Monday, January 3, 2011

The Apple Tax

It’s no secret that Mac users pay more for their machines. While you can get a pretty decent Windows-based laptop for $499, $499 in the Apple world will only get you an iPad. The lowest costing Macbook is $999 and its a bare bones model (although they are nice bones). So what is the real reason people choose to pay more for their Macs? Is it the design? The OS? The glowing Apple logo on the lid? It’s all that and more.


Every marketing campaign Apple does usually features the design of their products over function. Focusing on the unibody of the MacBook Pro in a commercial tends to be more glamorous than showing what people really do on it; work and browsing. Everything about the design of Apple products makes the user feel like they are using more than a machine. The look and feel of aluminum instantly makes a user feel like this is not a toy. While Apple does use plastic (polycarbonate) in some of its computers i.e. MacBook, the overall look is the same. Design is why people are drawn into Macs, not the OS. Essentially it is the shiny object effect. It’s hard to walk by a Apple store and not look in to see what the latest Apple gadget is. It’s even harder to walk in and not buy something.


Once people get past the looks, the real strength of the Mac starts to show. OS X is a powerful yet simple operating system. It works great for all types of people. From students who use it to write reports and visit Facebook to The President of the United States, Macs are used in all kinds of environments. This makes for a wide user base that is willing to pay a little extra if they know certain types of people use Macs. Try walking into a web 2.0 company without a Mac (Facebook, Twitter, foursquare); you’ll be buying one eventually just to keep up. OS X is used because of its simplicity. You can file share, chat, collaborate and even FaceTime without having to buy a single piece of software. OS X fills the need of the majority of users without them having to dowload 3rd-party software. From Safari to iChat to the iLife suite, Apple tries to please as many people out of the box as it can. When was the last time you enjoyed setting up a new PC? Probably in 1995.

The Apple Effect

While many users choose Mac because of the field they are in or because that’s what their job uses, a lot choose Mac because they want to support companies like Apple. Apple is an incorporated entity unlike any other. People don’t simply buy their products; they wear them like a badge of honor. The glowing Apple on a MacBook or the silver logo on an iPhone is the most powerful logo in the world. You see it in movies, TV shows and in cafes all the time. It’s a snowballing effect caused by Mac users. Writers and producers who use Macs make sure that is what is featured on their shows and movies. Apple is the king of branding and their recent sales figures show it. Sure, you see commercials for iPod’s and such but other than that the rest seems to be word of mouth. Mac users usually are proud of their choice in computing. To some a computer is just a tool but most Mac users will eventually become evangelists in one form or another. Whether it be recommending an iPod to a friend or buying their kids first MacBook, the love for Macs is usually passed on somehow. It then becomes not a matter of if they should buy a Mac but more of “Why wouldn’t I?”.

Some would find the average Mac user to be somewhat snobbish and full of themselves and in a way they might be right. But money talks and Apple is liking what it hears.