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Apple: Beauty vs. People


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#1
Swad

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I've always had conflicting opinions about Apple and their philosophy. On the one hand, the packaging is great - the ads are great, the looks are great, even the boxes they ship in are great. But somethings, such as the customizabliity and other things have always left me wanting more.

Check out this folklore.org article about the early days of the Mac. Here's a portion:

The Macintosh was originally intended to be a very low cost, high volume personal computer. We wanted to keep the price as low as possible, so the Mac would be affordable to ordinary individuals, and Apple could sell them by the millions. The initial target price was $500, less than half the price of an Apple II at the time, but it quickly rose to $1000 after the design team added up the cost of various components.

The design team was horrified. One of the main reasons that we were so passionate about the Macintosh was that we thought we were working on something that we would use ourselves, along with our friends and relatives. It was crucial that it be affordable to ordinary people. $2500 felt like a betrayal of everything that we were trying to accomplish. We worked very hard to keep the price down in every aspect of the design, and now it was being artificially inflated for reasons that didn't make sense to us. But we thought that Steve would prevail, and be able to convince John that we'd do better at the lower price.

But finally, much to our surprise and dismay, after a week or so of wrangling, Steve was the one who gave in, and the Mac was priced at $2495 at launch. Even though it sold quickly at first, soon sales bogged down, partially due to the lack of available software, but also because of the price. Even after sales picked up in 1986, with the Mac Plus and the proliferation of desktop publishing, Apple continued to overcharge for the Macintosh, preferring huge profit margins to growing their market share, which eventually led to big problems when it caught up with them in the nineties.

Did the Mac betray its roots or is this the way it should be?

#2
randomblame

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wow just imagine if they had kept to their original goal of keeping the price low, their user base would be enormous today. It would be a mac world.

#3
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It's true. There are still many people today who don't use computers because of the high price tag. If Apple had gone with the $500 idea back in the day Microsoft would be a bad dream.

#4
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This really saddens me. A company that has such a great product just doesnt get it that if it makes it cheaper, it will sell like anything. This would be surely microsofts worst nightmare

#5
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If you think about it, at the time it might not have seemed such a bad idea. The original IBM PC and others were pretty dear at the time. I know my parents had some Epson Equity I and it cost about the same as the 128K Mac (I had one of those).

I more regret that they didn't continue from the IIgs, personally.

#6
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I agree, but the impetus was lost a long time ago. Now a Mac isn't really much more expensive than a quality branded PC with the same specification e.g. Sony, IBM (Lenovo), Toshiba. They'd have a tough time cutting their costs much now because the component cost is more or less fixed.

I like the packaging - you feel you're buying something really worthwhile when you get that shiny box, artistic inserts and the like. Compared to my $2,000 Sony laptop which came in a brown cardboard box with a couple of labels stuck on the outside - I felt sort of cheated by that even though the box is unimportant, really. But I confess that this might be a gender-specific thing - I wonder if more female users gravitate to Apple because of the undeniable attractiveness of the whole experience?

One more point - to the professional user or company the cost isn't really an obstacle. It's only a factor when a private individual has to cough up the readies to buy it. Like the Roland cable I recently bought to connect two pieces of musical gear I have - $40 for a length of cable with a weird 13-pin plug on each end. I needed it so I had no option, but it really hurt to shell out for that. If I could have bought the plugs, I'd have got a soldering iron out... A professional musician wouldn't think twice about spending that, and a repro house won't think twice about $5,000+ for a Mac desktop with screen.

#7
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Metrogirl, I agree about the packaging thing - like I mentioned in my article on the day of the Stevenote, Apple is going to have to work hard to differentiate themselves now that they're on Intel, so I think we'll probably see a shift to work on the OS.

I guess what disappoints me is that Apple has such a great product, yet they forgot that part of the beauty that was so attractive to the initial developers - the quality for the price. Sure, marketing is important, but when the costs of it keep your product out of the hands of users, something should change.

#8
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:) Which is why everyone here is enjoying the beauty of OSX on generic, affordable hardware! :| And the previous points are spot-on - Apple really missed a trick! And I have a feeling that this is a Pandora's box that Apple will never be able to close. :blink:

#9
fotpunk

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> I guess what disappoints me is that Apple has such a great product, yet they forgot that part of the beauty
> that was so attractive to the initial developers - the quality for the price. Sure, marketing is important, but
>when the costs of it keep your product out of the hands of users, something should change.

Huh? So you're saying that Apple should spend less money on marketing, so it can focus on making cheaper products with thinner profit margins? Based on your logic, a car company like Jaguar should spend less money on marketing so it can build and sell more Hyundai-type compacts affordable for the masses! An admirable idea, but it's corporate suicide.

The bottom line is Apple is a brand name, like Nike or Coca-Cola. The brand name was worthless for years (despite having a strong core following) until the iPod came along. Now it's trendy, cool, blah blah blah and as a result it is one of the few PC makers that can get away with charging a premium for its computers. Why would Apple want to jeopardize that by turning into a mass-market cheap box maker like Dell? Effectively exchanging brand value for market share.

I think it's safe to say that Apple doesn't want to be the next Dell (as long as Jobs is in charge), and that Apple actually likes the idea (from a marketing standpoint) that its products have some aura of exclusivity about them by not being "cheap" boxes and not in the hands of everyone (at least, not yet).

(At the risk of going off-topic, this discussion reminds me of a story I read in a marketing book about a woman in New Mexico(?) who was having trouble selling her custom-made Indian art pieces. She kept marking them down and down in price, but no one bought them. She mentioned her plight to a marketing expert, who recommended that she mark UP the price by 200 percent (so that shoppers could see that the prices have gone up) and call them limited-edition pieces. The result was that her pieces began selling quickly; and that fact increased demand as a result! The story may be bogus, but the moral remains the same -- there will always be a segment of the population that will pay more for something perceived as premium.)

