Apple's MacBook flop - fixed!

Apple's MacBook flop - fixed!

Summary: 6 months ago I asked: Apple's new MacBooks: flop or fiasco? Apple answered "flop" by backpedalling on pricing, the unibody and FireWire - in record time!

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6 months ago I asked: Apple's new MacBooks: flop or fiasco? Apple answered "flop" by backpedalling on pricing, the unibody and FireWire - in record time!

The big loser? Microsoft's successful ads focused on price. Maybe that's a card you don't want to play.

Pricing The 32% price cut on the slightly upgraded SSD MacBook Air - 1.86GHz to 2.13Ghz - is just a down payment. The big news is the new price point for the 15" MacBook Pro: $1699 - down 15%.

These new price points are permanent. Despite the myth that Apple doesn't cut prices, they have moved price points down many times over the years.

But other price drops - and the aggressive "buy a MacBook, get an iPod Touch" offer - portend even more pricing actions for the Christmas season. Apple isn't about to let Mac momentum die. This is good news for all consumers - Mac and PC.

Unibody Last November I called the unibody "a costly addition that no one was asking for." And guess what: no more unibody MacBooks. MacBook Pro's yes. But now the name MacBook is only on the plastic model.

That's a great move. Apple needs a price-optimized entry level system. Expect to see even more aggressive pricing on MacBooks now that there are 2 visually distinct brands again.

Firewire Not widely used on PCs, FireWire is the preferred interconnect for high-speed Mac peripherals. Not only is it faster than USB, but the spec supports up to 45 watts of power at up to 30 volts - great for powering external drives, mixers and other devices without another power brick.

On the new 13" unibody MacBook Pro FireWire has returned in an even faster 800Mb/s version. An adapter will connect existing 400Mb/s devices.

And on the low-end MacBook? FireWire 400 never went away.

The Storage Bits take The econoclypse has sobered up Cupertino: Microsoft's campaign made price an issue that Apple couldn't ignore. And they didn't.

Apple doesn't need price parity with Wintel to keep their business healthy and growing. These price drops affect people at the margin: people who wanted a Mac but found the lure of a lower price too tempting. Some of those folks will now buy a 'Book.

The big lesson is for Microsoft. The marketing adage, "Win on price - lose on price" applies here.

With the iPhone on a major roll and Mac margins that are the envy of the PC world, Apple is well-positioned to play the price game. Macs get top ratings from Consumer Reports because regular folks like them better - if they can afford them.

Longer term, Wintel has no choice but to build better products - or become the General Motors of the PC world.

Comments welcome, of course. Sure, USB claims "480Mb/s" but that's bidirectional bandwidth. FW400 is faster and FW800 is way faster. But USB 3.0 is coming next year. . . . And BTW, who is shipping those 500GB 7200 rpm notebook drives? Haven't seen that announcement.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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  • Well

    I know prefer Windows anyway and the benefit for me is that I can get a decent laptop for about 700-800 dollars.
    jdbukis
    • Dump Truck vs Luxury Car

      The analogy is too good! The windows dump truck may cost about
      the same a s a luxury car, and may be able to do some things the
      luxury car can't, but the opposite is also true.

      The majority of people wouldn't buy the luxury car to drive up a dirt
      road, even though most luxury vehicles handle ruff roads better than
      dump trucks that aren't loaded down.

      FALSE ARGUMENT: Equal specs should be equal price. Your specs are
      incomplete.

      Even most mac zealots forget to mention, it's all about getting your
      tasks done well. And "well" is very subjective.

      You won't know until you try.

      Seriously, you have to actually try it to know if a Mac is better for you.
      I've helped several people make the switch. One recent gentleman (in
      2008) hated the mac and wanted to send it back after two weeks... He
      had to use it two more days, and changed his mind. He was that close
      to going back. He used Windows in Parallels on his Mac for several
      months and now he's uninstalled Parallels and has no desire to ever
      go back to Windows.

      Some folks do go back. There's a reason they wanted to switch
      though. They're frustrated with something. Most of the time, IMHO,
      the user can stick with Windows and learn more, then they wouldn't be
      so frustrated. Admittedly though, the amount of learning to do any
      task depends greatly on the tasks, not so much the tools.

      Quantify: Yeah, right. It's hard to quantify many of the things about a
      Mac that allow it to demand a higher price year after year. It's kind of
      like listing engine specs on a car, and saying one is better than
      another based on that, then they point out they have leather seats and
      you have vinyl. If you've never had leather seats, you'd be likely to say
      "so what?" After all, it doesn't make the car go any faster, or steer
      more precisely.

      Windows users earn their "Working man's PHD" if they use their
      computer for very much at all. Mac users aren't immune to computer
      troubles, even if it is less common. The arguments about TCO (Total
      Cost of Ownership) really depend on your level of personal expertise,
      and what you're actually using the computer for.

