I’ve been considering upgrading my machine recently, as a ‘frequent’ computer user, I probably spend a good proportion of my life staring beyond the screen into the OS and doing what I sometimes consider to be .. ‘work’.

After switching a few years back from Windows machines I’m pretty much locked into the Apple brand now, with expensive software that would need replacing should I jump ship. That’s not really a problem, I’m happy overall with the machines I’ve had over the last few years, but face a really tough dilemma when looking at replacements.

So I’m looking for a laptop, Apple has quite a wide range.. what is my budget.. well, I suppose it’s flexible, if I’m going to use this as a main machine for 2-3 years, hopefully more since I’ll still have a big desktop, then the cost becomes reasonably irrelevant.

So how do I decide? After ‘reading’ the audiobook “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely, which I found very interesting (I suppose I should thank the guys on the TWiT podcast for the recommendation) something dawned on me. In a very interesting section about directing customers to a particular product, it seemed to me that Apple has cleverly done that throughout the range. Clever pricing leaves you so lost that you’re willing to climb the ladder right to the top, or so it seems.

In the book, the example is ..

a company making bread machines launches a product and starts to sell it at an electronics store. Sales are bad.. so they hire a marketing expert to sort it out. They are advised to create a premium version of the product at a higher price point to put alongside the original, which they do. Sales increase..

This is an example of giving the customer a frame of reference with which to make a purchasing decision. The customer correctly bought the cheaper one, and it became a successful product, one that people had lived quite happily without.

On to the Apple laptop lineup. The prices in GBP are as follows:

Price Short Description
£719 Regular White Macbook
£929 Regular 2.0GHz 13″ Aluminium Macbook
£1,125 2.4GHz, bigger Hard Drive, Illuminated keyboard Aluminium Macbook
£1,223 As above with RAM upgrade from 2-4GB
£1,271

Macbook Air – slightly different target audience

— dedicated graphics + better quality screen —

£1,369 Basic 2.4GHz 15″ MacBook Pro 2GB RAM
£1,467 As above with RAM upgrade from 2-4GB
£1,712 2.53GHz with more graphics memory and 4GB
£1,918 As above with 2.8GHz processor
£1,949 2.66GHz 17″ High Res screen
£2,159 As above with 2.93GHz processor

Ok.. so what does that say to us (apart from the fact that I’m obviously obsessed enough to write an Apple price comparison blog post). What I find really interesting is that at every step there’s a small price jump of around £100, and a very appealing reason to go to the next one. Ignoring the very top and very bottom, the White macbook at £719 is aimed at students and entry level, and the top top one seems aimed at the professional with no limit to budget. The extra £210 in price doesn’t really affect the performance significantly unless you’re running something processor heavy, in which case maybe it would be justified.

So, which do you buy? Budgets are flexible, as I mentioned, this is quite an investment considering a normal PC laptop will probably set you back £500 upwards, but there’s cheaper if you want, and obviously more expensive.. I think that all options are viable and as such none jumps out as “the one for me”. The fact that I’d consider climbing all the way to the 17″ at £1,949, when I could also fairly happily go for the lowest in the group at £929 I find amazing. How could I be so drawn to something double the price with really not significantly more functionality? Sure it might be faster, with a bigger screen with brighter colours, but for £1,000 I could do alot.. a holiday perhaps?

It would be very interesting to see who bought what, am I the only person who feels completely lost with a terrible .. “want all want none” kind of attitude. Has the marketing backfired into confusion for the consumer, or are people happily going into the shop, seeing the size they like and ignoring the price and the specifications. It’s a tradition among geeks to know and care about all of the details to the point that you’ll never make a decision. Also in the book cited above is a story of a friend of the authors who was looking for a digital camera. He spent months deciding on the minor specifications between two that he was interested in, looking online for prices and reviews, and when he eventually got one he realized he’d missed the chance to use it for one of his children’s birthdays, a family holiday etc.. all for the details.

The same goes for most technology, which has become something of a fetish object, something to obsess over. We are not immune to marketing and clever pricing, but in some cases we should place less emphasis on the actual item we buy and more on the ability of the item to do the job which we require of it.

 

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