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Microsoft Exec Says Mac Users Pay an "Apple Tax"

Microsoft Exec Says Mac Users Pay an "Apple Tax"

by , 12:35 PM EDT, October 15th, 2008

A Microsoft executive has begun pushing the line of attack that people who buy Macs are paying an "Apple tax," and that many just don't realize it. Brad Brooks, vice president of Windows Consumer Product Marketing, argued in an interview with CNet's Ina Fried that this supposed tax comes in the form of both choice and dollars.

Mr. Brooks' comments came in an interview that was ostensibly about Microsoft and Vista, though in the end it was dominated by discussion of Apple. Indeed, the "Apple tax" idea entered the discussion when Mr. Brooks was asked what PC makers should do in a time of economic challenge. Mr. Brooks answer? One sentence about Microsoft investing more resources with PC makers and three and a half paragraphs about, "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," said Mr. Brooks. "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."

He also argued that Mac users won't be able to get the rich application experience enjoyed by Windows users -- he cited Microsoft Outlook and games -- and that they'll have a "technology tax" (no HDMI, no Blu-ray, and no e-SATA external drives). Then there's the "upgrade tax," as only MacPros, which start at US$2,799, are upgradable.

When asked if Mac and Windows compatibility wasn't at an all-time high, Mr. Brooks argued that if you want Windows, "start with a machine that was built for the Windows experience." He also cut down his own company's Mac Business Unit's main product, Office for Mac, as being "stripped down."

Ms. Fried also pointed out that it appeared as if more and more people were willing to pay this so-called tax, and Mr. Brooks responded by asking if "customers really know what they're getting into?" The added costs of products like Parallels, Fusion, or even a standalone copy of Windows is, he argued, something these unwitting Switchers are being duped into buying, unaware of what they're facing.

Even when Ms. Fried tried to bring the question back to what Microsoft wanted its customers to understand about the value of Vista, Mr. Brooks dragged the conversation back to Apple. "There's also productivity value that you get on Windows Vista that you can't get on a Mac," he said.

The full interview is both lengthy and interesting, and completely Apple-centric, suggesting the platform wars may not be truly dead after all. The interview coincides with a series of ads Microsoft is running that also make Apple part of its conversation by asking if users if they're a PC, a direct response to Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads.

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