How to Switch Part Five: The Misconception Macs Are Too Expensive

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By: switchtoamac at: 1:53 PM on March 19, 2006 | Comments (14)
Macs have always been perceived as too expensive. The phrase “you get what you pay for” truly applies to a Macintosh. As I described in Part Four, "Mac Hardware Benefits and Purchasing", you are paying for seamless integration, stability, ease of use, and quality engineering.  In another post, "Apple's End-To-End Model Leads to Innovation and User Experience" I explain how Apple's end-to-end model of building hardware and software leads to a better user experience.

Apple’s switch to Intel processors has helped Apple put aside the cost and comparison barrier that existed when the company used PowerPC processors.  It is now easier to compare a Mac against its PC counterparts.  Processors aside, Macs can be compared to PCs on issues such as security, stability, and operating systems.

In January 2005 Apple recognized that the price barrier made it difficult for consumers and businesses to purchase a Mac by introducing the Mac mini.  The Mac mini is the most affordable Mac available on the market, with a starting price under $600 and is a cost effectice system for switchers. Please refer to the following January 2005 article at Macworld following the release of the Mac mini: Comparing Apples and Oranges for a comparison between a Mac mini and a Dell Dimension, an interesting read for those of you who are thinking about switching, you might be surprised!  Since then, the Mac mini has seen two revisions, most recently with Intel processors.  On almost a daily basis, reviews are released comparing the new Macs to PCs.  You can find some of them here.

Thanks to the Intel transition, Apple has the ability to ship systems using Intel's current processors.  This has allowed Apple to ship Macs that can no longer labeled as underpowered or overpriced.  In fact, Macs are more affordable today than at any other time in history. Mac desktops start at under $600 and Mac laptops start at under $1,100.

Each Mac revision has brought forth a better value as Apple has rolled out new systems with more features, speed, and performance.  Apple lowered the price of iMacs in October 2005 and maintained the prices in January 2006 following the Intel powered iMac release. In 2006, Apple has introduced Intel powered iMacs, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros.  The MacBook Pro and MacBook bring to the market lower cost notebooks when compared to prior generation of Mac notebooks, Powerbooks and iBooks respectively.  MacBooks and MacBook Pro notebooks can easily be compared to their PC counterparts.  Apple builds computers that utilize the same technologies and features found in computers sold by Dell, HP, Toshiba, Sony, and Lenovo.  Case in point, all current Intel Macs contain the following hardware features:

  • Serial ATA hard drives
  • 802.11g wireless networking
  • FireWire 400
  • USB 2.0
  • Bluetooth 2.0

Apple has also included features such as an integrated iSight video camera for video conferencing, an infrared remote control, and digital/analog audio in/out ports.  Apple's professional line of sytems offer features such as Firewire 800.

When analyzed objectively, one can see that Macs are not more expensive than PCs. In fact, one can make the argument that Macs are more cost effective, have a lower total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) and offer a better value. Please read the "Going above and beyond" article at NetworkWorld.  Winn Schwartau, a network security expert, evaluates the TCO for an enterprise to maintain a Windows system.  He even includes a TCO spreadsheet that you can download.  The following quotes are taken from the article:

"The results of this TCO astounded me. For my small enterprise, owning a WinTel box for three years costs twice as much as owning a MacTel. When I talked with several of our clients, I found that the burdened cost of ownership per PC - just for support - ranged from $1,300 to $4,000 per year."

"At recent security shows I have seen that more than 50% of my compatriots use Macs and recognize that OS X was a huge leap forward. We are all suggesting some forms of migration. The small enterprise and home office should migrate completely"

Apple’s Boot Camp software allows Windows to be installed on an Intel Mac but with the limitation that only one operating system (OS X or Windows) can be active any one time.  Another product, Parallels Desktop for Mac, provides Mac users the ability to run Windows without leaving OS X.  Parallels' limitation is that it doesn’t allow Windows to run at native speed.  Windows will run within a "virtual machine" and as a result, will run slower than a Mac booted directly into Windows.  This feature offers a compelling reason to purchase a Mac, the decision to switch is now easier.

