Second, because Apple’s products live at the premium end of the product spectrum, regardless of what said product may be. This week I stopped into Best Buy and saw some Chromebooks for $199, and a couple of Windows notebooks for just over $300. What’s going on?
How Cheap Is Cheap?
Let me start off by answering my own question in the title. Actually, there are two answers to the question, yet both are ‘no.’
First, we all know that if a headline ends in a question mark then the answer is usually ‘no.’ That’s the case here.
Second, we all know that in the post-PC era or the mobile era that traditional PCs are now cheaper than dirt (or so it seems).
Finally, we know that Apple prefers to play in Premiumland and their products reflect a certain build quality you won’t typically find in Windows PCs or even Google Chromebook PCs.
My current MacBook is going on five or six years old (I lose count; it just works) and I’m holding out for a new 12-inch MacBook Air with Retina display. It may never come but I’d prefer waiting than stooping down to buy a lump of plastic that won’t actually do much more than email and browse the web.
Besides, I’m not too keen on giving Google any more personal data than absolutely required to maintain a digital existence.
So, back to the question. Will ultra cheap notebooks kill the Mac? No. Why not? After all, there’s a huge difference between $200 or $300 and Apple’s diminutive MacBook Air model which starts at $899. How can Apple get away with that kind of price?
What You Get For $199
Not to belabor the issue, but the answer to the subtitle is ‘not much.’ I read James Kendrick’s article on his six month life with a $199 Google Chromebook. He calls it a ‘good value’ and it probably is if you love Google’s free apps, don’t mind Google absconding with your personal information, and you don’t need to do anything, you know, like ‘real’ work on the notebook.
Kendrick says he wishes it was thinner and lighter and more powerful. The questions I have to ask are basic. What can you do with a Chromebook? It looks mostly like a browser to me, and that means email, and, well, browsing. Another question has to do with support and service. At $199 nobody is making much money (except maybe Google by following your every move and selling the data for a profit), so who do you turn to for the inevitable problems?
Kendrick doesn’t explain how he uses the Chromebook, either. There’s very little my five-or-six year old MacBook cannot do. It still runs OS X Mavericks and it’s qualified to run OS X Yosemite. And it has Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and dozens of utility apps that put to shame anything you can do inside the Chrome browser.
Cheap is one thing. Value is something else. And maybe the Chromebooks are valuable to some subset of the average PC user, but Mac sales do not seem to have been affected by the rush to the bottom of the food chain.