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  • The Mac Myth Report Revisited!

    August 25th, 2008

    A long time ago, someone said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite the incredible market share gains Apple has made with Mac sales around the world, people still denigrate the platform is irrelevant, and doomed to failure.

    Sure, we don’t hear the “Apple is dead” claims so much anymore. It’s hard to do that with a company whose market cap has, in recent days, equalled and exceeded that of just about every tech company, including Google. With Microsoft’s stock eternally stalled, it won’t take much for Apple to attain that lofty goal as well. Sure, Microsoft earns more money and has higher profits, but things change. Yes, someone once said that too.

    In recent days, I’ve addressed the eternal myth that Macs are more expensive than comparably equipped name brand PCs. About the best my opponents can say is that they don’t want certain standard Mac features, so paying less for a PC without those features proves they are cheaper. They keep forgetting the two words “comparably equipped” unfortunately, and no gray areas are allowed in such comparisons.

    Another frequent claim is that the ubiquity of Macs will surely make them one huge target for potential virus infections. They cite the occasional proofs of concept malware and Apple’s frequent security updates as evidence that the sky is falling, and you best get ready for the epidemic.

    Well, on that front, no sane person, or half-sane one for that matter, will dispute the fact that all personal computers, regardless of operating system, are vulnerable to virus infections. In saying that, though, the experts (of whom I’m not) claim that it’s harder for malware to spread on Macs. My opinion is that, if you choose to install security software, the best approach to take is to get an application that guards against Windows viruses. That way, you don’t become the “Typhoid Mary” or “Typhoid Marvin” who accidentally passes along infected content to a WIndows user. And, no, it doesn’t serve them right for using a different computing platform.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that social engineering can’t succeed regardless. These exploits typically involve such things as fake emails from, say, financial institutions asking that you click a link and login to the site that’s presented to fix a security problem. Phishing schemes of that sort are common, and while such browsers as Firefox and Opera are designed to protect you against such matters, just being careful what you click on and where is the best ammunition to protect your personal information, and your money.

    The other argument voiced over the years is that business users just don’t want Macs, because they are pretty, overpriced toys. Well, I’ve dealt with the price issue already, and when it comes to business apps, there are tens of thousands on the Mac. With the new generation of Intel-based Macs, and their seamless ability to run Windows at or near native speeds, you can still use most of the applications that haven’t migrated to the Mac with all the compatibility you need to get your work done.

    Recent surveys demonstrate, in fact, that more and more Macs are moving into the enterprise. It’s not as if Apple has actually engaged in a new business-oriented marketing plan. Except for such sharply-focused segments as content creation, education and the scientific community, business owners seldom hear the Apple story.

    Despite that, recent surveys show that Mac use in the enterprise jumped from 1.1 percent less than two years ago to 4.5 percent as of June of this year. That number may not seem so large, but a company that can boost market penetration in any category more than three times in roughly 20 months has clearly done something truly impressive.

    And, remember, all this is happening despite the fact that Apple has historically stayed away from most enterprise segments.

    What’s more, it seems that Microsoft’s efforts to get businesses to upgrade to Windows Vista haven’t done all that well. They optimistically targeted a 20 percent adoption rate as of the end of last year, but only reached 8.8 as of June. That clearly explains why they are investing $300 million in a new ad campaign, though it’s hard to see how the odd couple combo of Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld will somehow manifest some sort of incredible onscreen chemistry that will, in turn, inspire people to finally make the move to Vista.

    I don’t believe it. Do you? It all sounds to me as if Microsoft is stuck in the 1990s, and hasn’t realized that times have changed. They are no longer guaranteed market dominance as they move away from their core office application and operating system markets.

    As far as Apple is concerned, there’s no doubt they can do better with their customers. The lack of descriptive information in recent updates to the iPhone and other products only hurts their credibility. Yes, they do occasionally admit error and set things right, but sometimes the information is a too little and too late.

    Apple is indeed on a roll today. But, in the whirlwind world of technology, things can change when you least expect it.



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    5 Responses to “The Mac Myth Report Revisited!”

