Mac laptop prices steady as Windows prices fall

In two years, the prices of Windows notebooks have fallen by 20 percent, while Apple notebook prices are down just 3 percent, suggesting the upcoming Apple "product transition" could involve cheaper notebooks.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read
The average price of a Mac laptop has fallen just 3 percent over the last two years, compared to a 20 percent decline in Windows laptop pricing. Apple

Speculation that Apple might be slashing Mac prices in the coming weeks could get a boost from new data released by The NPD Group.

Joe Wilcox at Apple Watch put together a chart of data from NPD showing the average selling prices of Windows PCs and Macs at retail stores in the U.S. As of June, the average Mac desktop retails for $1,543 while the average Mac notebook costs $1,515. On the Windows side, the average desktop costs $550 while the notebook costs $700.

Of course, Apple's decision to keep its Mac pricing for everything but the nearly-forgotten Mac Mini above $1,000 almost guarantees a discrepancy like that. And the arguments over what constitutes a true price comparison between Windows PCs and Macs have stretched on for years, and won't be satisfied by Wilcox's decision to compare a Dell Inspiron 518 to a 20-inch iMac.

Component to component (processor, memory, etc.) is an easier comparison to make, but what's an appropriate value for Mac OS X and its bundled applications as compared to Vista and its bundled applications? And surely there's some value in a more interesting design; Dell charges $1,299 for its 20-inch XPS One all-in-one system, which is perhaps a better comparison to the 20-inch iMac than the bulky Inspiron 518.

But while the Mac vs. PC debate is always good for ratings, what's really interesting is the trend: Windows laptops have been coming down significantly in price over the last two years while the prices of Apple laptops have basically held steady, according to NPD's data. Since June 2006, the price of the average Windows laptop has declined 20 percent, while the price of the average Mac laptop has fallen just 3 percent. Laptops drive the PC market these days, with more than half of all processors sold by Intel now destined for notebooks.

That suggests that the "product transition" hinted at by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer that will drag down Apple's margins, coupled with persistent rumors of new notebooks, could involve new MacBooks or MacBook Pros at reduced prices. The higher-priced Mac notebooks haven't hurt sales, clearly, but lower prices could draw some new converts who have fixed budgets.

Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray agrees, suggesting in a research note Wednesday that $999 MacBooks could arrive during a long-expected September event that has yet to be formally announced by Apple, where we also expect to see revamped iPod Touches.