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Another Reality Check: Tall Tales You Can Ignore!

One thing quiet evident in this country’s seemingly endless debate about health care, and that is there is no statement false enough that will prevent it from being uttered over and over again if it serves the cause. So, for example, we have some supposedly astute political observers spewing forth nonsense about an alleged “death committee” in the various versions of the bills under consideration, which will allegedly allow the “state” to determine whether an elderly person lives or dies. Some refer to it as an “elderly euthanasia” plan.

That, of course, is absurd. It’s an utter distortion of a actual amendment submitted by a Republican that allowed payment for consultations where a patient and family can discuss options for such matters as living wills and whether extraordinary resuscitation measures should be taken in the event of serious illnesses or injuries. As you see, the reality is something other than the distortion. In this case, they took a tiny fact about a common sense initiative and distorted it way beyond logic and common sense.

In the tech world, Apple Inc. has been subjected to its own round of fake or at least misleding criticisms. Alas, some members of the media, who prefer to repeat rather than do research, continue to spread the very same misinformation over and over again.

Now every so often I try to present an article refuting the fictions, and I think, as we complete our tenth year, it might as well be now.

We’ll start with the so-called Apple Tax. Its origins date back to the time that a Mac really cost quite a bit more than a comparable Windows PC. Today, it’s true that Apple dominates the U.S. retail market in computers selling for more than $1,000, but that doesn’t mean that a Mac is necessarily overpriced.

The fact is that, in order to keep the ordering process simple and production lines efficient, Apple limits the ways you can custom configure a Mac, thus forcing you to sometimes accept options that you may not really need. But when you take the end result and compare it against a PC equipped as closely as possible to match the Mac in terms of hardware and equivalent software, the price difference tends to be very small. The Mac may be cheaper, the PC may be cheaper, but neither to a large degree.

However, Apple refuses to sell stripped computers, nor will they play in the low-end, where PC makers are rushing desperately to compete with netbooks and other cheap gear. So in the end you will be able to buy a PC that costs a lot less than a Mac, but that doesn’t mean the Mac is overpriced. I hope the distinction is now clear.

Another anti-Mac argument covers software availability. The fact is that there are a lot more Windows apps than Mac apps. This is particularly true for games, where the cost of porting to the Mac, despite the presence of Intel-based processors, may be too high to provide a good return on the investment. Indeed, sales of games aren’t nearly as high as they used to be, and that evidently applies to the gaming console market too.

It is also true that so-called vertical market apps, specially-designed software for dentists, doctors, legal offices and so on and so forth are more plentiful on the Windows platform. Certainly that situation feeds upon itself. People buy a PC to use one of those programs, thus providing less incentive to build a Mac version. However, the key productivity apps that most people use are usually offered on both platforms. Apple’s content creation apps remain Mac only. What’s more, the ease of running Windows on a Mac allows you to exist in both worlds if that’s what you want.

When it comes to Apple’s reliance on Mac hardware, I realize some of you are still clamoring for Mac OS X to legally support any appropriately-equipped Windows PC. Certainly there is a growing subculture of people who have figured out how to induce Mac OS X to run on their computers, and there are plenty of online resources available that’ll make the process fairly easy.

Apple has tolerated the hobbyists. But, as in the case of Psystar, will pull out all the legal stops to prevent a commercial business from violating its user license and selling non-Apple hardware with Mac OS X preloaded.

Don’t expect this situation to change any time soon or ever. Although they are considered bitter competitors, Apple and Microsoft have very different business plans. Apple sells hardware to consumers, and the software, including the operating system, is a value-added feature. Microsoft sells operating systems and other software mostly to PC makers and other businesses. Consumers play a much smaller role, and, in fact, are forced to pay a whole lot more if they have the temerity to buy a single or small number of user licenses for Windows, Office or any of Microsoft’s other software products. Shouldn’t we be attacking the Microsoft Tax instead?

And that, my friends, is just the beginning.