Microsoft this week displayed a stark contrast in their marketing strategy versus Apple. With great fanfare Microsoft announced their new tablet computer called the Surface. CNET described it as an “attempted market freeze” (See Microsoft attempts market freeze with Surface preview). The reason for the CNET commentary is that the Surface was announced with fanfare, but lack of details including when it will ship, how much it will cost, and what types of connectivity will be enabled and what they will cost. Selected reporters were allowed to touch the Surface but no detailed product reviews have been published. The likely goal of the Microsoft announcement is to cause enterprise tablet buyers to stop buying Apple iPads and wait for the Microsoft Surface. The Surface will likely appeal to enterprise CIOs who like Windows and the enhanced control they can have over what company-connected devices can do. Contrast the marketing strategy with Apple’s announcement of the new MacBook Pro with Retina display. The new product was announced on June 11. On June 18th, the Fedex truck pulled up to my house and delivered the MacBook.
I could not wait to get my hands on the new MacBook and my initial impressions have justified the anticipation. The new product meets all the claims made by Apple (See Apple – MacBook Pro Family – It’s never been more powerful). The short version of my review is that the new MacBook Pro is thinner, faster, lighter, and retinal. The engineering is brilliant and the performance is dazzling. With no moving parts, 16 gigabytes of memory, and fast solid-state storage, the laptop is a joy to use. Like all Apple products, you take it out of the beautiful packaging, turn it on, and in minutes, if not seconds, you are enjoying the product. Since I had the previous MacBook Pro, I started the Migration Assistant on both MacBooks and moved all my applications and settings from old to new. The next step was to start Dropbox on the new machine. It immediately began to replicate 50 folders containing tens of thousands of files from dropbox.com to the new Mac. Next, I started Evernote and it immediately synced more than 100 clippings from 20 Evernote notebooks. It wasn’t long, and the only difference was the enhanced performance.
The engineering, beauty, and performance do not come cheap. Amazon offers an Acer Aspire 15.6-Inch Laptop for $361.05 with free shipping (if you are a Prime member). The MacBook Pro starts at $2,199. Mine was closer to $3K. Over the years I have found that buying the maximum memory and storage pays off when it comes time to make the next acquisition. You don’t get it all back, but you get a noticeable premium. With the last several iPhone and iPad upgrades, I have found that Gazelle.com offered the best price with the least hassle. In the case of the MacBook Pro this was not the case. The day the new MacBook was announced, I signed it to my account at Gazelle and offered up my machine. I was offered $723 for it — plus an extra 5% if you take the money as an Amazon credit (good deal if you are a regular Amazon customer). I had paid $2,200 for the MacBook in August 2010. Gazelle gives you thirty days, with no obligation, to ship them your product, so I headed to eBay to see if I could do better then their offer. The initial eBay listing was not drawing bids, so after five days, I stopped the auction, refined my value proposition, and re-listed. Thanks to some questions from interested buyers, I was able to further refine the listing to highlight that the MacBook was still under warranty, had the maximum memory and the anti-glare screen. The bidding ended with a price of $1,100, so the eBay strategy was the right one. I went back to Gazelle and withdrew to let them know I would not need their offer.
The significance here is that in less than two years, the MacBook Pro declined in value by more than half. A new Acer for $400 after two years would likely have zero value. Apple is able to create (and destroy) a lot of value. They happily innovate and obsolete their products. Users of their products are happy whether they have the latest or the oldest. Loyalty to the Apple products is extraordinary. At the other end of the extreme, I have two used Mac Minis that I bought on eBay for $100 each. I use them for home automation. They sit in a cabinet, make no noise, use little electricity, and run Indigo home automation software; controlling lights, switches, thermostats, garage doors, water sensors, and water valves. Not very glamorous, but very effective and valuable. I continue to justify my technology spending by the fact that I don’t play golf.