Hidden Costs of What Now?

James Maguire has written an article for the NewsFactor Network entitled, “Hidden Costs of Mac Ownership.” His premise seems to be that Mac users often cite lower total cost of ownership as a benefit to using Macs, but that they are wrong. Here are some of his points, and my responses.

Attaining full compatibility at the office can be pricey. “Apple’s got some basic software included on most Macs for word processing and e-mail, but if you really need compatibility with Microsoft Office, you’ll need to spend the money for Microsoft Office,” Macworld editor Jason Snell told NewsFactor.

Apparently I didn’t get the memo informing everyone that Microsoft Office is now bundled with all Windows PCs. The last I heard, Office was still a separate purchase, or at least an expensive add-on. Unless he’s talking about NotePad, or its beefy big brother WordPad. All consumer-oriented Macs, however, come with AppleWorks, which in my experience does a passable job at opening and saving Microsoft Word documents (I do this frequently, whenever I already have AppleWorks running and I don’t feel like launching Word).

Virtually every Mac user can recall offers that are Windows only. For example, the local office supply store may carry network hubs that are Windows only.

I wouldn’t give you two cents for a network hub that claimed to work only with Windows, because that would be a pretty clear indication that the hub in question isn’t adhering to any sort of proper networking standard. Packets are packets and bits are bits.

Microsoft, perhaps unintentionally, created a new cost for the Apple faithful by discontinuing development of the Internet Explorer browser for the Mac. Mac users can use existing versions, but as Internet technology advances, Apple’s Safari browser will be compelled to follow IE’s lead.

Interestingly, when Microsoft announced its intention to discontinue Internet Explorer for the Mac, Safari was mentioned several times, almost as though Safari was to carry some sort of “blame” for the death of Mac IE, despite that fact that Mac IE had not seen a significant upgrade in three years.

Apple’s minority status creates yet another cost for its users: Support is harder to find and is often more costly.

And, let us not forget, quite often much less necessary.

“There are more Windows technicians around. Therefore, the cost of those technicians isn’t so high, compared to the rare Apple technicians,” IDC analyst Roger Kay told NewsFactor. On the other hand, “an apple technician may cost twice as much, but he comes to see you half as often.”

Because you only need him half as often! I support hundreds of Mac and PCs for a living. I can tell which ones need more maintenance, and their initials are P.C.

The only conceivable hidden cost, Snell noted, would be that “there are fewer Mac programs than PC programs, and so sometimes you might end up having fewer options, which could potentially force you to buy a more expensive package.” However, he noted that this rationale is something of a stretch.

Which kind of makes you wonder why he brought it up in the first place, doesn’t it?

Still, while many of the applications are cost equivalent, Apple users who want to stay current with the latest Mac operating system release have needed to pay $129 on a regular basis. When Apple released version 10.1, 10.2 and 10.3, each one of the releases cost $129.

First, 10.1 was a free upgrade. It was given away to anyone who could prove ownership of 10.0. Secondly, none of these updates was mandatory, and I know plenty of people (many at my school) who are still running 10.1 quite happily, blissfully unaware of what they are missing.

If Mac software can be expensive, or if tech help is costly, Mac users do not seem swayed from their affection, Meta Group analyst Steve Kleynhans told NewsFactor. “The Mac has its following, and its following has learned to deal with its foibles.”

Foibles. Unlike that paragon of stability and consistency we call Windows.

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