It’s a Love Hate thing a.k.a. The Apple Tax

Back in the day, I was a PC guy with some UNIX history.  I made fun of Mac users with their non-multi-threaded OS and silly smiley faces.  Then came OSX.  Having seen the NEXT boxes that they were vaguely descended from, I was at least preliminarily intrigued.

Fast forward a bit to my first G4.  I was working on a Apple-related product at the time, and we needed some test machines.  That box was a thing of beauty, as soon as I added a 2-button mouse.  Sturdy construction, easy access to the insides to add new drives, and solid as a rock.

For various reasons (don’t ask) I needed to zip up thousands of files.  When batching the process on a PC running XP, I could get through a few hundred files before the machine became unstable.  On the Mac, with a quick bit of Applescript, I could run ALL the files in one pass.  Nice.

I added a Mac Mini a year or so later for some other projects.  Nice little box.  I also bought an early generation iPod, which was awesome.

Most recently I bought a MacBook running Parallels and Windows XP right alongside OSX.  It’s a great little laptop.  It bugs me that the built in mouse only has one button, but I’ll get over it.  Built in Wireless N, Bluetooth, 100Base-T, decent drive etc etc.  And already demonstrably more reliable than the Sony laptop I owned previously.

Apple do a lot of things right.  Great design.  Good branding.  Solid products (mostly) and decent support.

But here’s my beef with Apple.  If you sign up for Apple gear, you are irrevocably committed to paying Apple Tax.  I don’t mean the price delta on their hardware — it’s really not that different to an equivalent quality PC at this point.  What I mean is the stupid BS they pull that is UTTERLY irrelevant to the design, form or function of the equipment.

Some examples:

1)  My Macbook has the truly fantastic mag-lock powersupply.  For the unfamiliar, it means that the power cord connects to the laptop via a magnetic connector.  If the cord gets stuck, tripped over, pulled or otherwise messed with the cable comes unplugged without harming the laptop.  I’ve seen multiple laptops killed by power cable incidents, my own included. The other fantastically cool thing about the power supply is that you can pop off the two pin plug and replace it with a longer grey power cable, doubling the length of the power cord.  Coooooool.

But a couple of days ago, user error lead to one of the pins on the grey power cord being broken off.
  Now this is basically a standard power cord, but one end has a proprietary Apple connector.  I stopped at the Apple store to buy a replacement.  They DO NOT SELL that part.  If you need a new cable, you have to buy A WHOLE NEW POWERSUPPLY for $79!  Everything else works fine — I just need the one cord, but now I have to buy a whole damn powersupply.  Being cheap, I’ll sacrifice form for function and just cut the plug off the cable and replace it…

2)  The MacBook has a Mini-DVI socket for video out.  For whatever reason, adding a full size video socket couldn’t happen.  So I get to buy a wacky little cable just to get video out on my laptop.  My other Macs have regular DVI out, and come with a DVI to VGA converter that’s basically an inline chunk of plastic.  So I figured I could just buy a MiniDVI to DVI cable  and use my existing DVI to VGA converter to make sure I could plug in to a VGA setup.  NO.  Apple tweaked the DVI out on their regular Macs so that it’s almost but not quite a regular DVI socket.  The only item impacted is THE CONVERTER.  Can’t use the converter with the MiniDVI cable, even though everything is an Apple product.   So I had to buy TWO separate converters, MiniDVI to DVI and MiniDVI to VGA.  $20 EACH.

3)  My iPod battery died.  I don’t even recall how ridiculous the replacement cost was.  Not to mention that it has to be sent away for a week or so.

There are MANY other examples of Apple doing this — 2 year AT&T contract and a send-away battery replacement on the iPhone for example.  If I were being picky, I’d add the fact that I always need to buy a two button mouse too.

But the Apple Tax is a feature they just don’t seem to be able to let go of.  They act like some kind of desperate huckster always fishing for an extra buck.

This may seem like griping (it is), but I don’t get it.  For me, it tarnishes an otherwise great experience.

Look at the math:  I paid $1300 for my MacBook.  The powersupply and video cables represent an Apple Tax of about 10% on the purchase.  The iPod Apple Tax is more like 20%.

Why do they do this?   I’m fine with paying a modest premium to hang with the cool kid on the block, but the nefarious Apple Tax needs to stop.

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