OPINION: The economy isn’t to blame for Microsoft and Apple’s disregard for good value, argues Computing Editor Michael Passingham as he weighs up the recent MacBook Pro and Surface Studio launches.
It’s been a good week for Apple and Microsoft. On Wednesday (October 26), Microsoft announced its impressive new Surface Studio all-in-one PC and on Thursday (October 27), Apple unveiled its long-awaited line-up of new MacBook Pros.
They’re all incredible pieces of hardware. Both companies nailed it, creating frankly epic launch videos that are about as close to computing porn as you can get without stripping an Asus ZenBo. Professionals and businesses are going to LOVE the Studio and new MacBook Pros, and I’m happy for them. A vibrant PC market is good for everybody.
The counterpoint is that all this jazzy new kit is too damn expensive. Everyone is upset that they won’t be able to get one for Christmas. And of course, Brexit has reared its ugly head again in this regard.
But forget about the economy just this once and focus on the uncomfortable truth, which is that Apple and Microsoft just don’t care about making their products accessible to the masses any more. You can’t blame Brexit for that.
It’s not a new argument. For years, people have accused Apple of offering poor value for money. I’d counter with, “If it’s worth paying for, it’s good value,” and for sooth, MacBook Pros are worth paying for. However, Apple now has nothing at the lower end of the market that’s worth paying for.
The Cupertino-based company refuses to compromise to bring costs down to a middle-tier price point, and that’s a massive shame. It used to sell an 11-inch MacBook Air for under £800, but instead of upgrading it to 2016 standards, Apple dropped it entirely.
You now can’t buy a decent MacBook (I don’t include the 13-inch MacBook Air here because it’s a pretty poor deal for an old product) for under £1,200. Microsoft is just as guilty, flatly refusing to refresh its base-model Surface line, leaving the Intel Atom-powered Surface 3 as the cheapest Microsoft-branded piece of computing hardware. ATOM. Hardly something to be proud of.
At its Creators Update event, Microsoft somehow swallowed up two hours of the afternoon telling us how democratising its latest developments are for 3D content and then, without a hint of irony, unveiled an even more expensive version of the already-expensive Surface Book and the aforementioned, up-to-£4,000 Surface Studio.
So much for democracy.
But the best things that have happened to Windows in the last five years have been as a result of Microsoft leading by example. The Surface range was a mild stroke of genius that gave laptop makers a much needed kick up the arse, showing them what’s really possible with computing hardware. Microsoft shouldn’t forget who the majority of its users are: they’re not businesses and they’re not creatives.
They’re you and I.
Top-tier computing doesn’t have to – and shouldn’t be – reserved for the elite. As the two biggest evangelists for buying a new PC, Apple and Microsoft would do well to remember that.
Watch Now: Surface Studio first look
Do you agree with Mr Passingham? Let us know in the comments below.