back to article PC floggers scavenge for crumbs as Apple hoovers up profits

Apple's idiot tax helped it generate five times more profits from operations than the five biggest PC players combined in Q4, according to beancounter Asymco. Collectively HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer and Asus flogged 52.8 million boxes equating to 58.6 per cent worldwide unit share, casting a shadow on Apple's 4.6 million Macs - …


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  1. PC1512

    Ah yes, the idiot tax

    That's clearly the best way to describe the perceived premium on a product that more people want to buy. There can be no other explanation for people paying that "tax" other than that they're idiots. And of course no other explanation for the tax itself, since Apple's products are *exactly* the same as all the Windows-toting machines they compete with - right? Amazing that so many people keep missing that. Idiots! Happy, satisfied, productive, idiots.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes, the idiot tax

      Yes, I stopped reading when I got to that bit. Utterly uncalled for and condescending.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah yes, the idiot tax

        'Utterly uncalled for and condescending'. Yes, it was a little harsh in practise, but I agree with the sentiment.

        Apple kit has become a mandatory purchase for the middle-manager bored up of spending his bonus on mountain biking equipment - a clueless placard waved under some perceived auspice of gloat-worthiness, then used to bludgeon IT because they 'just work'. Sure, they Fix All The Problems In The World ®, and we're idiots for not kitting the company out with them. THANKS FOR THE TECH TIP.

        Anyway, they DO command an exorbitant premium versus what they actually do and, despite not being said type, I bought a 2011 iMac to replace my aged 1st gen Macbook. It took me ages to pay back and, now the hard drive fan is dicky, I rather *do* feel like I paid an 'idiot tax' for a machine I can't easily maintain*. The whole point is I'd hate to see the commodity PC market go to further ruin off the back of devastatingly good marketing on Apple's behalf.

        Computers for the masses, as Tramiel believed in and so do I.

        PCs will go back to the days of heady price tags which is a step backward, IMHO, and Apple will run amok with no Commodore, Atari, Tandy et al or PC clone industry to throw their prices into stark relief.

        * Yes yes dear, I know they can be taken apart. But I'd rather spend that time doing something less infuriating. And less clothed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes, the idiot tax

      more people want to buy?

      I think you mean "far less people want to buy" only "they want to blow enormously more money on the profit margin"

      bit like the ones who were buying underdeveloped over-profit-ed cack like civilian Hummers (AKA Chevy Tahoe in drag) really.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes, the idiot tax

      "Apple's idiot tax"

      Yes - so guess someone buying a BMW is paying an idiot tax etc. - maybe it's their choice?? Also when you consider TCO rather than just initial purchase price the 'tax' may actually be a 'rebate' - the original hardware purchase price is often a small part of the overall cost.

      1. poeg

        Re: Ah yes, the idiot tax

        "a BMW" has NEVER been able to shop for parts at the GM dealership. Crack a book. ALL of my Apple kit, save my Macbook Air, is based upon IBM's Power PC etc. and at that time a Mercedes analogy may have been drawn and indeed been worthy of such high praise but yours falls flat on its face regarding today's PC's running OSX.

  2. Adair


    ...this was bound to happen eventually, as the technology both matures and moves on, and as the market saturates and also 'moves on'. There's always good money to be made at the top end of any market where the 'idiot tax' can be plausibly inflicted on those with more money than they know what to do with, or who are driven by fashion and status ambitions. Meanwhile the rest of the market is generally a dog fight over wafer thin margins. Tempted to say: nothing to see here, move along.

  3. Don Jefe


    Profits like this are precisely why Apple isn't in any huge hurry to turn out any new 'ground breaking' products. Only the thickest of people would want to interfere with the money printing machine once you got it running.

    It will be interesting to see if the lack of startlingly new products has a short term impact on their success. Guess the fall season will tell us a lot.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bad times for the PC market ahead i reckon

    I can honestly see the traditional PC dying out quite quickly - for most tasks a tablet or even a smart phone gets the job done, often a lot faster and easier. (And yes, for those who really need a keyboard, use a keyboard. You're not *forced* to use the touchscreen one.)

    There's a ton of stuff tablets don't do well of course - high end gaming, video editing, development etc. But that's the high end of the market - the workstation class end, you might say (at least in terms of cost & performance).

    So, my prediction: in 5 years we'll see a lot more tablets and a whole lot less PCs, and the PC market will go a lot more high end. The PC makers going for the cut-price segment will die out, those going for the high end will do OK.

    Notice how apple are dominating the expensive end of the market and the tablet market? Maybe they're thinking the same way?

  5. K Silver badge

    No wonder..

    Apple innovated and offered something original... Where every PC Manufacturer is punting the same "Intel specified" crap, once you've seen a laptop from HP its 99.99% the same as the one from Dell - Try adding something unique to it (amazing there is a whole B2B industry around Value Added Suppliers.. yet they've not cottoned on that such stuff might just work in B2C).

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: No wonder..

      There is no HW or SW innovation on Apple Mac

      Eye candy on top of BSD and it's practically Intel designed HW.

