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Are Macbooks Worth the Extra Cost?

This virtually always comes down to which criteria you want to use to evaluate the decision.

Apple loses on:

  1. High Performance Hardware (they just don’t build at the high end.)
  2. Highly customized solutions (don’t ask Apple for a laptop with 32GB or RAM or a workstation GPU… or lots of other customization options.)
  3. Apple frequently (but not always) loses on Hardware for the $$. If you like to break things down to component pricing, Apple frequently loses here.
  4. Budget solutions. Apple doesn’t compete below a certain price point in the market.

Apple breaks even on:

  1. Product longevity. Studies have shown that Apple hardware fails at a rate comparable to several other mass market OEMs and as a tech product goes, they generate about as many support calls as anything else I’ve looked at (disclaimer: I worked for one of the companies that Apple outsources their tech support work to and that impression comes from talking to peers in similar positions to do analysis of the raw data, but I haven’t examined the raw data myself.)
  2. Product features. I’ve always said that Apple products are like cable packages… you get everything in the package, whether you want Tele Mundo or not. Most of the features you can get in Apple products you can find in other products and while there are some standouts that you can’t get elsewhere, the same can be said for non-Apple products. This is sort of a wash.

Apple wins on:

  1. Status symbol. ’nuff said?
  2. Integrated ecosystem. Apple can make your life very simple with their suite of integrated products that will tie together your Mac with your iPhone with your iTunes with your iPod with your iPad with your Watch with… all of it. They produce an end to end ecosystem that can simplify your digital life tremendously.
  3. Simplified shopping experience. Apple offers a very focused product line which helps users get the right class of product without getting lost on a sea of options that lead to poor consumer confidence in purchases, and frequent buyer’s remorse. Simply put, people who buy Apple don’t walk away asking if they could have gotten a few more GHz or GBs or… anything really if they’d just thought about their decision for another few days. That’s a big part of what builds repeat Apple business.

I’m harsh on Apple, I think that because of their brand image, some of their serious product defects and design deficiencies are underexposed in the public eye compared to similar problems from other OEMs. I also think that some of Apple’s component pricing is leaps and bounds outside of the markups you see across the industry and it almost amounts to price gouging.

Still, I will always admit that the products they produce are 9 out of 10 star products most of the time and that they can deliver value adds that make up some of the cost difference between what they charge for parts and a competitor does. In the end, it always comes down to this for me:

If you like a Mac, and a Mac can do what you need it to do… buy a Mac. If you aren’t attached to Macs, if you don’t have a specific need for a Mac, and if your key evaluative criteria is best value for the money, buy something else.

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