The Apple tax, revisited

A few days ago, I was talking with a Microsoft developer who brought up the usual claim that Macs are more expensive. When I got home, I decided to check that claim by comparing a 20″ iMac to a comparable Dell.

On first glance, the Dell website offers a very low price. But much like cars, once you add optional features, the price rises considerably. I tried to configure the Dell just like the iMac: 802.11n, integrated webcam, speakers that mount on the LCD monitor, FireWire, etc. To my surprise, the resulting Dell was only $200 cheaper than the iMac. When you consider that an iMac includes useful iLife applications (iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb, Garage Band), you could say that the price is about the same.

However, the key assumption was that the Mac includes a lot of features that many people do not use. For instance, although my iMac includes 802.11n networking, I don’t use Wifi because it is connected via Ethernet to my router. Similarly, if you don’t use a camcorder, chances are that you don’t need FireWire on a Windows computer. So if you leave off some of these extra features, the PC becomes a bit cheaper.

Nevertheless, it was interesting to see that Macs no longer deserve the reputation that they are categorically more expensive than Windows computers. The iMac and the MacBook are particularly good values in the Apple product line.

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