The technology geek side of me doesn’t meet the woodworking side very often, but yesterday I put in my order for a new MacBook Pro to replace my current model which is a little over two years old and still works quite well.
Apple products are certainly more expensive then their WinTel analogs. Because I have to use some Windows-only financial modeling tools, I carry a Windows laptop with me as well and use the systems side by side all the time.
There’s an ongoing debate about how one “justifies” the higher prices that Apple charges for products that seem similar to others. You can take that argument in several different directions, but this morning I was thinking about a popular woodworking guru, Norm Abrahm, who hosts a wookworking show called The New Yankee Workshop.
The 15″ MBP is a perfect laptop, as far as I can tell, and the new version with all the trimmings (well, not all – if you include a big SSD drive, max memory and support it could easily get up to $3,500) goes for around $2,500. And frankly this seems like a lot of money for a computer.
But if you’ve done real work in a shop you know something that Norm speaks on with authority: don’t skimp on your tools. If you use a laptop the way I do it translates into about 3,000 hours per year on the computer, and with a two-year life that’s about 6,000 hours of use. Doing the math makes that 50c an hour or $4/day. I just spent $5 on a bagel and coffee for breakfast, so since this is my primary tool in the technology and business department, the cost for what I think is the best tool by far is pretty small despite the fact that it is about 50% higher than a similarly configured (but still inferior) Windows machine.
Few can afford to have the finest version of every tool in their workshop. I do lots of sawing and planing but much less turning and routing. So you spend big on a table saw and a planer, but go basic on a lathe and a router setup.
If you’re a casual computer user you can get a basic computer for $700 which can do everything and make you very happy. But if you are a professional, then when it comes to content of any type then Apple makes a strong value proposition.
It’s another reason to worry if you are an Apple competito,r because if more and more of the creative and content-producing people of the world opt for a platform that gives them greater pleasure and productivity at a higher raw cost, it will leave the Windows and the Microsoft ecosystem looking more and more tired.
The jury is still out on Google and how their Android-based and above-the-OS layer software products and services will evolve. And their increasing rivalry with Apple will make it harder to rely on the ability to be successful in conjunction with Apple products and services longer-term.
Don’t skimp on your tools. Despite the high purchase price, the Apple MBP is the New Yankee Laptop in our technology analysis workshop.
[Disclosure: The R2 Model portfolio has long positions in both Apple and Google at the time of this writing.]