Ballmer is right: Mac users do pay dearly for Apple logo

Steve Ballmer is trash-talking Apple again. No surprise there.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Steve Ballmer is trash-talking Apple again. No surprise there, as Microsoft's famously loud-mouthed CEO has taken plenty of swings at Cupertino over the years, such as when he snickered at the iPhone back in 2007. Ballmer's most recent shot came Thursday at the McGraw-Hill Companies' Media Summit New York, where Ballmer was interviewed via webcast by BusinessWeek editor-in-chief Stephen Adler.

As reported by Todd Bishop of TechFlash, Ballmer offered his theory as to why Macintosh sales fell 16 percent in February, according to stats from market-researcher NPD Group:

"The economy is helpful. Paying an extra [US]$500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be."

The Mac vs. PC argument is an old one, certainly, and Ballmer's hardly an impartial observer in the debate. But does Steve have a point? Take the MacBook, for instance. The white 13-inch model with a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo chip, 2GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive is still $999. Compared to similarly-equipped Windows notebooks, that's awfully pricey.

The Apple faithful will counter that the Mac offers much more for the money. But does it?

While it's difficult to draw an apples-to-apples (insert Apple-to-PC joke here) comparison, I decided to give it a shot by configuring a 13-inch notebook at the Dell site. For $640, I could buy an Inspiron laptop with a 13-inch glossy, widescreen display (the premium screen), a 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 3GB of memory, and a 250GB hard drive.

The Dell Insprion cost $359 less than the MacBook, but offered a lot more memory and storage. Ballmer's estimate of a $500 Mac premium may be a tad high, but it's in the ballpark. Let's say the Mac tax is more like $300 than $500.

Apple enthusiasts will counter that Mac users don't have to fuss with security worries, and that's true, at least for now. They'll point out that Macs don't come with the crapware that infests so many Windows PCs. And they'll make the valid observation that the MacBook's preinstalled software, including iLife, is superior to the so-so apps, including Microsoft Works, that ship with most consumer Windows PCs.

Fair enough. But are those advantages worth a $300-plus premium? In this economy, many consumers may think not.

Ballmer's logo-tax theory doesn't hold true for all Apple products, however. The $199 iPhone 3G doesn't cost more than competing smart phones, even when you add in the monthly AT&T service cost. And iPods come in a wide range of competitively-priced packages, from the $79 Shuffle to the feature-packed $229 iPod Touch.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleMicrosoftsteve ballmer

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?