      As a computer consultant, I hesitate to recommend a switch because
      of the pain of "Change", even though I know for most of my
      customers, they would be happier with Macs after adapting to the new
      culture. Like a dump truck driver learning to park closer to other
      vehicles when they drive a luxury car.

      Yes, I use a Mac. No, I'm not a Mac Fanboy. Macs happen to actually
      be the best tool for me.
      wjanoch
  • Well Robin, once again a nice spin

    But it is just that: a spin

    Apple loses here as the price only cuts Apple's profit margins, but still remain excessivelly high to those looking to shop with cost as a contributing factor.

    I cannot see these changes causing any type of massive rush to the stores to now purchase an Apple product. Microsft is the winner here, and I suspect with Windows7 out soon, the advertising will heat up well beyond just cost.

    Spin it however you wish, Apple is the only loser here. They should have kept the prices were they were at, they may have flopped a bit more with this.
    GuidingLight
    • The concept of marginal impact is too tough?

      If 20% of would-be Wintel buyers decide to move up to a Mac, that is a
      huge win for Apple.

      It grows their market share and takes higher gross margin business away
      from Wintel - forcing them to redouble their efforts on the low-end of
      the market.

      With every little price cut Apple stands to gain - and Wintel lose.

      Robin
      Robin Harris
      • Doubtful.

        These price changes primarily mean people who would have liked a 15" MacBook Pro but didn't want to pay $2,000 for it will now consider one again. The MBA has a limited audience and the price cut just means it's less costly to that audience. I doubt either will cause significantly more people to switch given well equipped PCs can be had for less.
        ye
        • it depends

          Pricing is a key function of market size. In theory Apple should expand their market. It they can maintain their hassle free status lowering the price moderately should increase market share.

          In experience Apple tend to be cheaper TCO wise. If I billed myself for the time it took to fix things the avg. user can't on Windows I am money ahead on a mac.
          someitguy79
          • Doubtful.

            [i]Pricing is a key function of market size. In theory Apple should expand their market.[/i]

            As far as I can tell the MacBook and 13" MacBook Pros did not change in price at all. They're still $999, $1,199, and $1,499 just as they were before. These are the models switchers are likely to buy. Yes, I'm sure there are some who will now consider the 15" MacBook Pros over a PC but I suspect they're a minority.

            [i]In experience Apple tend to be cheaper TCO wise.[/i]

            An oft repeated but never supported claim. The PC users I support have few problems with their PCs. Certainly no more than a Macintosh. So please stop with this unsubstantiated claim.
            ye
          • Take Econ 101

            It is amazing how many commenters haven't the foggiest notion of
            microeconomics - especially when the entire industry has been driven by
            the microeconomic impact of Moore's Law for several decades.

            Robin
            Robin Harris
          • Come on Robin. I expected better from the ZDNet staff.

            This is the best you can muster? A personal attack? How about addressing what I wrote instead of attacking me?

            The reality is there were no price cuts on the models most likely to be purchased by switchers.

            BTW, I have an MBA so I do know something about business.
            ye
          • Arrogance from the ignorant, how charming.

            When a 17" Macbook Pro STILL costs more than TWICE the price of a better system from a PC maker, you are delirious if you think this minor price decrease will eat 20% of the WIntel market. Mac laptop sales went flat because they are extremely overpriced and times are tough, not because of your myopic predictions last Fall. Look at the numbers.

            Macbook Pro 17" with modest Core 2 Duo CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, NVidia 9600M graphics 512MB - $2499.00.

            Gateway P-7805u 17" with modest Core 2 Duo CPU, 4GB RAM, 320GB Hard drive, NVidia 9800M GT graphics 1GB (2x as fast as 9600M) $1089.99 (at Best Buy)

            The Gateway has a MUCH faster video card with twice the video RAM and costs less than HALF as much. I could literally buy 2 of the Gateway gaming laptops for the price of one "reduced price" 17" Macbook Pro and have a few hundred dollars left over for software. Most importantly, I'd STILL have to install Windows on the Mac if I wanted to run most of the software we all use in the "real world" (read, non-RDF world).

            It amazes me how many arrogant bloggers haven't the foggiest notion of why the Mac will never dominate among the vast majority of users out there who are decidedly NOT rich, particularly now. Knocking $300 off the price of a double-priced laptop did NOTHING to change that.

            Perhaps you need to buy a logic book to sit on the shelf next to your microeconomics book. Listen to yourself. You are saying that because the Mac laptops are now slightly cheaper, they will sell much better. So according to your microeconomics, being cheaper helps sales.

            WELL, by that same logic, then obviously a better Windows laptop costing less than half as much would obviously continue to sell MUCH better than the Mac laptop. Until the two laptops are at least similarly priced (within a few hundred dollars), this fact will not change, regardless of what your RDF implant is urging you to think.

            The bottom line - knowing how to spell microeconomics doesn't exempt you from thinking through your logic before becoming arrogant toward ZDNet readers.
            BillDem
          • I know a lot about the only economics that really matter.

            And that would be my personal economics. They are all that matter to me.