When one takes the seamless integration, stability, ease of use, quality engineering, the TCO, and the ability to boot Windows, one can easily conclude that a Mac is not necessarily a more expensive proposition.  In fact, Boot Camp and Parallels allow a Mac to behave as two systems, a Mac and a PC.  No other system on the market offers the ability to legally run OS X and Windows on a single computer.  This is a great feature to help switchers as they can learn to use OS X over time and it offers the flexibility to use software that can only run on Windows.

With a Mac, consumers get ease of use, security, stability, and an enjoyable computing experience. A Mac doesn’t run the risk of infection from viruses or spyware.  OS X is a more secure operating system.  These reasons alone will save a Mac user from headaches, frustration, lost data, compromised personal information, time, and money.  Mac users actually have the time to devote to using their systems.  Windows users are all too often occupied with locking their systems down, installing the latest security patch, updating anti-virus and spyware programs, recovering from crashes, and reinstalling the operating system.

The argument that Mac’s are too expensive no longer applies. Although you can spend between $600 and several thousand for a Mac, stay within your means and purchase a system that meets your computing demands.


  •  June 22, 2006: Added information about Boot Camp, Parallels, current Mac hardware features, and links to other posts.

14 Reader Comments

The TCO thing was true even in the Classic Mac OS days. Sadly, the IT decision makers are interested in MAXIMIZING support costs (and their ownbugets); not minimizing.

PC's are the whole reason behind the "productivity paradox". Economists predicted years ago that computers in the workplace would increase productivity. They didn't. If enterprise had gone Mac, I think history would be a little different.

Your article is very much about laying to rest a common misconception, and I'd certainly agree with you that Macs are now cost-effective. However, I'm suprised to see you'd purpetuate the misnomer of modern Windows machines being buggy virus-ridden machines. The "blue screen of death" hasn't been common since the days of Windows ME, an OS based on 10+ year old code. Also, the "safety in obscurity" argument (with regards to Macs and viruses) is one that you poorly use.
I'm a little disappointed that many of the stellar features of new Macs are not referenced, when some shortcomings of Windows machines are. That is a very lack-luster approach to pursuading someone to switch to a Mac.

ok tom, here is the deal. you should go take your windows machine, and enjoy it. the macintosh community does not need nor want you. we are doing fine. to say that windows hasnt been buggy since ME is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard. We all know your wrong, and somehow you convinced yourself that you are right. get it together.

Justin, your attitude stinks. I figured the point of an article like this was to help convince PC users that Macs are cost effective and to dispel some of the myths of Macintoshes.
Saying we dont want you is an outright lie. Apple's marketing seems to show otherwise, as do articles like this.

What I do find misleading is the security apathy Mac users tend to have. It's that attitude that encourages lax password requirements, auto logins, no screensaver password authentication, etc, that allows for easily accessing sensitive data when a Macintosh computer gets stolen.

Regardless of whether Macintoshes are less vulnerable, it's just good practice.

Linux. Made by hackers worldwide, for fun and for free, for everyone. Best OS, best "price". The apps lag as of yet, but they will soon catch up. And might I recomend we all boycott Vista. Microsoft's at it again, and the consumer needs to show them who calls the shots. That said, the day I can build my own mac entirely from parts is the day I get one.

Eman out.

Windows is the best OS, and will always be the dominant platform, unless it makes a huge screw-up, which is doubtful.

>Windows is the best OS, and will always be the dominant platform

Dominant how? Ever heard of Vista? One of the most bloatware-ridden pieces of software that has ever been released upon the computer-using public in recent memory. Oh and let's not forget the several "versions" of Vista that's been foisted on the market. There's ONE version of Mac OS X when it's released, not a Home nor a professional version, just one. The only other OS X released at the same time of the client is a server version, but that's not for most home users unless they really want to use it as a client (which is just fine, but for the extra $$ I say why go that route?)

Windows has been the dominant OS only because the genie was let out of the bottle when the PC (the original) was reverse-engineered by COMPAQ and the practice was deemed OK by the courts. That opened the floodgates as more and more companies did the same thing. Meanwhile, Apple kept a fairly tight rein on their products with hardware and software integration all that time, except during the Amelio days when Power Computing, Daystar and others were allowed to license the OS for their computers. (Witness the current Psystar debacle going on right now... I'm really surprised the Apple hasn't busted into their business with guns blazing (tongue in cheek here) and shut them down.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, that was the FIRST thing he did by canceling the licenses and pulling the OS back from outsiders.

