Apple Specialists Shrug At Ballmer Trash Talk

Last week at McGraw-Hill Companies' 2009 Media Summit, Ballmer responded to a question about Apple's recent PC market share gains by citing recent NPD Group data that shows that Mac sales are, in fact, actually slowing.

Ballmer also suggested that the deteriorating economy is making consumers think twice about buying Macs. "The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be," Ballmer said at the event.

Ballmer, naturally, has never been one to shy away from making controversial statements, but these ones have been effective in stoking the old debate over the cost of Macs versus PCs.

John Strikwerda, retail manager at Carbon Computing, a Kitchener, Ontario-based Apple reseller, says Macs have plenty of features under the hood to justify the added expense, with security being chief among them. "The Mac is more than just hardware, software, and the applications that come with it -- it's also a platform that's virtually virus free, in contrast to the hundreds of thousands of known PC viruses. That's why people are willing to spend more on Macs," Strikwerda said.

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John Eaton, president of Eaton & Associates, a San Francisco-based solution provider, says his PC and Mac sales are down about the same amount, and the economy doesn't appear to be influencing people to change platforms. "That sounds to me like wishful thinking" on Ballmer's part, said Eaton.

Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore-based Apple specialist, has many customers in broadcasting and post-production, and Macs actually represent a cheaper option to PCs in these industry segments, according to senior account executive Nick Gold.

"In this world, Macs running Final Cut Studio, and attached to Xsan Storage Area Networks, are actually a significantly cheaper option than those offered by the likes of Avid or Grass Valley," said Gold. "Economic pressures and shrinking budgets actually push more customers to the Mac platform in this market sphere."

The fact that Microsoft is still talking about PCs being cheaper than Macs is a telling sign of a business model in need of an overhaul, says Erick Laabs, vice president of The Mac Store, a Portland, Ore.-based Apple reseller.

"When your business model is to be the cheapest thing out there, you eventually pay the price when it comes to service, warranty, and eventually profits," he said.