By Tom Lambotte, GlobalMac IT

home-officeOne of the oldest standing myths that lawyers try to bring up when considering switching their PC-based law firm over to Macs is that they cost too much. That they are outlandishly more expensive than buying a PC. The problem is that they rarely compare Apples to Apples [no pun intended]. What I mean is that the common argument compares an Apple computer to a cheap $400 laptop.

No one in his or her sane mind would compare a Mercedes to a Nissan Versa [the least expensive car in 2016] and complain that the Mercedes is more expensive. It is all relative and quality cost money. To make this point legal specific, let's bring up a few points. Comparing the cost of Macs to cheap PCs is misleading, as most law firms don't buy the cheap PCs to begin with. It's a flawes argument. The majority of law firms are purchasing business-class hardware from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, or Lenovo. These cost about the same -- maybe $200 less, perhaps $100 more, depending on configuration and level of portability.

The price point has also lowered on several of the computers in the Apple line-up. The MacBook Air for example starts at $899 for a base 11" model and the top of the line 13" model is only $1649.

Resale Value        

For many years, I would upgrade to a brand new Apple laptop every single year when a new one was released. And I would do this for a very nominal fee. I would skip purchasing the AppleCare Extended Warranty because all Macs come with a 1-year warranty coverage when purchased. [To be clear I now ALWAYS buy AppleCare for my company's Macs and also recommend our clients to always get it.] Back then I was able to pass on buying AppleCare since I knew I was only keeping the laptop for a year. When the new model would come out, I would wipe my Operating System (securely of course), give my Mac a quick cleaning, take some good photos and list it on Craigslist. On average, over 5 cycles of this, I would sell my 1-year-old laptop for $100-150 less than what paid for it brand new. I was essentially upgrading to the latest and greatest Apple laptop for $100-150 fee. You could never do this with PCs.

Another major factor in addressing the 'Too Expensive’ concern is to factor in the resale value. Most people simply look at two numbers, side-by-side and decide that one is more expensive than the other.

Why DO Macs hold their value more than PCs? As with any price, supply and demand are the two factors here. And they both work toward higher prices for used Macs. A quick summary:

  • Low Supply: Apple sells a lot of Macs, but there are still way more PCs out there overall. If you’re looking for a used Mac, you’re buying from a smaller pool of sellers than someone open to buying a PC.
  • High Demand: Lots of people want Macs, and if you want to spend less than $899 for a laptop then you’ll need to buy used.

This has an impact, but it is hardly the whole story. Macs tend to hold more of their initial value than PCs. Jeff Trachsel, the CMO of electronics reseller NextWorth, says that Mac fans aren’t just crazy: the trend is real. “Apple products are generally worth about twice as much as other devices at the same period in their lifecycle,” he said in a Gizmodo article ( published back in 2013.

Another strong factor at play here is the lack of discounting going on. I specifically remember learning why Honda and Toyotas hold their value so well. A large factor is discounting. These companies do not adopt the approach of many other automakers who offer massive discounts to entice buyers to move old inventory. Doing this instantly drops the value of the car. You may get a better deal, but your resale value suffers.

The only discounting Apple has is their annual school specials, some holiday specials, and the Apple refurbished online store. They also offer some business discounts, but these are minimal and never steep discounts. To clarify their “discounts” approach, the school discount is NOT a discount on the laptop, instead they offer a credit or gift towards other Apple gear. The 2016 school promotion offered a free pair of Beats Solo2 Wireless headphones for all Macs except Mac Minis and refurbished models. They are receiving incentives, not actual discounts on the computers themselves.

In comparison, while doing research on the DELL store, looking at their current laptop prices, the previous year's models were often marked down 50%. They need to liquidate the massive stockpile they are sitting on before it continues to lose value. Although Apple has continually increased their computer sales, the trend for the PC market has been a downward slope in PC sales for several years now. Similar to buying a car, the discounts up front are great when making the purchase, but immediately lower the resale value of your computer.

But what if you want to buy a Mac laptop, specifically, for $500 or less? There are no new options. The MacBook Air starts at $899. You could potentially buy a refurbished Mac from Apple, but you’re not likely to save more than a couple hundred dollars. This means anyone looking for an affordable Mac laptop is looking for a used laptop, and there are a lot of people doing this. Trachsel says that demand for used Macs is higher than PCs “by a factor of two.”

Put simply, used Macs are a seller's market. Here are a couple of real-world examples. We recently sold a 2012 Mac Mini with Solid State Drive and 8GB of RAM for $400 and then a 2012 13" MacBook Air for $600. When purchased new in 2012 the Mini was around $899 and the Air was $1299.

The last major point to make in addressing the 'Macs are too expensive’ is the TCO - Total Cost of Ownership. A free car has no price tag, but it has an operational cost, sometimes referred to, over the life of a vehicle, as the ‘total cost of ownership.’ Of course, here you would definitely want to figure in the projected resale value 3 years out as we just discussed.

Studies have shown that Macs require less time and effort to maintain, Mac users are more self-sufficient users which result in lower support costs, lower training costs, and Mac hardware lasts longer which further amortizes the cost of using a Mac.

Windows users often purchase additional anti-malware applications which take time to install and need to be regularly used. Malware itself is far more prevalent on Windows PCs, which results in a higher maintenance cost vs. a Mac, where OS X has far less malware.

Setup and ongoing training are additional expenses to consider with the deployment of any hardware and software, and Apple’s products have a stellar reputation for durability, security, and a lower cost of ownership than competing products (despite IT groups which often denigrate Apple’s products because they know that deploying a Mac or iPhone in a company may reduce their own job security).

In an article titled "TCO: New research finds Macs in the enterprise easier, cheaper to manage than Windows PCs," David Morgenstern cites a survey of enterprise IT managers that administer both PCs and Macs, and finds that Macs have a better TOC (total cost of ownership) than Windows boxes, and require less user training and help.

"The respondents were given the option to select from a range of cost differences. Not only did the administrators across the board say that Macs were less expensive in all, but in one category the majority of administrators who said that Macs cost less stated that they were more than 20% cheaper to manage than PCs. Of those who asserted that PCs cost less, the majority always asserted that PCs were between 0 and 20 percent less expensive to manage than Macs."

He goes on to point out a few results: "The figures that pop out from the chart are those for the time spent troubleshooting problems (16 vs. 65 percent, PC and Macs, respectively), dealing with help desk calls (16 vs. 54 percent), training users (16 vs. 48 percent), and managing system configurations (25 vs. 50 percent)." *

If you've held back from making the switch from PCs to Macs due to thinking Macs were prohibitively expensive, I hope this has provided you with some useful and new insights. MANY other factors can boost the productivity of your law firm when running on Macs; this is just one.

Yours truly,
Tom Lambotte

TomLambotteAbout the Author: GlobalMac IT was founded by Tom Lambotte – renowned nationwide as an author, speaker, trusted IT advisor, and cutting edge, successful provider of the #1 complete end-to-end IT solution for Mac-Based Law Firms in the world. Private firms from throughout North America – and as far reaching as American Samoa - running with a staff of 5-50 - have relied on his expertise to help them put their IT headaches behind once and for all. Using his real world experience, where results rule and dollars can't be wasted on negligent computer consultants, he wanted to help managing partners and office managers of Mac-based law firms to put an end to wasting their time and money on IT support that does not work and rescue them from the frustration. Our unique “TotalCare” approach integrates classic IT support with proven proactive support that truly converts IT from something to be dealt with, into a tool that truly increases law firm profits, increases staff productivity, and provides piece of mind that firm and client data is secure and that their security is never at risk.