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Mailbag: The Mac Tax that Isn't, More

Microsoft has been talking up the so-called "Mac tax" to dissuade people from moving to Apple. Marc thinks it's a little disingenuous to call it that:

For what it is worth, the "Mac Tax" is not real! If you want, you can configure a Dell with specifications virtually identical to any Macintosh in the Apple product line and come up with very nearly identical pricing. The catch, of course, is that an Apple Macintosh is severely overpowered to meet the needs of most folks. Most folks can meet their computing needs with a $500 to $800 Dell, or they can go overboard and spend $1,000 and get a "fully loaded" Dell that will last them a good five years. Or, they can buy a "bottom-of-the-line" MacBook.

The truth is that if Apple could sell as many computers as Dell or HP, they could afford to sell low-end $500 computers, but because they don't sell a large enough number of computers to tolerate the extremely narrow profit margins Dell and HP get on those $500 systems, Apple simply cannot afford to do so. Dell and HP "take a loss" on those entry-level systems but they make it up on very high volumes and the occasional sale of $1,000-plus systems. All of Apple's systems must be $1,000-plus systems for them to stay in business.

And one reader chimes in about an anecdote Doug told a few weeks ago about his daughter forgoing a cheap PC for a Mac:

Interesting story about Lauren, but it assumes everyone can just plop down a grand or more for a Mac and are just too cheap or stupid to do so. Personally, my home laptop isn't important enough to me to lay out that kind of cash. I've purchased laptops for myself and both my daughters for less than any single Mac I've seen on sale here. My $300 Toshiba running Vista hasn't given me one problem. (Low-dollar laptops running Vista. Goodness! How anti-geek of me.) The same can be said for my daughters' HP and Acer. Plus, if they lose them, I can afford to replace them. When I have to replace a PC it is far less painful than replacing a $1,500 Mac. The truth is that many many people just can't afford an overpriced, almost criminally proprietary computer.

I should make clear that my rant concerns only the Mac and the situation with replacing cheaper systems with the Mac. I'm not disparaging your daughter, who is probably a complete adorabloid and, like all little girls, deserves to be spoiled rotten by their daddy. I know mine do.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/01/2009 at 1:16 PM


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