Mossberg laments lack of bargain Mac in his Fall Guide

Mossberg laments lack of bargain Mac in his Fall Guide

Summary: Walt Mossberg just posted his fall guide called "Shopping for Basics and Saving Money on Your Next PC" with a focus on tight budgets in tough economic times. Although Mossberg consistently recommends Macs, he can't sidestep the price gap between Macs and Windows boxes this go around:I consider the Mac operating system, Leopard, to be faster, easier and more stable than Windows XP or Windows Vista.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware
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Walt Mossberg just posted his fall guide called "Shopping for Basics and Saving Money on Your Next PC" with a focus on tight budgets in tough economic times. Although Mossberg consistently recommends Macs, he can't sidestep the price gap between Macs and Windows boxes this go around:

I consider the Mac operating system, Leopard, to be faster, easier and more stable than Windows XP or Windows Vista. It isn’t susceptible to the vast majority of malicious software that circulates on the Internet. And Macs also include Apple’s superb built-in iLife multimedia suite. Macs can even run Windows, though that costs extra.

However, Apple (AAPL) has consciously chosen not to offer machines in the bargain category. The cheapest Mac desktop, the minimalist Mac Mini, which doesn’t even include a monitor, speakers, keyboard or mouse, costs $650 for a model with a hard disk I consider adequate. The cheapest Mac laptop, the base model of the prior-generation MacBook (which Apple has retained in its lineup) is $999.

Both are good values, mainly due to the software. And Macs can save you money over time. But if the lowest upfront cost is your objective, you can pay hundreds less for desktops and laptops from Windows PC makers.

Apple has always created premium priced machines, but this was usually offset and justified by a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over the life of the machine.

When Steve Jobs was asked if we'd "continue to see more affordable price points across the Mac product family and across iPhone going forward," he replied (in part):

There are some customers which we choose not to serve. We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that.

The problem is that in tough economic times people are more concerned with the bottom line than anything else. Many won't even consider buying a Mac because of its higher starting price. The funny thing is that this price sensitivity doesn't seem to have the nearly the same impact on iPod or iPhone.

Could this be because the iPod doesn't have the same kind of competition as the Mac and because the iPhone (at US$200) doesn't have the same price premium that it once did?

Is it time for Apple to consider a sub-US$500 Mac, or is Jobs right that it would be "a piece of junk?"

Topics: Apple, Hardware

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19 comments
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  • Don't need to serve the world

    Why worry about the segment of the
    buying population that wants to pay
    $500 for a notebook?

    From my perspective, I'd like to see just
    enough Mac's out there to support a
    healthy software ecosystem and to keep
    the brand alive and innovating.

    But not so many machines that it
    becomes the primary target for
    malware, etc. and becomes a
    commodity product.

    Niches are nice, even if they are a bit
    elitist. Nothing wrong with that.

    Let the other guys sell the cheap crap
    and lets focus on getting the best
    possible $1500 to $2000 dollar
    Macbook from Apple.

    Shadar
    shadar1101
    • Remember...

      You have to sell many $500 machines to make the same profit you would on one $1500 unit. Also, sales of the cheaper units will suffer more during down times than the more "premium" products. Apple knows what they're doing with their present pricing strategy. It hasn't hurt their bottom line at all, has it?

      (This was meant to be a general comment, not a response to you, Shadar. Sorry.)
      Userama
  • No fat profit to milk...

    ...and the Chinese won't work for less than $2.50/day.
    Feldwebel Wolfenstool
  • Mossberg Apple pricing article

    I can only say that Mossberg does not understand market
    segments. Merc and BMW, Omega and Rolex, First class
    and economy travel are there for select groups only. The
    secret of Apple's success has been market focus. It thrives
    when its competitors are failing all around it because it
    offers SVQI (Service, value, quality and integrity) when the
    competition do not. Unlike so many PCs and the Windows
    OS, Apple products are of merchantable quality and fit for
    their intended purpose without compromise. This was a
    pointless observation by an otherwise savvy commentator.
    It does your website no credit to broadcast it even further.
    ccoomar
    • Actually the Mac and OSX

      are not of marketable quality to the low end consumer.

      Those with less to invest in a computer will tend to purchase a unit that delivers more for less; they will aquire a Windows machine

      on the other hand those with money to spend will lean towards a unit that will cost more, though deliver little, (or even less) then their lower priced competitor.

      The perception that something that cost more is natually better is a trick used by many a company, something not lost on Apple.
      GuidingLight
      • On the other hand..

        sometimes things that cost more [b]are[/b] better.

        I can only speak from my experience, and that has been that
        switching over to the Mac has been a great experience for
        me. I bought my iMac three years (and two weeks) ago, and
        that's the longest I've ever had any computer without
        spending any additional money on it.
        msalzberg
        • What additional money could you spend on an iMac?

          The thing is completely non-upgradeable!

          Regardless, I do find it quite humorous that you feel 3 years is anything to be proud of. The PC I built 4 (or was it 5?) years ago was half the price of the cheapest iMac back then and it is now my wife's main computer. And to add salt to your wounds, it runs Vista better than your iMac runs Leopard. :)

          Then, if we want to get [b]really[/b] mean, I could mention the PC I built 7 years ago that has been on 24/7 for the last 3-4 years as my Linux server. Unlike the mid-priced computer I mentioned above, this one was bargain basement priced when I built it.

          Sorry msalzberg, but it is laughable that you think Macs last longer than PCs. :)
          NonZealot
          • I can only speak from my own experience..

            and that is that my Mac has lasted in its original form
            longer than any PC I built. Of the two computers you
            mention, have they been updated at all? More RAM, new
            graphics card? That 7 year old PC; did it have USB when
            you built it, or did you have to add it later? Did it have USB
            2, or are you still slogging along at 1.5MB/s? How about
            the hard drive? Still the original, or have you updated
            that?

