Why I still haven’t replaced my Mac

AppleInsider | Steve Jobs on Apple’s cash, NetBooks, Apple TV, and cheap PCs

A couple of years ago I wrote this, a reply to a series of articles on OSNews on why the author wouldn’t be buying another Mac. I said I would be, if the platform was still as viable as it had been then. That was in 2006, and it’s now 2008, and my eMac is still sitting there, and it’s still the only Mac in the house. Not because it’s really “going strong”, although I still use it (not so much now that I’ve got Office on my Dell laptop, but it’s the only machine which can send faxes), but because in that time, it has simply been crowded out by the competition. Quite simply, Macs are not good value for money anymore, at my price range.

So, you can imagine my reaction to reading what Steve Jobs has to say about “cheap computers”, linked off OSNews today:

Asked whether users will be likely to see a cheaper computer from Apple, Jobs answered, “I think what we want to do is deliver an increasing level of value to these customers.”

“There are some customers which we chose not to serve,” he added. “We don’t know how to make a $500 computer that’s not a piece of junk, and our DNA will not let us ship that. But we can continue to deliver greater and greater value to those customers that we choose to serve. And there’s a lot of them.”

“We’ve seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market and not trying to be everything to everybody. So I think you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy and continue to try to add more and more value to those products in those customer bases we choose to serve.”

This really demonstrates that Jobs is stuck in the past and still obsessed with lifestyle marketing, because I quickly did a bit of research and discovered that Dell sells a machine of roughly the same specification as its Mac mini for a little over half the price in the USA. Specifically:

  • Dell Inspiron 518, 2.53GHz Core 2 duo, 2Gb RAM, 250Gb HD, Vista HPrem, Intel GMA 3100: $439
  • Mac mini, 2GHz Core 2 duo, 1Gb RAM, 120Gb HD, OS X, onboard Intel graphics: $799

Really, why would anyone in their right mind pay that price for such an underspecified machine? Just because it’s got a silly little square case, which can only accommodate laptop hard drives rather than normal ones, which offer far greater capacity at much better prices? (You do not get 120Gb hard drives anymore, other than on laptops; standard hard drives go from 80 to 160Gb.) It is a rip-off; there is no other word for it.

Steve Jobs seems to have no clue that many people just want a computer that works for them. The article I replied to in 2006 noted that Mac fans thought of their machines as the BMW of the computer scene, but at least BMWs have features Fords and Vauxhalls don’t. Macs offer inferior features and less expansion capacity for more money - they are equivalent to a car like my little Daewoo Matiz with a BMW badge. Admittedly, Mac OS X is better than Windows, but the retail version of Vista is more expensive than the boxed Mac OS X (and, in any case, Apple got the basic operating system for free), so where does the rest of that money go?

Everything about Apple now is a product of the boom that has just gone bust, and I hope Apple gets wise to this fact, because in the next couple of years people who can afford to buy computers at all will not be looking to pay big money for an inferior computer that just looks good. They will want something that ‘just works’. If Apple doesn’t, they will go bust, and that will be a crying shame, because they may well take a great operating system with them (unless they sell it to Microsoft). I would love to buy another Mac, but until I can get one which takes standard hard drives and sells for a decent price, I will be sticking with PCs running Vista and Linux.

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