer mentioned Vista and Windows XP only once speaking about the compatibility with some new products. No other counts on Vista at all.
    In same keynote Windows 7 was mentioned 28 times. Windows Live mentioned 27 times, Windows Mobile 12 times.
    What could be the reason Microsoft to be so silent about Vista just 2 years after the debut?!
    Instead of being proud about “New OS”, it seams that Microsoft want Vista wouldn’t ever appear and they to jump right from XP to Windows 7.
    We can start right now timers just to see how fast Microsoft will forget Vista. I suppose in two years nobody will remember Vista, everybody who rests in Wintel society will be on XP and Windows 7.
    I don’t know how many copies of Vista will still be installed at that time.
    The most impressive definition for Windows 7 I’ve ever seen is “Windows 7: Vista that works”.
    When you ask sales guys in a computer shop, you want to buy computer from the shell but with XP instead of Vista, in most of the cases answer will be “It is not possible, there are no drivers for XP for that hardware”, or simply “No we sell computers only with Vista, which is bla-bla-bla-number one…”… and you go out of the shop, or buy, even with Vista. Later on you start to search for XP drivers, and easy you could go to the other side, with keygens, ser. nums, WGA cracks, till you get the machine you want. Then you can discover you fill comfortably there – in the crack world.
    Many users choose easier way – they go to MAC OS. It is really remarkable OS. It worths to forget Windows habits and to build seamless new habits, to become part of the finest world of Apple society.
    That’s why Steve Jobs in the Apple Keynote say that forth factor, if I remember correct, boosting Apple sells is Vista.
    The best business achievement during last two years was sells of Vista. Everybody can sell good products. But so many copies of so bad product nobody can sell, except Microsoft, the best business company all over the world. How Microsoft managed to convince hardware companies all over the world not to develop drivers for XP but for Vista?! How they – hardware producers agree to go against themselves, it’s very strange for me. It was a plot against all customers, so well organized, with so many advantages for everybody but for customers.
    Let see how it will be in two years when guys with Vista will replace it with Windows 7. Then the bad sides of Vista will work for Windows 7. Everybody will be happy to replace Vista with Windows 7. That means again more money for Microsoft.
    Why most of the people expect Windows 7 to be better then Vista? Simply because it will be difficult to be produced worst OS then Vista. Whatever windows 7 will be, it could not be worst then Vista.
    Anyway, the business lesson is remarkable.
    Caution: Do not try it home! Do not try to sell bad products in your field of activities! It could ruin your business. The example above was carried on by a plot of professionals!