            I have had no need, nor desire to change this computer, or
            swap it for one with different specs.

            It runs Leopard just fine, by the way, better than my Dell
            runs Vista. You see, I actually have experience with both
            Windows and OS X, so my opinions actually have basis
            in fact, while yours are based in your admitted ignorance
            of OS X, and your admitted anti-Apple zealotry.

            Sorry, Zealot, by it is laughable that you think you know
            what you're talking about.
            msalzberg
  • RE: Mossberg laments lack of bargain Mac in his Fall Guide

    Why did Apple get rid of the Firewire since they practically invented it? This alone is enough to make me decide to pass on buying the newest Mac book.
    bsusp
    • Firewire

      Apple kept Firewire 800 on the MacBook Pro.

      They had improved USB 2.0 to the point that it was, if still
      inferior, adequate.

      USB can't do Target Mode startups the way Firewire can.

      But for the usual stuff, it will work. And when you're
      making a base-model, pennies count.
      Jkirk3279
  • RE: Mossberg laments lack of bargain Mac in his Fall Guide

    I think that the average human has no need for a computer in the first place - regardless of price. Buying one just because it's the "in" thing is a really ignorant expense in light of today's economy.

    Sorry folks, but I agree with Jobs on this one - not everyone is a Mac customer, so if budgetary constraints are pushing you away from the more expensive Macs, buy the cheaper Windows-based system; or better yet, take a good look at why you're buying a computer and see if that money couldn't be used elsewhere in a more important aspect of your life.
    Timpraetor
    • And 640K RAM should be enough for anybody !

      ?I think that the average human has no need for a computer in
      the first place - regardless of price. Buying one just because
      it's the "in" thing is a really ignorant expense in light of today's
      economy.?

      That is nearly like saying the average person doesn't need to
      learn to read, or own a TV.

      The Internet is evolving into a new paradigm on how people
      get information.

      Computers will soon accelerate Mankind's learning curve
      immensely.
      Jkirk3279
    • And 640K RAM should be enough for anybody !

      ?I think that the average human has no need for a
      computer in
      the first place - regardless of price. Buying one just
      because
      it's the "in" thing is a really ignorant expense in light of
      today's
      economy.?

      That is nearly like saying the average person doesn't need
      to
      learn to read, or own a TV.

      The Internet is evolving into a new paradigm on how
      people
      get information.

      Computers will soon accelerate Mankind's learning curve
      immensely.
      Jkirk3279
  • RE: Mossberg laments lack of bargain Mac in his Fall Guide

    I have operated my business in a windows world for over
    15 years. I have diligently upgradd and installed virus
    software and all of the anti-hacking software that on
    needs to use to protect your self in a windows environment. In fact, every three years I have upgraded
    computers. Nevertheless, at least once a year, one of the
    fifteen windows computers in the office breaks down from
    a software problem or a virus attack. The cost to repair
    that computer and the downtime is ridiculous.

    My wife was the loan Mac user for these fifteen years. We
    have upgraded her computer just once during this time.
    We have never had a virus attack. In fact, her computer
    has never gone down. I personally switched to a Mac over
    a year ago. I have never gone down either.

    The real bottom line is that the lower cost of acquisition of
    a pc is more than off-set by the maintenance headache
    and the need to upgrade much more frequently.

    Everytime a PC now goes down, I switch to a Mac. After
    the five minutes of panic on how to use it, my employee is
    ultimately happier and I have a lot less grief.
    jforman1
  • RE: Mossberg laments lack of bargain Mac in his Fall Guide

    Regarding netbooks and the need for a Mac that comepetes, I have looked at these mini machines and when you add enough battery, storage and RAM to make them really work as more than a portable IE machine, you get into ~$600. Even if you opt to carry your storage on a USB stick instead of the small hard disk, a good sized USB stick can cost you $150 or so.

    Personally, I'd rather have an "iPad" the size of the old Newton but all the functions of the iPhone and a replaceable battery, USB port(external monitor and keyboard) and high-density SD slot. Now that kind of machine would get my attention.
    mryanaz
  • Sell me a MacPro case with a Mobo

    and let me build the rest myself.
    GoPower
    • That's not Apple's model

      One of the reasons that a Mac 'just works' is the tight integration between the OS, much of the software, and the hardware. Introducing "non-Mac" Macs to the equation makes this seamless integration much more difficult to maintain.

      So Apple's model will never be to promote the build your own model. Sure, people will do it, I have a good friend with a hackintosh and it works well - but the Apple model is 'we build it, we build it right, and everything works.' There's a premium associated with this model that some are willing to pay.
      rickb1
  • RE: So to all you retirees:

    On a fixed income. Stop complaining about Mac prices. Get a Mac Mini,PC, or SHUT UP!!!.
    blackjack861
  • Wrong assumptions

    How come that analysts or in this case amateur analysts
    always assume that price elasticity are the same for all
    market segments? Job would be foolish to cater the lower
    end of the market. no profit can be made, while a name is
    easily lost. We have seen what cheaper priced cars did to
    the name of Mercedes Benz cars when they hooked up with
    Chrysler. The customer base of Benz drives eroded
    because they simply didn't want a car who could only drive
    in a straight line. Sure they both have wheels and a motor,
    just like a 500 dollar machine is in effect doing the same
    thing as a 1500 machine. But like with Mercedes drivers
    perception of quality is important. Wake up Mossberg, mac
    will keep on outperforming the market during the crisis
    years.
    rhon1