Columnist: The Secret Behind Mac and PC Price Comparisons

For as long as PCs and Macs have existed, people have debated whether PC prices are lower. The promise of the Intel Macs was that all that would finally be put to rest, and it has been, but a key wrinkle remains, according to Computerworld on Friday.

Scot Finnie, who recently moved from PCs to a Mac, set out to do the best price comparison possible on similarly capable PCs and Macs. What he found was that, "If you start with Appleis relatively short list of SKUs ... and then look for comparable Windows machines, youill find that Apple bests the competition in some ways and not in others, but the pricing overall is surprisingly on par."

Indeed, it has been possible in the past to buy very low end PCs, but if one restricts the search to name brand models [from HP and Dell], thatis just no longer true. What is true is that Appleis simpler product line leaves some holes, while PCs tend to have a model and price for every need. Filling those holes creates prices points that can be found both below and above similar Macs.

"The key to the perception that Macs are more expensive is that Apple offers very few in-between models," Mr. Finnie wrote. The author looked at and researched a significant number of systems from Sony, Dell, HP and Apple to back up that assertion.

The author concluded, "When you configure low-end and midrange notebooks and desktops, youill find that except at the very bottom of the heap, Windows machines are roughly comparable in price to Macs. There are fewer Mac models, so if your needs vary from what Apple has decided on, you may find a Windows model that costs less for you. But Appleis choices make a lot of sense for most people, and when you do the point-by-point comparison, Apple is actually a better value for some needs."

This reporter notes that, in the past, IT managers dedicated to the idea of buying a PC when a Mac would do, have exploited that interpolation effect to always find a PC just a little less capable and a little less expensive in order to justify its purchase. While this PC industry practice will probably continue forever, and helps perpetuate the myth, Appleis coarser product matrix may be a contributer to higher gross margins.

Thatis probably hard for Apple to pass up, even if it does introduce a slight penalty competing in the enterprise. It also makes selecting a Mac a lot easier for those overloaded with the minutiae of specifications.