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Microsoft’s “Apple Tax”. WTF?

April 12th, 2009 makii

After Microsoft’s ad starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, which was the first response to the well-known Get a Mac commercials, was kind of a flop, they recently started the Laptop Hunters series. Watching it is kind of funny. Mostly, for my part, because of the reactions of the people when they’re presented with the money for their computer-to-be.

Apart from that, the Company From Redmond commissioned, or sponsored, as they call it, an analysis from Endpoint Technologies Associates, which should transparently describe the “Apple Tax”. At the first glance the form (filled out by hand, as it seems) looks pretty convincing, stating an overall saving of more than 3300 bucks when you buy a PC instead of a Mac. Is that really true?

Ina Fried from Cnet took a closer look at the findings and is not convinced. The report states no additional license fees for the Windows systems despite the OEM licenses included in the hardware price. Where do they get there Software from? Do they use OpenOffice? Do they use copies from their friends illegally? Why do they list the (totally optional) MobileMe account? This account on it’s own bills for about $750 in the five years. I know only one person who uses MobileMe and he will discontinue it.

Sure, Apple hardware is more expansive in comparison to PC hardware, that’s true. But as the Windows Experience Blog states correctly, it’s not only about cost, but about value. I’m an Apple user for about a half year now and I think I get a lot more value for my money than for my previous laptops, which were PC systems. In germany we have two words to describe this difference. The word which describes a possibly good deal is “günstig”, which translates well to cheap as in low priced. “billig” also means cheap, but more in a kind of this product’s kinda crappy way. A lot of PC hardware in the past was “billig”, and the present one often still is. The hardware of these systems does not fit together well, the cheap ones still have a ridiculously low resolution (I will never work willingly on anything below 1400×900 on 14″ or 15″ screens). The chassis stability of Macs might be reached by Thinkpads, but the Design I think is still leading, though it is quite simply.

To the software. I had installed Windows on my previous PC systems, and I even have a BootCamp installation with Windows XP on it on my Mac. I boot it two or three times a month to play games which unfortunately are not available for OSX (Assasins Creed and Fallout 3) and don’t work with Crossover Games properly. That’s all I use it for, and, hell, that’s all I need it for. The last five years I solely worked on Unix- and Linux- based systems. And I like it. Instead of clicking around endlessly in the explorer or the System Control I have a powerful shell (zsh or bash) and I can do everything on the fast lane. For the direct functions of the operating system the clicking point is also valid for OSX. But the simple gestures on the trackpad, or the Expose configuration is so addictive I tried to switch workspaces on my Linux workstation in the office by moving the mouse pointer to the upper right corner only two days after I bought my first Mac (yeah, I know. This might become a problem someday).

The important part for me is: Mac OSX, while shiny and colorful, has a Unix foundation, which is (IMO, even if not open source), a good thing. No ugly Cygwin necessary. There is MacPorts. There is Fink. Lots of stuff I need for everyday life. And the parts which come with OSX UI are most natural and intuitive.

To the point. I like Apple Hardware and Software, because

  • It looks kinda cool. This sure is one major point why Apple is so successful.
  • The hardware is sturdy.
  • The software fits my needs.
  • There is not that much malware, spyware and other bad stuff for OSX, if any.
  • There is a usable Unix environment underneath all that glamour.
  • I am not ridicuously accurate about free software licenses, though I like and respect free software in general.

I have stopped looking into Microsoft’s operating systems since Windows 2000. As mentioned before I’ve run XP on my Samsung X20 and MacBook Pro for gaming only. This was good as I can tell you now. Having started at a new Job I need to speak with a funny Exchange Server from Redmond Industries which I could not get up and running with anything I tried with Evolution, so I continued using the pre-installed Vista. It looks good enough for now, but still is a plain continuation of the user interface concepts from Windows 95. I still have to use the embedded context menue to create a new folder. It still comes with 2 tons of funny software preinstalled which needs to be cleaned out before you can somehow work with the system. Every tool which should bring me some sane Virtual Desktop support is either broken somehow, or is totally cumbersome to use. I think this will be my next desktop wallpaper…

I wish I had a Mac.

But this would not help either, this mail setup does not work for Entourage either.

So I’m (again, for once) stuck with Windows and no light at the end of the tunnel. I think I’ll, if time allowes, play a bit more with an Ubuntu in some virtual box setup and try to get Mail access up and running with Linux. Till then I need to work around with the most sane environment on windows, which still is Cygwin, which offers a sane xterm, zsh/bash, screen and some other utilities which I never want to miss.

Comming back to the topic of this post: There sure is some kind of “Apple Tax” if you want to call it that. BUT I really really doubt that it is so high as described in the Microsoft-paid paper. My opinion is that users get more value for a higher price. Some of the added value is purely aestetic, another is less pain in the ass, as they don’t bloat up their registry with a ton of funny entries for installing software they simply want to try, viruses, malware, The Search For The Driver(tm) and other stuff. The whole software suit from Apple is much more integrated and more simple to use. Every user has to decide whether they think it’s worth the price for them. If (probably) crappy hardware with Windows works for them – who am I to judge?

Despite that, the Get a Mac ads from Apple are more conciliabe, meaning they acknowledge the strengths of the PC to some degree, even if in a comical way. Laptop Hunters is a more offensive and absolutistic approach to compare the two systems, telling the customers Apple is stealing money from them. That’s business, OK, but it’s totally unfair.

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