Steve Ballmer was quoted to had said that you pay 500 dollar more for the same hardware if you choose Apple over Windows.
First a conflict of interest statement: I own a mac. Now that this is out of the way, let’s look further deeper.
I think Ballmer is right that one do pay extra for the logo. But not 500 dollars but 200 at most. The difference? The operating system of course. I prefer Mac OS X interface over Windows’ and is prepared to pay for it. I believe it is worth 200 dollars. That’s a modest sum if you use the computer for more than 3 years. Operating System is something you cannot avoid using with computers.
The other 100 dollars is for Unix/Linux compatibility. I need that for my computer to interface better with the Linux setup in my office. I can use Windows, but it is easier to use something that is also Unix-based. For one thing I don’t have to struggle to find equivalent software and then remember how to operate that software, or workaround using the software to achieve my task.
So, for you joe public you pay 300 dollars more for the logo, I pay less because I have an additional requirement.
Is the 200 dollars for the logo worth it? That is a judgement call. The way I see it is it is 200 dollars spread over 3 years and I can afford it.
However, I think the most important question to ask is, is a mac really cost 500 dollars more than a Window computer?
I am afraid not. If you spec up an equivalent Windows computer, the difference is not much, plus or minus 100 dollar or 150 dollar. This was part of my decision to get a mac in the first place: Worst case scenario I pay 150 dollar more for the computer. That is inside the 200 dollars I am willing to pay for Mac OS X.
Let’s look at the “logo” question the other way: How much do I pay for the Window logo compared to if I use one of the free operating system, say Linux. Factor in large volume discount but taking out those trial wares, I will say 75 dollars. Question is, is it worth it?
In a lot (but not all) situation it does. This is after taking away all the bias towards Windows joe public has and the useless claim that Windows has more softwares written for it (As long as the computer has all the software you need to use, does it matters if it support 1 or 10 million more software that you don’t?). To me, there is a large number of situation where a full blown Windows software do not make sense. In a non-insignificant situation, some other versions of Windows that one cannot use, e.g., Windows CE, is more suitable, if Microsoft allowed it.
Essentially, the question is about how much you are willing to pay for the operating system.
There is no doubt Microsoft is feeling the pinch at both end of the market. Microsoft’s strength has always been in the middle and overall more lucrative segment.
When times are good, people probably have more money to spend for the top end. When times are bad people will start considering the lowest end more. However, demand for the middle segment is always there and is still relatively safe Microsoft territory. Might not be in 10 years time, but certainly still there when the current economy downturn is over.