Mary Jo Foley blogged about Microsoft’s effort to counter Apple’s MacBook event. I don’t think that earn Foley any brownie points with Microsoft for publicly disclose Microsoft behind-the-scene PR effort. I am expecting such a move from any of Apple’s competitor. That event was too well publicized. So far, we only know Microsoft did something. Others might had done the same but we do not know until someone disclose it.
What is really interesting is later in the blog post, Foley mentioned that Microsoft is coining the word “Apple Tax” and is using it as a marketing strategy. Naturally that got me interested. The word was reminiscene of “Microsoft Tax”, a word coined by others to mean the royalty paid by computer maker to Microsoft on every PC shipped, regardless of whether Microsoft products was installed in it. [It is possible since this make accounting easier, but unsubstantiated]
I was disappointed when I see Microsoft coining this as one having to pay more to get applications/hardware to run on a Mac computer. To be fair, in the interview (see the second link) Microsoft acknowledge that it is a “choice tax”, i.e. one have to decide whether to pay it by buying a Mac. In effect, Microsoft is using the word “tax” in a way we call VAT a tax, i.e., you have a choice of not buying a product and therefore not incur the tax. In this sense, everything tax can be avoided. However, my view of tax is more rigid, i.e., you practically have no choice but to pay it because you have to do the thing that is “taxable”. If you do not earn an income, you don’t have to pay income tax, but do you realistically have a choice of not earning an income? The “Microsoft Tax” is one such tax since if it exists, virtually everyone cannot avoid it. The “Apple Tax” is not, since you can do what Microsoft suggests, i.e., buy non-Apple computer.
The most damning criticism of this argument is, in this day and age, its not true anymore.
It is important to see that the context of this arguement is Desktop computer, so there is no point arguing about servers.
Let’s take it apart.
For applications, the cost of getting applications on Mac to fulfill my daily need is zero. Its the same for Windows. How do I do it? Running free and open source software such as OpenOffice.org and GIMP. As I took application out of the computer purchasing decision loop, it is now a head-to-head competition between the various operating systems. With this, we are looking at the value proposition of the various OS. I could choose Linux, then everything is free, but I choose a Mac. Why? In my case, because OSX offer better application integration and I appreciate it. I don’t have to remember whether is it “Ctrl-C” or “Shift-Ctrl-C”. Then there is a second thing call ease-of-use. In all three OSs here we get a simple jukebox for our audio-visual file, simple text editor etc. In all of these, Mac is usually the favourite.
Hardware upgrade more expensive in Mac? First and foremost, how many people actually upgrade their computer? However, there is some truth in this, especially if you want to buy it from Apple. But I am connecting my generic mouse, USB hard disk drive, standard memory modules etc to my Mac had find that they work. Why? Everyone in the hardware business, SUN, Windows, Mac, Dell etc are using the same set of hardware specification and probably sourced from the same supplier. If you buy a part from Apple for your Mac, you expects to pay more for some dubious guarantee that the parts work. You do the same if you buy a part from SUN or Dell for your SUN workstation or Dell computer. Your selection of hardware is only dependent on the software driver that gets your OS to speak to the parts you buy. It is true that Microsoft Windows has the best collection of software driver and therefore the widest choice. With Mac or Linux, you have to be more careful. However, in practice, the price range available to you is practically speaking, the same. Does Microsoft knows that? You bet. Nonetheless, it is a good bashing point when Apple (and just about any other manufacturers who makes laptops) wants to steer you to buy parts from them which they inflated the price.