Besides, I'm sure Apple's marketers would point to products such as the iPod shuffle, iBook and Mac Mini as "attempts" to contend that Apple is indeed targeting the "quality for the price" market. So this contention that Apple is currently abandoning the mass market by keeping its products pricier just doesn't wash with me. Sorry.

#10
Metrogirl

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Apple ... The brand name was worthless for years (despite having a strong core following)


Freudian slip? :(

#11
randomblame

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I'm actually glad apples price wasnt so low, if it was the x86 platform and all of the many technological enhancements that came with it may have never been. Apple has traditionally hated the idea of upgradability, modification, and overclocking. It's those little niches that push the industry forward. It's taking each generation of hardware to the absolute limit and then identifying whats slowing it down that bring us the next step forward. Steve Jobs believes that upgradability is a "bug". Mac os is a great piece of software, but I'd never buy a mac. I need to take my hardware places, I love looking at a computer and saying thats mine, I built it, and then I made it better. A mac could never fill that need.

Any mega corporation such as microsoft or intel is rarely a good thing, competition is something that pushes both parties harder to drop prices and raise the bar. If Apple were the dominant player in the tech world I'm sure we'd all be trying to figure out how to install windows on our macs praising the genious of bill gates and cursing the evil that is apple.

#12
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If Apple were the dominant player in the tech world I'm sure we'd all be trying to figure out how to install windows on our macs praising the genious of bill gates and cursing the evil that is apple.


Apple is the dominant player in the mp3 player/mp3 legal download market (more than 70% market share I think) -- but I don't hear anyone cursing the iPod as evil (at least not yet :( ). So why would you think that Apple would be considered "evil" if it ever dominated the PC market?

Besides, in your alternate universe people would be trying to figure out how to install Linux on their Macs. Windows would be those glass things in homes so you could see outside. :D

#13
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I love buying products that have a sticker with the words "No user servicable parts inside" - i wouldn't mind having it engraved on my MBP when it arrives! It makes a change owning something that i can't disasemble, upgrade or generally modify - its like i have no responsibility to keep it functioning.

I also have to ashamedly admit to fotpunks observation that i like the feeling exclusivity of owning a mac. Sorry if that makes me a snob - but i'm sure everyone else feels it too, even of they won't admit to it. :)

#14
Dippyskoodlez

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I love buying products that have a sticker with the words "No user servicable parts inside" - i wouldn't mind having it engraved on my MBP when it arrives! It makes a change owning something that i can't disasemble, upgrade or generally modify - its like i have no responsibility to keep it functioning.

I also have to ashamedly admit to fotpunks observation that i like the feeling exclusivity of owning a mac. Sorry if that makes me a snob - but i'm sure everyone else feels it too, even of they won't admit to it. :)


Although most things with that label often have the most fun servicable parts... :)

#15
Metrogirl

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Although most things with that label often have the most fun servicable parts... :graduated:


Absolutely! That sticker usually lies, either because they don't want you to see how crappy the works are, or they are terrified someone will break a fingernail opening the case and sue them as a result. Or stuff their fingers inside a 25kV PSU and fry themselves. Sometimes local legislation requires stuff to be sealed but if you buy it in another country you can get in and fiddle with it. For example jumpers which change frequencies, video standards etc. In the US, various laws force the manufacturers to seal anything potentially dangerous or which might cause interference if you modified it. The Europeans are a bit more robust about that sort of thing.

Several years ago I bought the cheaper of two models of washing machine, the only difference being a lower spin speed. Guess what I found on the motor controller board? Yes, a jumper which allowed you to set the higher spin speed. (A friend said they might use cheaper bearings so it would wear out quicker, but that never happened). Ergo - "No user serviceable parts inside" is a sure-fire way to get me to take something apart...

#16
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I agree, but the impetus was lost a long time ago. Now a Mac isn't really much more expensive than a quality branded PC with the same specification e.g. Sony, IBM (Lenovo), Toshiba. They'd have a tough time cutting their costs much now because the component cost is more or less fixed.

I like the packaging - you feel you're buying something really worthwhile when you get that shiny box, artistic inserts and the like. Compared to my $2,000 Sony laptop which came in a brown cardboard box with a couple of labels stuck on the outside - I felt sort of cheated by that even though the box is unimportant, really. But I confess that this might be a gender-specific thing - I wonder if more female users gravitate to Apple because of the undeniable attractiveness of the whole experience?

One more point - to the professional user or company the cost isn't really an obstacle. It's only a factor when a private individual has to cough up the readies to buy it. Like the Roland cable I recently bought to connect two pieces of musical gear I have - $40 for a length of cable with a weird 13-pin plug on each end. I needed it so I had no option, but it really hurt to shell out for that. If I could have bought the plugs, I'd have got a soldering iron out... A professional musician wouldn't think twice about spending that, and a repro house won't think twice about $5,000+ for a Mac desktop with screen.

I saved my box and I don't recall ever doing that before.

#17
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:D Which is why everyone here is enjoying the beauty of OSX on generic, affordable hardware! :censored2: And the previous points are spot-on - Apple really missed a trick! And I have a feeling that this is a Pandora's box that Apple will never be able to close. :D

I don't think they will be hurt from this, like this powerbook seems like the Mercedes Benz of laptops, I think about the same number or more will continue to buy Macs initially, and their software sales will go way up due to more exposure and cross platform. Later there will be a much greater number of people having been using Mac OS when they arrive at a stage where they can afford a Mac. Some will still just choose the PC's but maybe more will have grown to like or be familiar with Apple than if this change had not occurred.





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