Microsoft continues and expands attacks on Apple

Microsoft has accompanied the third of its anti-Apple commercials with a creative document detailing what it calls the ‘Apple Tax’.

The latest ad follows the same theme: ‘ordinary’ shoppers (this time a mother and son) head out with a $1,500 budget and wind up choosing a PC over a Mac. This time the requirements are for a fast computer suitable for gaming, though the child is swayed to a PC laptop because of its Blu-ray capabilities. As usual, the Mac is dismissed as pretty but inadequate and expensive. Here is the ad:

With the shock value of the direct attack gone, online reaction has been somewhat muted. It seems that for future ads to have much impact, Microsoft needs to tweak the concept, perhaps getting much more specific about why a particular PC is better than a particular Mac.

Meanwhile Microsoft has taken the concept of the Apple Tax, a line created by the firm’s consumer marketing chief in an interview last October and turned it into a very literal marketing program. The firm has put out an 11-page study claiming that an average family buying two PCs rather than two Macs would save $3,367 over the following five years, and even produced a dummy IRS form itemising the costs.

The Apple Tax

Only around half the supposed savings come from the purchase price of the machines. The rest come from software, support and various upgrades. However, several points are either confusing or plain misleading. For example, when it comes to office software the study assumes the buyer already has a copy of Microsoft Office from owning a PC but would have to pay to buy Mac equivalents.

In other words, it’s a comparison of the cost of switching from a PC to a Mac, not a straight comparison starting from scratch. That may be a realistic scenario for many would-be Mac buyers, but it’s certainly not fair: after all, a Mac user switching to a PC would face a similar ‘Microsoft Tax’ on software.

The figures also include costs for the MobileMe service and in-store Apple care, but don’t take into account PC equivalents or free alternatives for Mac users.

Ironically this appears to be one of the rare situations where added detail makes a much less convincing case. Close study of the ‘Apple Tax’ reports leave you with the feeling that Microsoft is greatly exaggerating the genuine price differences. The TV spots, however simplified and manipulated, at least make a more credible general point that Macs are usually more expensive.

9 Responses to Microsoft continues and expands attacks on Apple

  1. I suppose that it's beyond obvious to point this out, but Microsoft likes to pretend that open-source and other free alternatives don't exist.

    …which, of course, makes the "Apple tax" idea even more ridiculous.

  2. I have an idea…let's leave this "Apple is awesome, so much better than Microsoft" crap back in about 2005 where it belongs. You have a great blog here, one that I frequent, but there is good reason why I left Slashdot and Digg behind long ago…holy wars against particular companies and technologies really do get tiresome. Sure, I love Linux, too, but everyone has long since conceded that Linux is a great technology. Apple-vs-Mac is lame filler, far beneath what you have created here.

    I would merely ask that you either stick to the good stuff (like lightsaber-battling hotties in bars and cool discussions about good new technologies and geek stuff actually WORTH arguing over) and leave the preaching behind. Or, if you are going to be a true geek, go ahead and dump on Microsoft, but dump on Apple too when take Microsoft-like actions (like those little ID chips they'll be putting into their accessories for the new Nanos). A quick backward look through your archives with the 'Apple' tag reveal no negative stories on Apple that I could see with any clarity (unlike your Microsoft stories).

    • Hey there :)

      Well, you obviously haven't searched hard enough, because I bashed Apple multiple times on this blog.. for a- not being able to run games 2- being overpriced 3- having ads presenting false facts and trying to totally mislead potential customers… This blog features multiple writers, so some of them might have different point of views, and I know lots of readers enjoy this about GAS.

      Anyways, it's late, and I'm out :)


    • I love how some people feel that when there's something in a place they have no obligation to go to (free, no less) that they have a right to demand that certain content is never shown. Just don't watch it!

  3. My biggest problem is the out-right lie that it only costs money to buy software for Apple products. It still costs money to buy Office for PC, so why was that added?

    As the article suggests, it assumes it is for a PC-to-Mac switcher, but for a person already owning a Mac, that charge is reversed, so it'd cost roughly $150 to get a Windows. It should either not be there at all, or there for both.

    And a random "other software" charge of $70? WTF? As if you never buy ANY software for PC in five years?

    Outright fucking lie. It's a disgrace.

    And why did they only add on the Dell warranty? Does the more expensive HP computer insurance get left out to drop the price on the Microsoft Tax?

    Apple should definitely take them on in a false-advertising lawsuit.

