Is Apple pricing itself out of education?

Fellow blogger, Robin Harris, wrote an interesting piece on the costly touches to the new MacBooks (design process, LED backlighting, etc.).
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Fellow blogger, Robin Harris, wrote an interesting piece on the costly touches to the new MacBooks (design process, LED backlighting, etc.).

Steve’s history of putting form before function - or price - comes at a particularly bad time. The worldwide economic crunch - heckuva job, Greenspan! - is moving everyone down market.

Netbooks are moving prices into iPod Touch territory. And with Moore’s Law pushing performance up more people will buy them instead of standard notebooks.

But Apple’s biggest problem is that it is building extra cost into a product category that is moving down in average selling price.

I'm not sure that I agree with him, particularly in the high-end consumer market where Apple likes to play. To be honest, my next laptop is probably going to be a new MacBook Pro. The features, OS, and performance are all worth the price premium to me. However, I make my living on my computer; it's rare that I don't have it at least by my side. More often, it's in front of me, running several applications and a virtual machine or two.

Robin bases his conclusion on Apple's announcement that it will be cutting MacBook production when HP is reporting solid growth in this sector. I'd like to believe that they are simply bringing production back to normal levels after a push to meet early demand for the new models. While that may be the case, I do have to wonder if, especially in these increasingly dark economic times, Apple hasn't completely priced itself out of the K-12 educational market in which it was once dominant.

As Jason Perlow points out, Apple really needs to build an iPod-based netbook; that could propel them to the forefront of 1:1 computing (or at least make them a major player). When it comes to new hardware, though, I'd be hard-pressed to justify going Apple when HP is dirt cheap and whitebooks and whiteboxes can be had for a fraction of the price of new Apple machines. Toss Ubuntu on them and you're ready to go, generally undercutting even the best of deals from major OEMs.

Budget proposals for next year are starting to trickle in and one and one that stuck out was a request for 6 MacBooks to support a journalism program. He has a history of using Macs and has done well integrating high-end desktop publishing software into his curriculum. A reasonable configuration, even with an educational discount, puts his request at $6000. Since my entire district will be very lucky to receive level funding next year (meaning cuts all around to sort out increases in salary, health care costs, etc.), this isn't a cost I can justify. Even moving him to a PC platform (meaning buying licenses for the Windows version of his DTP software) and buying PC laptops will cost less than buying new MacBooks.

Give me something to work with here, Apple. I love you, but I just can't afford you this year (or next year, or probably the year after that).

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