>makes a huge screw-up, which is doubtful.

Uh, Vista anyone?? 'nuff said...

4GB 1066Mhz RAM
22"Widescreen TFT

Windows vista X64 Runs everything & if you protect it there's no fear 4 viruses.

Price for all this?

Price for apple system with slower cpu & crap gpu? €2.250

That leaves me some money to get wireless stuff + a design case and mouse with one button.



Before making a point I suggest you get your facts straight. Apple has been offering a two button mouse as a standard feature for quite some time now. What's the cost of "protecting" a Windows machine. Let's see ... there's an anti-virus program, a firewall, a spyware detector, a malware detector, should I continue?

Apple's value proposition can be summed up in three words, "Total user experience". That's something Microsoft and PC vendors simply can't offer.

This article is VERY MISLEADING.

You are comparing the base prices of the computer themselves instead of the hardware inside of them. The hardware inside is important no matter what kind of task you might be doing. If your hardware isn't good enough, productivity will go down.

Price wise, Apple charges a premium because it sees itself as a "premium" brand. This is why they have large earning margins for every single one of their products. Because they go cheap on the hardware. From my experiences with a Mac, Macs have VERY GOOD FIRST PARTY SOFTWARE. But, their third party software is VERY lacking. I have trouble with photoshop on Macs and frequently, it resulted in the shutdown of the computer while i have zero problems with the PC version.

Also, you're not taking into account of the recent trend in software development. The recent trends of software development is sharing the task with the GPU in the machines. Since Macs has VERY BAD support for graphic cards, it is limited to older graphic cards such as the HD2600 and such graphic cards that has been outdated two years ago. The lack of hardware support and customization is what will bring Mac down to it's knees.

every 5 years, when your Mac gets outdated. What will you do. You will have to buy a brand new Mac. What will PC owners do? They would simply upgrade the parts inside their PC and not having to waste money buying a entirely new computer when they can reuse what is already inside their computers.

I really don't think 5 years later, anyone would spend money on upgrading a PC if they need to keep up with the software.

Macs have always been more expensive than PCs, at least for the pedestrian paces through which I put them (email, word processing, spreadsheets, a little gaming here and there, music production, etc).

The single most amazing thing that Apple ever did was somehow convince *musicians*, who NEVER have money for ANYTHING and will do anything to get out of putting a nickel in a parking meter would have so lovingly and slavishly embraced the Macs.

"I use a PC." "AAAGGHHH!! You should use ProTools on a Mac!!"

And don't talk to them about PT being available on Windows too. That's like saying you can put a volkwagon engine in one of those yellow kit cars you see driving around on Sundays and having a bad-a** machine!

Hahaha, you Windows guys are funny to say this article is misleading.

OK, let me be serious now. I've owned multiple laptops, servers and desktops over the year. Over those years, I've had a longer run with my Mac than generic IBM PCs. My first Mac, a Powerbook G4 lasted me through 4 years, and I only switched it off on weekends (the graphical unit fried due to extreme use in poor ventilated areas). Done so much things on it - graphics, music, programming, that will quickly retire a PC in just 2 years. I've built three (3) PCs over that same period, and each lasted me no more than 18 months. I got so fed up with playing on Windows that I switched to XBox and PS3, goddamn even Microsoft support their XBox better! I don't even play games on PC now - the reason that was so holy-grail to these windows fanboys. And yes, stop calling us mac fanboys, we happen to be able to make more objective decisions and are more open to alternative choices. I've learnt more about industrial computing on a Mac than on Windows, and by industrial I mean AMP management/programming, shell scripting, remote computing, statistics computing, linguistics simulation and whatnot. Hell, even my professor switched to Mac after realizing Mac gets all the research tasks done faster and better, sans "RAM hang" and "cluttered boot-up" problems.

Also, the "only" reason why musicians will stick with Mac was because 3rd party software makers do produce great music tooling products for them - ever seen BEP jam a concert with a Compaq o stage? Hey, I will even give you one million dollar if you can get a professional music editor/DJ to actually tell you that they use Windows to do their job. People who sell Macs also tend to treat their customers better, and if it's legal I'd have torched those shops that sell me all those crappy Windows software long time ago - I am just another customer and it doesn't matter if I have a problem with a software. You got a problem, it's your problem. I bring my Mac to any Mac retail or authorized shops in any part of this world, and they treat me well even if the warranty's long expired or if it's just to wipe the annoying stain off my Macbook cover.

