The $200 "Mac"

The $200 "Mac"

Summary: Pound for pound the best value for a machine running Mac OS X right now is the Dell Vostro A90 netbook -- which is on sale for $199. That's right, for less than the price of an iPod touch you can buy a machine that runs desktop-class Mac OS applications and a Web-browser with Flash.


Pound for pound the best value for a machine running Mac OS X right now is the Dell Vostro A90 netbook -- which is on sale for $199. That's right, for less than the price of an iPod touch you can buy a machine that runs desktop-class Mac OS applications and a Web-browser with Flash.

The Vostro A90 is Dell's business equivalent of the Mini 9, the perfect hackintosh platform that I've written about here before (ad naseum). It's 100 percent the same as the Mini 9 inside, the only difference is that it comes in an all-black enclosure, as opposed to the Mini 9's black and silver styling, and according to posts on the MyDellMini forums it has a little more metal inside making it more rigid than the Mini 9.

You still have to purchase Mac OS X and there are compromises that come with any netbook (Atom 1.6 processor, small keyboard, screen and HDD) but pound-for-pound it's the most bang for the buck of any Apple machine bar none. While it won't win any races running Photoshop, Final Cut Pro or Logic, it runs most other OS X applications very fast and performance-wise it blows the iPod touch away.

In fact, it's so cheap that Apple should cede this market to Dell and work on an OS X tablet/bigger iPhone because there's simply no way that Cupertino can compete with a $199 netbook. Game over.

If Apple's planning on releasing a $500-$600 netbook, as has been rumored, it'd be better off working out a deal to license Mac OS X to the likes of Dell, Acer and MSI than to try to compete with them in the low-cost space. Apple simply can't do it.

Apple needs to focus on what's working and that's the iPhone platform. It's white hot right now with 25,000 app choices and almost 1 billion apps sold. Why on earth would Apple want to get into a race to the bottom with Dell?

Update: The $199 price was a promotional price. Dell raised the price to $250 four days after I posted this piece. [poll=174]

Topics: Software, Apple, Dell, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems

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  • It's a DELL COMPUTER...period. It will NEVER be a Mac.

    Aren't you familiar with the "lipstick on a pig" analogy?

    And why are you so obsessed with putting OS X on non-Apple computers? Could it be that the Apple computers are OVER PRICED?
    • There is another analogy

      [i]Could it be that the Apple computers are OVER PRICED[/i]

      Aren't you familiar with the "high price on a pig" analogy?

      My neice's MacBook has been back to Apple twice for repair issues, which is two times more then my wife's Dell in that same time period. Interesting, seeing as they were both purchased withing two weeks of each other.
      • Reliability

        GuidingLight -

        I think that this might be the exception to the rule. While Mac's have
        their share of repair issues (my MBP is one of the worst Macs I've ever
        owned) I think that as a rule, Macs are more reliable than Dells.

        The recent Forrester survey of 5,000 people bears this out.

        - Jason
        Jason D. O'Grady
        • random surveys...

          Well.. since Dell sell 23% of all PCs and Macs are 8%... Dell's volume leads to a skew in the results of these types of surveys. Since 3 times more people bought /slash own them it a survey is gonna have trouble distinguishing even if they have the SAME rate of failure because the volume just dwarfs the MAC volume. And don't start this comparison with they have 34% of the market.

          Why do we obsess over the machines with no market share?
          • Because market share

            does not equate to quality or worthiness.

            Otherwise, MacDonalds would be THE premier restaurant in the world.

            Many (most?) "PC" makers would kill to be in Apple's position, regardless of market share.

            Ironic that a low (or "no" in your opinion) market share device has such a big influence, see Vista and Windows 7, MS's closest clone of OS X yet.