            And they tell me that Apple is still overpriced, and that I can get a lot more PC for less cash leaving my bank accounts.
            Hallowed are the Ori
          • @ the guys below

            Don't buy it. The average user has problems with their PC. Judging by the number of moonlighting work I turn down in a company of 50.

            As Apple and others here have pointed out. Support costs, AV, headaches. Etc... As I said I can and do manage PCs and can mitigate most issues. Home users are generally better off with Macs.
            someitguy79
          • MacBook iPod Touch = price cut

            Granted, this is just for college kids, but this is a price cut for the
            MacBooks target demographic.

            Further, they've up the spec on the plastic 'Book so it is faster than the
            unibody MacBook was until this week. If you wanted a a unibody
            MacBook but couldn't afford it, you now have a reasonable alternative
            that is $200 cheaper.

            I expect to see a lower cost "cost-engineered" MacBook within 12
            months. Apple will never compete on price, but they have often
            lowered their price points and that will continue.

            Robin
            Robin Harris
          • @Robin

            Maybe it's just me, I'm not the brightest bulb. But I'm having trouble reconciling this:

            [i][b]Apple will never compete on price[/b], but they have often lowered their price points and that will continue.[/i]

            With this:

            [i]The big loser? Microsoft?s successful ads focused on price. Maybe that?s a card you don?t want to play.[/i]

            Help me out. If Apple will never compete on price, then the "successful ads focused on price" should still be successful, right?
            Badgered
          • it was a refresh

            Actually they are the same with some small upgrades. But differences are clearer. So a better deal

            ">>In experience Apple tend to be cheaper TCO wise.

            An oft repeated but never supported claim. The PC users I support have few problems with their PCs. Certainly no more than a Macintosh. So please stop with this unsubstantiated claim."

            Other than I forgot my. What part of in my experience the TCO is lower. It is not an unsubstantiated claim but anecdotal. My in laws have a Mac now. I don't get roped into fixing a broken system every few months now.

            Really home users have little problem with Windows. What do you do lower their user rights. In business I would agree as I have technical and policy means to stop the installation on software. On home users good luck.
            someitguy79
          • IOW they brought them up to parity with PCs.

            [i]Actually they are the same with some small upgrades. But differences are clearer. So a better deal.[/i]

            The specs they're now at have been available on lower cost PCs for a while.

            [i]Other than I forgot my. [b]What part of in my experience the TCO is lower.[/b] It is not an unsubstantiated claim but anecdotal. My in laws have a Mac now. I don't get roped into fixing a broken system every few months now.[/i]

            Your experience is irrelevant because my experience shows Macs are no lower in TCO than Windows systems. So who's right?
            ye
          • @ ye

            Who cares again about your exp. I wonder if you actually have used a Mactel for any length of time.

            As I said a refresh and few price cuts. Parity with Windows PC. Maybe with a hackintosh but not Windows PCs. Windows PCs degrade with time. Macs do not tend to.

            someitguy79
          • @someitguy79: Who cares about your experiences?

            I brought mine up to show that everyone has their own experiences and thus none of them mean much...including yours.

            [i]I wonder if you actually have used a Mactel for any length of time.[/i]

            Did you hear? I'm a Mac fanboy:

            http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12694-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=65506&messageID=1224993

            And yes, I have used a Macintosh. I've been using them since the LC II back in 1991. I currently own a second generation MacBook.

            [i]As I said a refresh and few price cuts. Parity with Windows PC.[/i]

            The problem is they're not parity with most PCs. At least not price/feature wise.
            ye
          • @ ye

            No I didn't hear congrats.

            However, my exp. mirrors the stats. As I said somewhere else. How many OS X users are going back to Windows?

            Apple does not have to directly compete on specs. My 2Ghz C2D macbook runs leaner and meaner than faster Vista boxes. Now IF MS leans up Windows 7 then that could become an issue. As long as the user doesn't see the difference no one cares.

            Hence Apples dig on having the fastest Windows Vista notebook.
            someitguy79
          • @someitguy79: What stats?

            [i]However, my exp. mirrors the stats.[/i]

            I have yet to see these stats. They're often referred to but never provided. Despite numerous requests for them. Will you be the one to provide them?

            [i]As I said somewhere else. How many OS X users are going back to Windows?[/i]

            I don't know. But I doubt someone who has just dropped a large sum of money on a Mac is going to dump it and switch back to a PC. They're going to continue using it until such time as they decide to replace the hardware. Since the majority of switchers haven't reached this point it's hard to tell how many will switch back.

            [i]Apple does not have to directly compete on specs. My 2Ghz C2D macbook runs leaner and meaner than faster Vista boxes.[/i]

            As I mentioned in another post my GF is running Vista Home Premium on a C2D 2GHz system. It flies. No slower than my BlackBook (which is running Tiger).

            It's obvious you're just repeating the same, tired, incorrect, FUD you've read on the Internet. Which means you lack credibility.
            ye