Apple-Microsoft Battle Simmering Like A Volcano

PCs offer better value for price

However, Microsoft's Laptop Hunters advertising campaign has, in the eyes of many industry watchers, been far more effective than previous Crispin Porter + Bogusky spots, and it looks like Apple is starting to realize that Microsoft is scoring points here.

In an interview earlier this week with Businessweek, Apple spokesman Bill Evans kicked a bit of sand Microsoft's way over its recent efforts to focus on the price advantage that PCs have over Macs.

"A PC is no bargain when it doesn't do what you want," Evans told Businessweek. "The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price."

Apple's response underscores the same arrogant attitude it has had for years with regard to PCs, and Apple's claims don't withstand basic scrutiny, says Bob Nitrio, president of system builder Ranvest Associates, an Orangevale, Calif.-based solution provider.

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"I challenge Apple to enumerate exactly what a PC can't do. Statements like this just don't fly in the business world," said Nitrio. "The reality is that there are far more applications available for PCs than for Macs, so this is a completely erroneous and misleading statement.

"It's far more likely that you will encounter situations where a Mac is unable to run certain software that runs quite well on a PC," added Nitrio.

Apple's hardware and software solution is more expensive up front, but the Mac platform requires less maintenance costs over time for residential users, says Travis Fisher, executive vice president at Inacom Information Systems, a Salisbury, Md.-based solution provider. "There is little to no malware to clean up and things tend to work perfectly right out of the box, so less professional help is needed," he said.

In businesses, though, Microsoft solutions generally offer a lower total cost of ownership, adds Fisher. "Between purchase, deployment, integration, breadth of solutions in the ecosystem and available support options, you're going to derive a lot more value out of a Microsoft-based PC and network," he said.

Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft Gold partner who uses Macs regularly in the course of doing business, sees the debate as increasingly ironic given that virtualization and other technological advancements have brought the PC and Mac platforms closer than they've ever been.

"There are some cases where Microsoft is the best solution, and some where Apple is the best. But there are also many situations in which a hybrid of both is most appropriate," Sobel said. "An example would be a solution that includes a Macbook with VMware Fusion, and Windows talking to an Exchange server."

Sobel expects the back-and-forth between Microsoft and Apple to continue to intensify as each side finds new ways to disparage the other. In fact, he's hoping for it to play out this way.

"This debate is fun, but the reality is really more in the middle," Sobel said. "But I like that Microsoft and Apple are going at each other like this, because it gets customers talking and asking questions, and that's good for business."