          • have to say

            Whether something was copied or not is irrelevant, if an idea is good it will crop up in several different locations.
            The mac OS, along with windows and linux owes a LOT to prior art. (Doug Englebart, Xerox, etc)

            I've run Linux, windows, and macs, along with most flavors of DOS and other operating systems, and I've never found a 'perfect' OS. Everything is a compromise, some more than others. I think Macs compramise versatility for ease of use, Windows is compromised for it's wide variation in it's user base, linux is compromised by trying to be everything for everyone.

            It all comes down to what you want to do with your computer, mac fits roughly 8% of the compute using public, windows fits most of the others.

            Agree with the market share claim about reported issues.
            If I make and sell 1000 computers with a 10% error rate, I'm going to look pretty good when compared against the guy who sells 10000 computers with the same error rate. I mean his errors will eclipse my whole production, so I can honestly claim less problems without a single lie being told.

          • The squeaky wheel gets the oil...

            ...and nobody squeaks louder than "the cult." Put the word "Mac" in the headline of your blog and you guarantee page hits. Anyone ever wonder why nearly every OS X user BootCamps an install of Windows, if OS X is superior in every way? It's a shame they can't step back and listen to themselves. Chanting about quality, worthiness, market share is meaningless, etc... It's the same parts in a nicer industrial design. Chips are chips. They roll off the same assembly lines. Only the OS is truly different and even that has major shortcomings. Let's talk about kernel panics, 3rd party hardware support, and lack of software... It makes me embarrassed to be a Mac user.
          • Actually chips are [i]NOT[/i] chips

            I did some work for [a large electronics distributor] and I can tell you that not all chips are created equal. When a manufacturer makes a run of chips, a % of them is tested. Based on the results, the batch is graded, very similar to meat. The "A" grade chips ( mainly memory) get top dollar and are typically sold to UNIX vendors like HP, IBM and Sun. Then the "B" grades are sold, and so on. The lowest grade chips are the cheap RAM you buy at your local discount electronics wholesaler who will exchange them if they fail. I remember working with NSTL on some server benchmark testing (this was 9 or 10 years ago, before Compaq bought HP*), and we found that the same HP server with HP memory performed 10 to 12% faster than the same server with whitebox RAM with the same specs on a specific benchmark. Same hardware, OS (Win2k), same benchmark, 10% difference.
            You might as well say "a car is a car".

            *pun intended
          • @914four

            Difference being, that was 10 years ago. Nowadays people use less 'plug and play' board components than they did back then. This has resulted in a more diverse, yes far less interoperable technology base, and the manufacturing proceses are significantly better than they used to be.

            So, what I'm trying to say is, your experience is out of date to the point of irrelevancy.
          • Not a clone

            Windows 7 is NOT a clone of OS X.
            The task bar is NOT a dock.

            Also, The dock is not exclusive to Apple, nor was it invented by them.

            Gadgets are not copies of widgets either.
          • random conclusion...

            despite Dell's marketshare size, their average
            customer experience is less than stellar.

            Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
          • That has been...

   experience as well. I've generally preferred HP, but I've had a MBP for 9 months and I'm not sure I'd go back. Maybe if they can come up with an "instant on" that works (Like the MBP and they used to have on the OmniBook 600 - 800 ) and doesn't kill the battery I'd consider it.
        • It could be just that

          But at the same time we have run our company on Dells for years, and have found them to be quite reliable and long lasting.

          Should I take the word of a Mac user that what we have is junk, considering they have proved to be anything but?
          • Dell, Apple, Acer

            I'm tempted to put down Dell and Acer, but I don't think the failure rate is any higher
            or lower. As big as both of these computer companies are, they use other
            manufacturers in China. I was surprised to learn that of Acer because they are
            Taiwan's largest computer company, but they too appear to use ODMs in China. And
            although Apple doesn't use ODM's, they also farm out their manufacturing to Chinese
            companies. That's why it's become so hard as of late to keep the lid on new products
            because the Chinese don't value IP the same way and I don't think these companies
            have a clue as to how spilling the beans about some component that gives away a
            new Apple product drives Steve into fits of rage.

