Microsoft’s sponsored “Apple Tax” paper by Roger Kay is a joke

Sun, Apr 12, 2009

Analysis, News

There are certain benefits inherent in running a blog completely independent of any corporate sponsorship/involvement, chief among them the freedom to call things the way you see them, without the fear of any repercussions from “The Man”.  This freedom sure comes in handy in light of a recent “study” sponsored by Microsoft which attempts to put a quantitative figure behind the supposed “Apple Tax”.

The study in question is called “What Price Cool”, and is written by Roger L. Kay of Endpoint Technologies.  The study purports to show that owning a Mac is inherently more expensive over the course of a few years, to the tune of $3,367.


That’s quite a bit of change, but before we delve into Kay’s “analysis”, perhaps a quick primer on who Roger Kay is would be prudent.  After all, a study is typically only as good as the source delivering it.  So let’s take a look, shall we?

Who is Roger Kay?

To be fair, I never heard of Roger Kay until recently, but he’s apparently “one of the computer industry’s best-known market intelligence analysts.”  Or at least he claims himself to be on his own website.  And speaking of websites, his seems to have been designed in 1995.  Literally.  I’m not quite sure what’s up with the design, but am I wrong to expect a leading computer industry analyst to have a somewhat presentable website?  Maybe the site is somehow involved with the Dharma initiative on LOST and is stuck in the past?

Hey, maybe I’m being too hard on the guy – I shouldn’t automatically assume that a company with the word “Technologies” in it should actually have some sort of experience with, oh I don’t know, knowing how to implement them on a website.

Moving along to some of Kay’s past writings, when Steve Jobs decided to take a medical leave of absence earlier this year, it didn’t take Roger Kay a day before he came out and boldly predicted that not only would Steve Jobs not be returning to Apple, but that Jobs was also suffering from a recurrent bout of Cancer.  And did he base his conclusion on any sort of medical information?  Of course not!  Who needs a medical background when you have pictures!

My bet is he’s not coming back.  Despite all the protestations, I think he has cancer. They talk about digestive this and digestive that, but … forget all the buzz you’re hearing. Just look at the photos.

And barely a year ago, Kay wrote that the iPhone was fast becoming a target for malicious hackers, and that the iPhone would inevitably be hampered by viruses. His evidence?  That users were jailbreaking the iPhone.

In that same article, Kay also chastised Apple for taking a “large” 30% cut from all iPhone App sales.  Shouldn’t a veteran industry analyst like Kay have known that a 70% cut of every sale (for developers) was significantly higher than what developers had been receiving prior to the arrival of the iTunes App Store?

Looking at Roger Kay’s Report and his obsession with “Cool”

Alright, time to take a look at Kay’s actual report.

One paragraph in, Kay already starts harping on this so called idea that Mac users are trying to be cool.

Apple’s positioning has often been justified by an elegant user experience and a branding that attempts to associate the user with a “cool” in-group.

When discussing why Windows was able to achieve a 98% marketshare in the 90’s, Kay points the finger at Apple’s premium pricing, a strategy he argues also contributes to the feeling of “coolness” Mac users apparently carry themselves with.

Apple’s premium pricing strategy actually enhanced the products’ appeal (for a select few).  As in, only I can afford this fancy stuff.

Kay then goes on to conduct a few spec comparisons between Apple laptops and desktops, and their PC counterparts.  He finds that for less money, PC’s come with better specs.  So why do users decide to pay extra cash for Macs?  Why, to be cool of course!  Surely it has nothing to do with the OS or the general computing experience which is scantly mentioned throughout the 11 page report.

Kay goes off the deep end with purposefully misleading data

Macs have always been more expensive, so that’s not really news to anybody.  But where Kay really veers off into uncharted and idiotic waters is when he looks at the costs of Mac v. PC ownership from the viewpoint of a hypothetical family of 4 named the “Bancrofts”.  According to Kay’s calculations, over the course of 5 years, the “Bancroft” family would pay $3,367 more with Macs than they would with PCs.

Damn, that’s quite a pretty penny.  But how did Kay reach that number?

One of the more glaring problems with Kay’s chart is that Mac ownership for some reason results in hundreds of dollars worth of software purchases, while PC ownership merits none.  Why the discrepancy?

For example, if the Bancrofts purchase Macs, Kay notes that they’ll pay $70 for Quicken software, but will apparently have no need for it if they purchase a PC.  Also, purchasing Macs would somehow necessitate a $99 iLife upgrade for the family, yet there is no inclusion on the PC end of the cost required to purchase apps that would rival the functionality of the iLife suite that comes standard on all Macs in the first place.  Also, Kay factors in a needlessly more expensive wireless solution for Mac ownership compared to PC ownership.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s overtly clear that in coming up with his chart, Kay willfully looked at Mac ownership from the most expensive vantage point, while looking at PC ownership from the cheapest.  I suppose that’s to be expected since Microsoft is sponsoring the study, but you have to call Kay out this bullshit since this “study” is expected to be taken as an honest and helpful comparison between PC’s and Macs.