    1. Steve says:

      An observation on comparably equipped computer prices: Apple maintains (in almost all cases) it’s original pricing on computers from the time it’s introduced until the time of an update. Most of Apple’s competitors do not. Prices of Dell’s, for example, fall over time and often receive minor upgrades / different options. When Apple introduces an updated model, everyone rushes out to do their price comparisons and Apple is certainly competitive and often cheaper. If you do the same comparison shortly before an Apple refresh, the Apple computer, feature for feature may be more expensive. Apple and it’s competitors may achieve the same average price for similarly equipped hardware, but they achieve those average prices in different ways.

    2. An observation on comparably equipped computer prices: Apple maintains (in almost all cases) it’s original pricing on computers from the time it’s introduced until the time of an update. Most of Apple’s competitors do not. Prices of Dell’s, for example, fall over time and often receive minor upgrades / different options. When Apple introduces an updated model, everyone rushes out to do their price comparisons and Apple is certainly competitive and often cheaper. If you do the same comparison shortly before an Apple refresh, the Apple computer, feature for feature may be more expensive. Apple and it’s competitors may achieve the same average price for similarly equipped hardware, but they achieve those average prices in different ways.

      I agree that PC prices might vary. In the end, however, the price difference for comparably-equipped models tends to be slight and even when the PC has somewhat of an advantage, it’s usually not significant enough to be a deciding factor.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. David says:

      The original Mac Pro was touted as being less expensive than a comparably equipped Dell and it was in August 2006. However, by August 2007 Dell had new models and lower prices while Apple was still trying to flog the same outdated machine at its original price. Sadly Apple continued to list the same aging machine at the same price until January 2008. Now it’s August 2008 and in keeping with Apple tradition the Mac Pro is still shipping with an anemic 320GB HD, obsolete Radeon 2600 video card and the price hasn’t dropped a penny. I expect we’ll have to wait until January 2009 for any movement on specs or price.

      I use the Mac Pro as an example because it tends to stay unchanged longer than other models and because it’s possible to do the “comparably equipped” comparison quite easily.

      I consider myself lucky that my Mac purchases are, by and large, discretionary. I choose when to upgrade and that prevents me from getting fleeced. Others aren’t so lucky. They contribute millions to Apple’s bottom line often reluctantly because they know that aging Macs just aren’t worth their sticker price, but external forces require them to buy anyway.

      A few years back conventional wisdom was this: a Mac is only worth its sticker price when it’s introduced or when it’s discontinued (because there used to be big price drops on older models). Now dealers have a tough time getting rid of old stock because Apple’s price protection is less than the usual 15% discount available year round on refurbished stock.

      Now there is only one time to buy a Mac: when it’s been available for 1 month. At that point the early adopters will have reported any bugs, incompatibilities and initial quality problems and the machine is still new enough to be worth the sticker price.

    4. The Mac Pro is a highly-configurable model with only one standard configuration. If you compare it with a comparably-equipped Dell Precision Workstation (the only valid Dell model to consider), it’s still cheaper. You aren’t forced to stick with the standard graphics card, or hard drive. The point of the system is that there are thousands of possible combos for you to purchase. You can buy it as bare as possible, and add RAM and hard drives by third parties and save lots of cash. That’s true for Dell also. In fact, My Mac Pro came with the standard RAM allotment, and I upgraded to 16GB courtesy of less-costly providers.

      Also, if a model of this sort is a year old, it’s not necessarily aging. The Intel Xeon processor doesn’t get boosted as fast as other more mainstream-level chips.

      Between the model refresh, by the way, Apple added a dual quad-core configuration, using chips that Intel provided to Apple weeks ahead of other companies.

      Peace,
      Gene

    5. Just one more tidbit: Despite David’s protests, I custom configured a Dell Precision Workstation closest to the basic Mac Pro, which lists for $2,799. The equivalent Dell, with a pair of 2.83GHz Quad Core Xeons, was over $4200 without any software bundle. It does include a free (and cheap) 19-inch display. But you could buy one of Dell’s great 24-inch displays with a Mac Pro and still come out with hundreds of dollars of change to buy extra RAM from a third-party reseller.

      Peace,
      Gene

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