On the Apple Tax

Jean-Louis Gassée wrote an interesting article on Monday Note titled Steve: Who’s Going to Protect Us From Cheap and Mediocre Now? It’s an interesting exploration, among other things, of Apple’s relentless pursuit of quality and the numerous cheap knock-offs that tend to hit the marketplace shortly after the release of an Apple product.

Remember all those computers and printers copying the translucent blue plastic Apple used in the original Bondi Blue iMac?

I remember owning an Epson printer that used a similar blue. They even used the “i” calling it the Epson Stylus Color 740i. It was a good quality printer as Epson products are, but that translucent blue plastic just made it look cheap.

Back then, Apple products were more expensive than their equivalent1 from other manufacturers. People used to call it the “Apple Tax”. I was always into photography, graphic design, desktop publishing, and video, so from my perspective, once a non-Apple computer was spec’d out to be comparable that Apple Tax seemed to go away.

However, what I found extraordinary from reading Mr. Gassée’s post is when he went on to compare a Sony Vaio that’ intended to compete directly with the MacBook Air. Here’s how he put it:

A nice MacBook Air competitor starting at $1969. The real thing starts at $1299. Quite a reversal of the old world order and, I hope, a source of satisfaction for Jobs.

A similar story is happening with tablets. The iPad price is so aggressive that competitors are struggling to match it with a truly comparable device.

It’s amazing that so many people still think the Apple Tax exists.


  1. Equivalent is subjective of course. Funny that most Apple users didn’t consider other computers as equivalent (not even in the ballpark), while most non-Apple users considered these the same or even “better” than a Mac. ?