            Anyway, I digress. I have 2 dead PowerBooks one dying eMachines (now Acer, but
            made in China by an ODM) and a dead Dell. I was a bit harder on the PowerBooks,
            but they always seemed more fragile to me. At the end of the day, all computers
            eventually have one malfunction or another and I can't seem to find any correlation
            with Macs or Dells that make one worse than the other. One thing for sure is that
            Mac motherboard (or logic board as Apple calls them) are EXPENSIVE! I replaced an
            eMachines' desktop Mobo once for a little over $30! A PowerMac G5 Mobo even now
            is $300 or more. $900 for a newer model.

            But, the Mac OS is what makes it bearable. Working on a Mac is a sweet experience,
            PCs are cumbersome and even though Gates & Co. have always been emulators
            rather than innovators, they've never quite caught the nuances of the Mac
        • OSX vs Windows: Debateable. Mac Hardware vs PC Hardware: They all suck.

          We can try to defend Apple all we want but we really need to draw a distinct line between OS wars and Hardware. Mac vs Windows is debateable, but comparing todays hardware then it's all a gamble because no matter how much you pay, these machines are meant to be disposable.
        • Apple is NOT reliable any longer

          It pains me to say this, especially as I'm a very loyal 27 year Apple
          customer, but their hardware quality blows these days. All of my Macs
          were ROCK SOLID until I purchased an iMac G5. Within 3 months, it
          required a repair. Same goes for a friend's iMac G5, purchased
          around the same time.

          I next purchased a MacBook Pro (about three years ago). It exhibited
          weird video issues from day one and had to have the logic board
          replaced. My 23" cinema display, purchased at the same time, would
          randomly flicker and had to be repaired as well. The MacBook still
          exhibits odd symptoms. For example, sometimes it refuses to sleep
          when the Cinema Display is attached. Other times it works just fine.

          Next there was my iMac 24" (Intel) that arrived DOA. The replacement
          one has been working fine.

          I've had my iPhone replaced three times and I'm not alone. Pretty
          much every iPhone customer I know has had at least one replacement.

          Bottom line: my real world experience and that of my friends and
          family tells me that Apple hardware quality is NOTHING like the old
          days when Apple actually made their own stuff. Yes, the hardware is
          still very elegant and I love the OS, but the hardware quality leaves
          much to be desired. It's made in the same crappy Chinese factories as
          everyone else's boxes, yet Apple customers pay a premium for the
          same shoddy construction and cheap components.

          I will remain an Apple software loyalist, but I have no loyalty to Apple
          hardware these days. My next Mac may very well be a PC!
          • Bad luck

            I don't robbyx, but you seem to have real hard luck with your Macs. I too have been using Macs for so many years (first one was a Mac 512K). I still have my 8600 running, my 8 year Titanium PB running (with OSX 10.5.6), and my iMac. These are at home. At my office, in the past 5 years, I've bought a G5, and 2 iMacs. Guess what they are all running fine, and NEVER had a downtime with any of them. (well except for the Titanium for which I had to replace the battery once).

            Problem could be behind the wheel..
          • The Fall of PPC

            Is what killed it. The motorola chips in your old g5s were really nice. And they used to have a lot better quality. Unfortunately, in order to drive down cost to a competitive level, they had to switch over.

            It kind of sucks, because they have no clue how to write an operating system for a non-procedural processor.
        • I must agree... I've had a chance to look at Mac hardware...

          Mac Pros contain a lot of aluminum shielding and the system board (of what I've seen) does use quality components.

          iMacs have a protective cover over the monitor so it can't be damaged... the monitor (on 24" models) utilizing a H-IPS panel, which alone justifies the $1500, $1800, or $2000 price tag.

          I wasn't entirely fond of the Macbooks despite some innovations with the integrated touch mouse pad (the Pro I saw yesterday was very warm to the touch and it's where you're liable to rest your wrist - maybe it was just that unit starting to go, but I doubt it...)
        • 5000 people doesn't cover entire world. period. n/t

          Ram U