Microsoft’s FUD-filled ‘Apple Tax’

Larry Borsato, The Industry Standard
16 October, 2008
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No longer content to extol the virtues of Vista to customers in its “I’m a PC” campaign, Microsoft has now raised the spectre of an “Apple Tax.” This coincides with Apple’s announcement of new notebooks yesterday, with prices as low as $1499.

Interviewed by cnet news, Brad Brooks, Microsoft vice president of Windows Consumer Product Marketing had this comment:

…But, we’re also looking at the different things that you can get with Windows, and understanding what is really involved with what we call the “Apple tax.”

There really is a tax around there for people that are evaluating their choices going into this holiday season and going forward. There’s a choice tax that we talked about, which is, hey, you want to buy a machine that’s other than black, white, or silver, and if you want to get it in multiple different configurations or price points, you’re going to be paying a tax if you go the Apple way.

Now the fact is that the majority of PCs on the shelves at your local Officeworks or Harvey Norman are probably black, with the occasional white one thrown in for good measure, so this is hardly an issue. The price points and configurations don’t vary all that much. And the sales growth is in portable computers such as notebooks and mini-laptops, up 37 percent worldwide, versus desktop sales, which declined 4 percent in the US alone. Mr. Books also mentions an upgrade tax, but that doesn’t seem to concern these buyers. They purchase their notebooks off the shelf, and they generally aren’t upgradeable.

Mr. Brooks comments that if people want a Windows experience, then they should buy a machine designed for the Windows experience. He then mentions the costs involved in running Windows on a Mac. Yet most customers purchase a Mac for the Mac experience, and not the Windows experience, especially the one where drivers don’t work properly, and viruses take over their machines.

I’m writing this on a MacBook using Microsoft Office for the Mac, a copy for which I would have had to pay regardless of whether I used a Mac or a PC. For everything else, the Mac provides equivalent tools. I chose not to run Windows on my Mac. Some people may not have that option; they may use software that requires it. And they will indeed pay a premium for that, but clearly one they are willing to given their choice of machine.

It seems that Microsoft, perhaps somewhat shaken by the loss of market share to Apple, has stopped marketing the benefits they bring to users, and decided to concentrate purely on technology. And they’ve decided to embark on a campaign of fear, uncertainty, and doubt in order to scare potential buyers away from Apple computers.

Make no mistake about it. Forget Seinfeld and “I’m a PC”—these are the talking points and the opening salvo of the real Microsoft marketing campaign.

[Larry Borsato has been a software developer, marketer, consultant, public speaker, and entrepreneur, among other things. For more of his unpredictable, yet often entertaining thoughts you can read his blog.]

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