      The eye catching styling is just that, styling. Even that Ives admits he pinches from Dieter Rams on most products.

      They will make Macs more like iPads and more locked down when they can. Maybe with cheaper ARM cpu and charge more for the resulting longer battery life.

      1. Dana W

        Re: No wonder..

        Yeah, any day now. You guys have been saying that for years.

        I'll say it again, Apple knows the difference between a computer and a tablet. Something Microsoft refuses to get.

        THEY are the ones trying to make your desktop a tablet. Not Apple.

        1. Captain DaFt

          Re: No wonder..@ Dana W

          Not a fan of either Apple or MS, but I agree with you that at least Apple knows the difference between computers and tablets.

          But... I can see where it'd make sense for them (to them) to use ARM on their computers, runs cooler, longer battery life, cheaper, and more control over processor design than Intel's offerings.

      2. Steve Todd

        Re: No wonder.. - @Mage

        Sour grapes much? OS X isn't just a bit of tinsel on top of BSD, otherwise you'd find many similar products from other manufacturers (you DO know that the base OS isn't actually BSD BTW? It is however fully open source - go look up XNU).

        There is actually quite a lot in the libraries that Apple (and originally NeXT for the early stuff) built to form OS X. Much of if has been re-used in iOS and its far from a trivial code base.

      3. K Silver badge

        Re: No wonder..

        Mage, Welcome to 2013! You'll never believe it, but things have changed since you left in 2002.. amazingly Apple have

        Invented the iPhone

        Invented the concept of the Ultra low profile notebooks (aka Macbook Air)

        Start kitting their Laptops with very high resolution screen


        Whilst during in the same period, every other PC manufacturer is punting the same crap as dictated by Intel et al.

        1. K Silver badge

          Re: No wonder..

          Just to clarify, I personally don't like Apple nor their products - but I admire that they at least go out on a lim to offer something with unique attributes, rather than following the others lemmings ;)

  6. Frankee Llonnygog

    Idiots tax?

    If Apple customers are paying an idiot's tax for kit that they think looks and feels better to other vendors, what stops those other vendors from designing better looking kit and grabbing some of those profits? Perhaps it's not that easy?

    And, if a customer prefers that a device they spend a large amount of time using looks and feels better, according to their subjective preferences, and if nobody else is offering something better or comparable for less money, is it so idiotic to pay a bit more for something you actually like?

    To put it another way, if you had a choice between 7 different pairs of sandpaper y-fronts at £3 a pair, and one pair of cotton kecks at £4, which would you choose?

    1. Ted Treen

      Re: Idiots tax?

      It would appear that there are many commenters who would buy the sandpaper undies, and in between brushing the tears from their eyes and testing their new soprano vocals, would be telling the world and his dog how cool they were to buy what they've bought, and how all those with dry eyes and still-baritone vocals were, in fact, deluded manipulated idiots.

      Oh, the irony!

  7. MattEvansC3

    PCs stagnated long ago

    For the average consumer there's been no reason to upgrade their PC or laptop for years, OEMS and component manufacturers focused on an arms race that only the most hardcore even cared about. Athlon XIIs and Core 2 Duos are enough to power Win7 and Win8 as well as most consumer software yet everyone got caught in the cycle of bigger, faster, stronger for hardware refreshes.

    Now credit where credit is due Apple bucked the trend and went down the smaller, sleeker, prettier route. Yes the MacBook Air is over priced and under specced but if you look at the aesthetics and engineering quality every ultra book manufacturer is playing catchup. Apple gets to charge it's "idiot tax" because they figured out customers are willing to pay a premium for devices that don't look like they belong under the desk.

  8. David 138

    Keep writing insults about the retarded nature of the Apple fan boys....must resist.

    Apples strength in the PC market will suck for future development. OSX is a copy of opensource software, and their hardware is just PC hardware. If Apple damages the PC market then we will end up with slow computers all round. Who would develop processors, graphics cards, memory etc if there is no one to buy it. Lack of choice would mean lack of innovation. Apple got MS moving again but have since just released the same product at different sizes. Steve Jobs image of the future is now the cancer of Tech innovation.

    1. Ted Treen

      My, My.

      Such incisive foresight must mean you're more astute than any business analyst, and will be the next CEO of HP, DELL or similar.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple borrowed from open source (but has Microsoft not done the same?) but Apple have also given back to with Darwin etc. and FreeBSD has benefited as a result.

  9. Joe Gurman

    "Just PC hardware"

    Well, I suspect it all becomes PC hardware.... eventually. FireWire, Thunderbolt, decent (if hard to open) all-in-ones. Why must I settle for Intel integrated graphics on any Dell all-in-one unless I go to the "office" offerings? A lot of offices play games all day? And even then, they're older, clapped out chipsets rather than the newer ones Apple offers, despite refreshing its models much less often.

    There may be plenty of people who buy Apple products for their look and feel (like some buyers of marginally underperforming but --- to them --- sweet-looking cars, I'm certain), but I suspect a large part of Apple's success is simply retailing: an incredibly easy to navigate Store site, with options clearly explained on one page, and retails stores with a finite number of configurations you can actually walk away with (after paying some bloke walking around with a mobile).

