I have this conversation all the time. Clients, friends, and neighbors invariably claim to understand the merits — including approachability, reliability, fit and finish, performance, and security — of Macs. Even diehard Windows aficionados admit application incompatibilities are now largely eliminated thanks to cloud computing's popularity. Cost remains the holdouts' sole argument.
But is a MacBook Pro really more expensive than a comparable Windows system? While debating the cost differential between a standard Mac and business-class Windows laptop at lunch one day with a Windows holdout, I promised to explore the question. Here's what I found.
The Intel Core i5-powered 13.3" MacBook Pro Apple possesses 4 GB RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, integrated Bluetooth, a webcam, an SDXC card reader, a backlit keyboard, and a DVD burner standard. The cost on Friday, September 27th, 2013, was $1,199 (USD). And most everyone knows you typically receive a 5% discount if you establish a business account, but let's pretend you don't know that and you pay full price. Considering OS X includes Mail, Contacts and Calendar, plus iPhoto and iMovie, $1,199 is a competitive price.
But just how competitive is it?
Consider Dell's Latitude E6330, a corporate workhorse 13.3" laptop. While Dell touts a low E6630 price on its web site, customizing the laptop to match the MacBook Pro and include a backlit keyboard, DVD burner, Intel Core i5, 4 GB RAM, integrated Bluetooth, and a webcam results in the Latitude costing $1,166.30 (USD), after $499.84 (USD) in promotional business pricing discounts.
In other words, the Dell computer is only $32 (USD) cheaper.
But wait. We haven't calculated the costs for office productivity tools. And remember, OS X already includes Mail, Contacts and Calendar, and personal information management tools fully capable of replacing Microsoft Outlook. OS X also includes iPhoto and iMovie, tools that small businesses frequently use to complete basic marketing and social media campaigning tasks.
So, to the Dell computer's cost, we need to add a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 for $219.99 (USD) and a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements bundled with Adobe Premier Elements for $149 (USD). Now, we're looking at a Dell that really costs $1,535.29 (USD).
To be fair, we also need to add the cost for Apple office productivity tools to the MacBook Pro's price. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are each $19.99 (USD) from the Apple App store, bringing the MacBook Pro's total cost to $1,258.97 (USD).
Thus, comparing a business-class Apple MacBook Pro with office productivity tools, a photo-editing app, and a video-editing tool to a comparable Dell Latitude with similar Office productivity tools and audio- and video-editing programs results in a cost savings of $276.32 (USD) when purchasing a Mac.
Have you experienced different pricing than what I discovered? If so, please share your findings in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.