Another example of Kay purposefully flubbing his numbers is that he includes a $150 charge every year for 5 years for MobileMe services – purportedly for backing up purposes.  Never mind the fact that Mac users can use free tools and software to attain that same level of functionality.

Basically, Kay is full of shit, and it’s sort of pathetic that this is what Microsoft has resorted to in order to somehow make PC’s more appealing.  Fortune notes:

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. After all, Microsoft paid Kay to write this paper and it’s unlikely to have released anything it disagreed with.

Kay, for his part, is hardly a disinterested observer. He’s been consulting for Microsoft since 2006, offering among other services, according to his webpage, “message tuning, spin management, press release support [and] high quality writing.”

Wow.  This guy sounds like an Enderle clone.

Apparently this Roger fellow also had some not so nice words for Mac users who found fault in his study, calling them “brownshirts.”  I suppose it’s unfthaomable that his study actually might contain (gasp!) faulty logic and purposefully misleading data.

But I can’t hate him, because I want his job!

For some reason, the mid 90’s saw a huge upswing in self-proclaimed tech experts who were self described “industry analysts”.  Kay seems to be one of them.  Microsoft paid him to concoct a ridiculous report riddled with errors, and if you think I’m mad, you’re dead wrong.  I’m not mad at all.  I’m jealous!  For you see, I’d love if a huge corporation paid me tons of money to come up with a report to support a pre-determined conclusion.  It’d be easy work, and essentially money for nothing.

Damn you Roger Kay, you lucky son-of-a-bitch!

For a bit of a laugh, check out this Roger Kay tax calculator.

You can download Kay’s full report over here.

Macworld has some interesting commentary on the study here and here.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. anonymous Says:

    The “paper” is a regurgitation of a series of e-mails sent by Microsoft’s PR firm to various tech journalists last October before Apple’s notebooks event.

    October 15, 2008: « A Monday evening e-mail from Microsoft’s outside PR firm titled “Why You’ll Find Better Value in Windows PCs than Macs” aimed to deflate anticipation that Apple might unveil a cheap-by-Apple-standards $800 laptop.

    Microsoft laid out its talking points — among them that Windows PCs come with more power and features for lower prices, while Macs are even pricer than they look because they don’t come with enough software.

    In true political style, Microsoft trotted out a hidden “Apple tax,” an extra $1,000 or more Microsoft says people switching from PCs to Macs must pay to “rebuy” software and hardware for their new system.

    On Tuesday evening, the Microsoft camp followed up with a colorful chart akin to a post-debate fact-check, showing Windows PC configurations similar to Apple’s new MacBook and MacBook Pro models at comparable, or lower, prices. »

    Oh, and they kept spamming journalists last January before Macworld. Lol!

    January 5, 2009: « With Apple’s last Macworld keynote speech just hours away, Microsoft is again talking up the idea of an “Apple tax” that people pay when they opt for a Mac over a Windows PC.

    It’s a concept that Microsoft started touting in the fall. While the words may be fairly new, the melody sounds familiar. […] In addition to talking up the idea with reporters, Brooks said it may show up in online marketing and potentially even in Microsoft advertisements.

    Microsoft did come up with some new charts trying to put hard numbers on the “Apple tax.” »

  2. slappy Says:

    The AP news of the Conficker worm hitting the University of Utah, has just proven that the Microsoft Tax is much, much higher than the B.S. Apple TAX the FUD Masters have been spouting for weeks.

  3. Peter Says:

    “Shouldn’t a veteran industry analyst like Kay have known that a 70% cut of every sale (for developers) was significantly higher than what developers had been receiving prior to the arrival of the iTunes App Store?”

    Unless, of course, you sold it yourself via your own website. Then you got to keep the whole 100%. Of course you had to pay bandwidth costs out of that. Yet, somehow, I imagine that would be less than 30%.

    Remember that one of the advantages of the Internet is cutting out the middleman. That’s all Apple is in this case–a middleman.

  4. Viswakarma Says:

    Both Roger Kay and Steve Ballmer are off their rockers. They are nuts!!! The paper by Roger Kay “What Price Cool” is more a toilet paper than a white paper. The comparison between a Windows PC and Macintosh computer is like comparing a Cockroach to a Thoroughbred Horse.

  5. Neil Anderson Says:

    It’s cool how some of the links on Roger’s Endpoint Technologies webpage go to his C drive. Way cool. But I guess that can happen when you use Yahoo’s cool free SiteBuilder to make your business’s cool professional webpage. 🙂

  6. Edible Apple Says:

    Ha! Good catch Neil. Who would have thought his webpage could have gotten any more pathetic?!

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