I own an Apple. It's a MacBook and it's about a year and a half old. The little 13" bit of polycarbonate has served me well and it's been a reliable companion. I bought it when I had a bit of extra money in a student loan while I was working on my masters degree. Since I had some extra cash and the loans were deferred anyway, I figured "What the heck?" Most people wouldn't argue that OS X does a nice job with multimedia and my kids still arm wrestle me (figuratively speaking) to use it when they want to edit video.
Guess what? Now I'm paying back those student loans, the economy remains in recession (I don't care what the Fed says about "signs of recovery" - the economy still stinks), and I'm paying three times what I have in years past for health care and medications. For those of you looking for back-to-school computing, this is not the year for an Apple. And the free iPod? Not worth it. Since everyone and their brother already has an MP3 player of some sort, the iPod is akin to a car dealer selling you undercoating or running boards for your new minivan.
I suppose I shouldn't compare a Mac to a minivan. Let me try that again. The free iPod is akin to a car dealer selling you undercoating or running boards for your new Lotus. You don't need undercoating since you won't drive it on slushy, salt-covered highways; you clearly don't need running boards for it; and you're still buying a bloody $60,000 car when a $13,000 Kia will get you to work quite handily every morning.
I read Sam Diaz' post with interest yesterday since he came to a similar conclusion but still ended up buying a Mac. Continuing my car analogy, though, he made a bold step for a geek (the moral equivalent of a motorhead) and went to a "used car lot" (Mac-Pro in the electronics wonderland of Silicon Valley). He found a used Lotus on the lot, skipped the undercoat and running boards, and scored himself a pretty good deal. Although the refurbished Mac he chose lacked the iPod, as Sam said, "[the free iPod] just felt like we'd be spending money today that we really didn't want to spend."
I understand this approach. I recently bought a very used, immaculately clean 2000 Volvo V70 for a great price. 130,000 highway miles from a single owner in Vermont and it looks like I must have a job in the private sector instead of public education. Unfortunately, it's in the repair shop after an accident, but it took a blow like a tank and should be good as new next week. For the same price, I could have purchased a much lower-mileage used Kia, but I fell in love with the Volvo and it protected my son and me well in that accident.
So what's my point with all these analogies lately? Well, with this particular analogy, it should be pretty clear: Macs are not cheap. Some people, like Sam, find a lot of value in them (so much that they would rather have a used Mac than a new HP). Most students, though, don't have Sam Diaz for a dad. Most students are going to swing out and buy something new and there aren't many reasons for that "something new" to be a Mac.
Sure, Apple dropped it's prices recently. So did Mercedes. You can now buy an entry-level 2010 E-class for just over $48,000 and a loaded model with a 5.5 Liter V8 is $5400 cheaper than last year's E550. I'm afraid that's still a little steep for my used-Volvo-buying middle-class budget.
And this is why my next PC, when I pass on the MacBook to replace the aging family computer, will be from some major OEM, purchased on sale at Best Buy (or wherever) and will meet my needs (and those of whichever family member gets it as a hand-me-down) just fine for the next three or four years.
Headed back to school? Rationalize purchasing a Mac in the talkbacks below when Windows 7 is just around the corner and Ubuntu is mature, stable, and more immune to malware than the increasingly-targeted OS X. Your reasons better not include the free iPod.