  4. @Andrew

    I guess Apple might have a case for false advertising. And they would probably know the details behind that sort of thing very well, seeing as many European nations booted their blatantly ridiculous commercials for that very reason.

    So maybe the "11-page study" mentioned above is just Microsoft's way of saying, "Hey, we can be full of shit too. But at least entire countries aren't calling us on it."

    • As noted in the iPod shuffle article, I am not an Apple fanboy. I have both a Mac mini and an MSI Wind. I use the Wind far more than the mini.

      Guess which cost me more, considering that $1700 is the average for a PC-to-Mac switch, apparently (halving the cost of the two PCs/Macs in the form)? The mini, yes. By how much? About $200 (actually about £100, but the dollar was 2 to 1 pound at the time, so it's basic math). That's it. Not $1700. Microsoft or anyone else might like to call it the Apple tax, but in truth, that's bullshit.

      All of those extra costs Microsoft would have you believe are an expense? I didn't get a single one of them. Even the AppleCare is optional, but the 'tax form' makes it look like it's mandatory. Same for the cost of MS Office (and if anything, looking like they charge 'external' users for software which looks – by the ad but a lie – free on their machines is a bad idea anyway). Which is why I have the problem with false advertising. On both machines, I have paid nothing for software as of yet. I've had the mini since Christmas '06, and haven't paid the $289 that Microsoft would have you believe I'd need to shell out to own a Mac. To be fair, I haven't on the Wind (owned since Christmas '08), either, but it's not like I saved $289 by getting a Wind, it's just that most savvy users (not even tech-savvy, just money-savvy people) won't randomly buy products they can get for free. Even my 72yo grandmother knew about and installed Open Office without me telling her, just from the tech section in the Sunday newspaper – believe it or not, but open-source software isn't as niche as you'd believe.

      The Wind is more useful (ultraportable). The Wind was cheaper (£100 or so, excluding the peripherals, which most people who had a computer before can plug-in-and-go on a Mac anyway, or shell out $300 max for monitor-keyboard-mouse, not $1700 for, but MS would probably 'tax' that too if it had thought of it). But that doesn't mean I don't think the mini wasn't worth more. Of course it is. It's more solid to the touch (even the Wind feels a bit too light), I'm not so worried about updating the antivirus (it has none), and it's just better designed – OS and hardware. I'm happy with both machines. And I use the Wind more. But that doesn't mean I paid so much more for the Mac for good reason.

      Microsoft is appealing to an ignorant customer base who isn't willing to pay attention to extra costs sprung at them from a false advertisement. Which is the thing most anti-Apple people have a problem with Apple fanboys for. So it all just seems a bit hypocritical, considering that Mac (and iPod) users actually know that the extra costs that Microsoft (and the anti-Apple brigade) posit don't even exist. Because they are paying for a better designed, better researched, better implemented and better produced product.

      What does exist? The things Apple boasta about in their adverts. Sure they might exaggerate (what corporate brand ever doesn't or didn't?) but they've never lied. The fact that Macs don't need antivirus protection to stay safe for over two years (personal experience) – check. The fact that iPods/iPhones/Macs/the Oses on both are user-friendly and so is the iTunes and website stores – check. The fact that Macs do just work without loading extra software in the first place – check.

      While I prefer the Wind now on a day-to-day setting, it's not lie that it took an extra few days to set-up compared to the Mac. The Mac did just work. It's not a false advertising claim. It just did. And anyone that's used one (who aren't so Windowsed they find it hard to adapt to a new OS) can attest to it. The ad in the article, however, is entirely false. I can prove it false. I've kept a receipt on every purchase above £20 since I was 18 (after which I got the Mac). I didn't do it out of spite to Microsoft (considering I bought, set up and installed every piece of software/hardware I have on both machines since I saw this article), it's just…true.

      Yes, this was a long comment, but nothing I've said can be denied, unless you are bashing Apple and not looking into facts for the costs and not looking into the overwhelming opinion for how good/cheap Apple products are on a long-term basis once you have them set up.

      • Nice try, Apple Fanboy, but you've shown nothing but speculation and guesswork rooted in ignorance. There are PLENTY of FREE third party software programs for PC only, that work WAY better than anything by Apple. Do you know how much processing power and RAM iTunes eats up? I have several media players (that are WAY more functional and user-friendly than bullshit iTunes), antiviruses/antimalware (that I've never had to use, and document/photo/audio/video editors that I have gotten, all for FREE.

        Also keep in mind that Windows has an easily editable file registry, so if there's something you don't like about the interface, you can easily hack it. With Mac… Well… You're just kinda stuck with it. :/

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