Security is a joke on Windows, that thing has been a standard in every Unix like system for years, and that means Mac, guys. I like the fact that I don't have to waste too much time to figure out how to secure my Mac, my network, my files and my work. UAC only came to Vista after so long, and Windows users, majority of them are annoyed by it because they didn't like to be "bothered". Learn Unix/BSD, and you pretty much learn everything that there is to know (ironically, I also use Linux because of Mac). Just a few days ago I tried to configure my router through Telnet, and you know what, friggin' Vista doesn't even ship with one Telnet client. As to why Microsoft removed it, I still have no idea. I also hate the fact that it took me at least 5 clicks to find out what LAN IP my Windows machine has as opposed to 2 clicks on Mac. The point here is, why not make things easier for us users? I can also tell you that over my 5 years of using Mac, I've successfully converted the whole office into ditching their Dells, plus a few close friends to choose Mac. I've never felt so good about helping people. And yes, all of my Mac switcher friends are too happy with their lower TCOs of owning Macs - never again they have to make endless trips to the computer shops to reformat/restore their Windows laptops and shelling out so much money for each repair/diagnostic/whatever scams those shops are pulling. I quote a friend - "Windows is like a maze of endless annoyances, sometimes even Microsoft engineers have no idea a fatal kernel flaw can stay in Windows NT through Windows 7". You want a hazardous maze, or do you want a nice, secure system with easy to navigate/manage GUI?

To be fair though, Windows 98 and XP is OK during their heydays, but Microsoft has produced nothing good over these years. Vista is garbage, and Windows 7 is like nightmare - the GUIs are annoying, especially more so if used on laptops. I can hardly comprehend what's on the screen every time I'm on my Dad's Windows 7 Toshiba. Why the hell can't they make computing easier for a late computer adopter? And if I see a Netbook nowadays, I'd be asking myself - these people got to be so goddamn cheap to the point of wanting to spoil their eyesights. I'd be damned if people say using Windows Vista is "a bliss" on a 10" Dell, they must be high on drugs... heh.

Lastly, don't be so damn defensive and hit at us who use Macs with all those outdated, baseless criticisms. Go try one already and at least try to be objective.

Really Charles.

Most of your statements can be summed up to FUD Fear - Uncertainty - Doubt

This is a tiring debate and I feel compelled to add a last word in here because you are spewing so many myths, false accusations and perpetuate the cycle of the Mac vs PC debate.

A PC is as secure as the user using it. A Mac is as secure as the user using it.

End of story, no debate, no doubts. Just because you may not be aware of how to operate your computer security does not mean a PC is worse than a Mac. Just because you are unable to know the different ways to access a setting (or install telnet which comes with that OS just not setup by default...which don't claim a Mac has every optional piece installed..they don't you add as needed) is no reason to say that a Windows PC makes life harder, worse or simply does not work.

Thats ignorance plain and simple and anyone claiming to be enlightened about both systems should truly make sure they are enlightened. Thos of us who are can say there is no fundamental difference as to whether I use a PC or a Mac. There are differences in style, tools and choice from there but fundamentally I can do everything with either and I can have both running equally well for as long. If you have had such bad luck with your PC's then I suggest you perhaps (based on other comments) did not learn to understand how to operate your PC's.

As a PC, Linux and Mac user I can not tell you one is better over the other, I can tell you I love my Gentoo stage 3 install, the level of control, reliability and performance I have grown accustomed to. I can tell you that I am biased because of my passion for Gentoo Linux but that does not make it superior to Mac OS or Windows, it makes it my preferred OS that has as many flaws, holes, or otherwise vulnerabilities as any other choice if I do not know what I am doing and it can be as intuitive or not as I choose to make it based on both my understanding and the interface I choose.

Please find more time to properly understand what you wish to critique and learn to embrace the unknown rather than simply call it inadequate. If you simply prefer a choice, it does not make it any better than the rest to everyone else and if it did you would certainly see greater market dominance because fundamentally the world is not choosing to go with stupid computers that do not work....we choose what works based on our needs.

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