    If you're in the business of selling things, you might act as though you want customers.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The preferred computer.

    All the butthurt comments in this thread about how so many people prefer the "premium" Apple product seem to be conveniently glossing over the fact that 93% of people chose PC. PC manufacturers may not be making as much money, but people in overwhelming numbers are still choosing the PC.

    1. Ted Treen

      Re: The preferred computer.

      Until they become aware of the difference and make their own minds up:- apart from a hardcore of geeks in their Mum's basement running Linux on skeletal FrankenPC towers, the (continuing) growth of Apple sales to the consumer market is exponential...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The preferred computer.

        Sales of Macs fell last year, so hardly an exponential rise. Sure some people like Macs, but you can't disagree that the vast majority of people are choosing PCs.

        Some Mac users seem to be under the delusion that everyone prefers Macs to PCs, but all available evidence points to most people preferring PCs, with a slight rise in recent years in the still niche market for Macs.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          @AC 16:39

          "most people preferring PCs"

          I think most folk prefer cheap, although for a lot of non-technical folk they prefer fondleslabs (with the iPad being the favourite in my limited circle of fondle friends).

  11. Mikel

    With five times the profit of the rest

    They can afford five times the R&D and get even further ahead.

  12. Mage Silver badge

    Idiot tax is right.

    More locked down. Less applications and over priced.

    More style than engineering innovation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Idiot tax is right.

      Better security, does 100% of what most people require - i.e. web, email, word processing, excel and powerpoint. Parallels if you really need Windows compatibility.

    2. Dana W

      Re: Idiot tax is right.

      You are confusing OSX and iOS. Macs are not locked down. IOS devices are locked down.

  13. FanMan

    I'm a big, huge, feckin eejit..

    ... just about to haul my silly arse down to PC World, waltz blindly past all these beautiful Packard Dells and score a Mac Mini for £565.80 plus vat. I mean I've had 4 years to work out how crap my present Mini is and I'm off to score another one. Dumkopf or what!

  14. Dana W

    Idiot tax

    Derr! I I feel so stupid buying well built stuff that works. Derr!

  15. danny_0x98

    Let's Go With Idiots

    One wonders if the author thinks through his premise. I mean, those PC companies read smart analysts like Dediu too.

    Is this the conversation the author induces? (At Spacely PCs) "Jetsonnnn!" "Yes Mr. Sprocket?" "Why are we selling buckets of pcs and Apple is making more money?!?" "Apple sells to idiots who pay more." Sprocket pauses, sighs, and says, "Very well, it's an integrity thing. Shouldn't you get back to pushing buttons and figuring out discounts on SKUs that aren't moving?"

  16. Captain DaFt

    The formula is simple

    All you have to do to sell a PC Is:

    Make it well, nobody wants a noisy, flimsy piece of crap.

    Make it attractive. Nobody wants it if it looks like crap, and that includes gaudy, blinged out cases as well as dull, "we're all clones" boxes.

    Make it accessible. If I can't find it, I can't buy it, now, can I?

    This goes for both online and traditional outlets. If I have to wander a maze of webpages on your site just find it, fuck it, I'll go elsewhere, but if your closest retail outlit is only in select major metropolis' it won't be there.

    Make it affordable. No, I don't mean cheap, I mean make it at least appear to be value for the money spent. I'll pay a reasonable premium for a quality machine.

    Now see? That's not so hard!

    Steve Jobs figured it out... Hell! Even I can figure it out, why can't you? What? Bottom line? Haven't you noticed yet that if you're only aiming for the bottom, you'll get there?

    OK, I'm done ranting now... for now.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: The formula is simple

      And yet, the other companies can't seem to fathom this out.

      Funny to hear the comment about Intel & MS sharing their profits with the PC makers to keep them aflote to preserve the market they made and no longer seem to lead. Why would you really want to partner MS, or pay a premium for an Intel CPU compared to an ARM license unless you had no viable alternative? The Win8 annoyance that is TIKFAM and the utter incompetence with most of the PC makers to create products that are subjectively better to the customer in order to justify a premium is both sad and laughable.

      Even MS has taken to producing its own hardware, apparently to set a standards (God knows it is needed considering the label covered and trial-ware infested crap that is usually sold) but also one suspects to try and grab a higher profit margin business model as Apple have done.

      Personally I dislike both: Apple for its locked-down nature and moves to non-serviceable construction, and MS for years of bullying and strangling any competition. So call it an "idiot tax" if you like, but Apple customers like their shiny toys where as most PC buyers end up cursing theirs.

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lonely PC at Starbucks

      Coffee shop social signals.

      PC laptop: supposed to be working, may be playing.

      Mac laptop: supposed to be working, almost certainly playing:

      iPad/iPhone/Android: definitely playing.

      MS Surface/WinPhone 8: never seen, but probably working

      BlackBerry Z10: working/playing impossible to tell, inscrutable. Handy if the boss walks in.

  18. Mikel

    Share profits

    "Microsoft help out their PC pals by sharing some of their profits"

    Ok, that got a chuckle out of me.

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