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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

A free Mac and an ISP contract?
July 27th, 1999

After the Macworld Expo announcements in New York, Steve Jobs granted interviews to various media representatives. One question asked was whether Apple plans to offer a free computer and tie the user up with multi-year ISP contract, just like PC makers do...

Of course, Jobs refused to say anything about this, for many reasons. Here is my interpretation of them.

First of all, who could conceive such plans for the Macintosh? The high quality of Apple's computers is not compatible with the "free PC and ISP contract" concept. The PCs given to customers with these "deals" are made as cheaply as possible. You get what you pay for and these customers are getting junk when they do not pay for their computers directly.

In the same manner. the Macintosh does not correspond to the description I just gave. You get what you pay for and when you pay for an Apple computer, you get quality. Since the beginning, with a few notable exceptions, the Macintosh has come equipped with superior hardware. Giving it away for free would mean lowering its quality. That is a path that Apple cannot tread.

Another important aspect of this issue is Apple's profits. With the highest margins in the industry and Apple selling as many computers as they can make, there is just no reason for them to cut into their profits by selling a cheap machine in this fashion. As our editor, Bryan Chaffin, pointed out last week, Apple makes good profits despite the fact that its prices are higher than its competitors. Why change a winning strategy? I am convinced that Apple is not going to do that.

Now, a crucial point needs some discussion. Do you really think Apple will follow its PC competitors and partake in their plans? Do you really think that the company that innovates the most in the computing industry will sheepishly follow PC clone makers down their ill fated path? It may be a matter of principle, but I think Apple will find other ways to make money than to do what everybody else is doing.

As for almost everything done by the Wintel world, this "free PC and ISP contract" is just some other way to extort more money from the customer's pockets while squeezing the lemon until it's dry. I would be surprised to see Apple doing that since its very reputation is about giving us more bang for our buck.

It's always possible that Apple could prove me wrong, and if they do, I will worry. In the meanwhile, I will sit back and wait for the reports to come in from people dissapointed with their "Free PCs."

Your comments are welcomed.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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