"A PC is no bargain when it doesn't do what you want," Apple spokesman Bill Evans told BusinessWeek journalist Arik Hesseldahl, who writes BW's Byte of the Apple column. "The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price."
It's not much of a comment, but it's a rare event for Apple to issue any sort of formal statement on anything having to do with a competitor. For those of us who try to figure out what's going on inside Apple from the iPod-slim body of information that leaks outside Apple, it's impossible not to wonder if Microsoft's latest ad campaign attacking Apple's pricing hasn't stung the maker of the world's inarguably prettiest computers.
Hesseldahl's column lists all the features missing from the US$699 Hewlett-Packard laptop that a young lady chooses over a $2,799 MacBook Pro, the only Apple model with a 17-inch screen. The Microsoft ad focuses on the lack of a cheaper 17-incher in Apple's lineup.
Hesseldahl claims the H-P falls short of the MacBook on important hardware specs:
* Display resolution. Not all 17-inch displays are equal. The $2,800 MacBook has a high-quality 1920 x 1440 display, compared to the not-so-awesome 1440 x 900 screen on the H-P
* Battery life. A major cost inside the MacBook pro is its battery, which Apple claims will last eight hours instead of the H-P's two and a half hours.
* Weight. The MacBook is 15 percent lighter -- 6.6 pounds instead of 7.8. (Hesseldahl could have also mentioned the MacBook's much nicer aluminum casing and slimmer profile.)
Hesseldahl also lists these potential hidden software and maintenance costs for buyers of the $699 Windows machine:
* Security software. $50 per year for Symantec's PC software. Unnecessary on a MacBook, for lack of viruses and other malware.
* iLife. To add similar features to the software bundled with the H-P computer in the ad, Hesseldahl totaled $340 in extra titles.
* Repairs. Best Buy's Geek Squad will charge $129 just to diagnose a PC problem. Apple's Genius Bar staff will diagnose for free.
He concludes that the fair comparison isn't $2,800 versus $700, but $2,800 versus $1,500.
Still, the basic recession-pricing pitch of Microsoft's ads is hard to dismiss: PC makers are willing to cut corners to make low-priced models. Apple won't do it.
So if budget is your ultimate issue, you may be willing to accept a few tradeoffs -- shorter battery life, fewer pixels, missing software you may not have used anyway -- to save a thousand dollars.
Once you start down that path of reasoning, it's worth going all the way: Maybe you can get by on a $300 netbook and free Web-based applications like Gmail, Google Docs and Photoshop Express. That might, in this economy, be the coolest solution of all.
This story, "Apple Breaks Silence, Responds to 'I'm a PC' Ads" was originally published by thestandard.com.