updated 10:30 am EDT, Wed August 6, 2008
Mac Prices 2X Windows PCs
The going price for a Mac notebook is now over twice that of a typical Windows model, according to data collected by The NPD Group. While the average selling price of a Windows notebook has dropped from $877 in June 2006 to $700 today, the average cost of an Apple system has remained consistently above $1,500 and has only dropped $59 in the past two years. Differences in desktop pricing are more extreme still and have Macs selling for approximately $1,000 more than a common Windows desktop, which sells for about $550.
Specifications often vary sharply for these systems, with Apple often focusing on faster processors than some rivals in notebooks but at the expense of memory and hard drive space. Its insistence on using mobile processors and custom designs for desktops, however, has created feature discrepancies where a Dell Inspiron 518 tower nearing the $700 mark features two more processor cores, three times as much memory, and twice the hard drive space of an $1,199 entry-level iMac despite both coming with near-equivalent LCDs.
While the average price for Windows-based systems is described in the NPD data as having largely flattened and unlikely to drop further in the near future, the disparity between these and Macs has only widened in the last few months, according to eWeek. Apple's general policy of refusing to alter prices until its next hardware revision has reduced the value of its systems relative to Windows competitors.
Apple has until now had little pressure to follow suit. Gartner analysis shows the company's US retail market share having climbed to 8.5 percent despite the price gap, and the computer builder has often traded on the uniqueness of its experience. Troubles with Windows Vista and a lack of marketing response from Microsoft until recently have also driven customers to Apple, many of whom are willing to pay more for a non-Windows experience.
This may soon have to change, eWeek says. Concerns both about sustaining sales momentum as well as a renewed Microsoft campaign are thought to be motivating factors behind Apple's mystery product transition, which will instigate a major cut in gross margins from 35 percent to 30 percent. Such steep drops 'strongly suggest' price cuts and may reveal that Apple is aware of a point at which its traditional approach will no longer work.
"If Apple is going to continue its market share gains, or simply maintain that 8.5 percent U.S. share, prices must go down and configurations bulk up," eWeek notes. "The math is simply undeniable."