My Turn

In Appreciation of Depreciation

Jon Wareing - 2002.04.09

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

One of the most significant consequences of the swathe of new products emerging from Apple since the original iMac is the escalating depreciation of the Macs we buy - a characteristic amplified by the (often) declining entry price for each new model range.

This phenomenon continues to have an interesting impact on the second-user Mac market, with dealers stripping and skipping pre-PPC Macs. (Can I safely acknowledge this on LEM?)

Whilst the old 68k Macs may be adequate for word processing, in most other respects these early machines are wholly redundant - for example, when it comes to Web surfing and contemporary gaming. This makes them barely worth the price of a replacement PRAM battery.

Yes, I know that people love the old Mac compacts, just like people love old Minis and Beetles. But drive the The Macintoshnew models, and it blows away the memories of discomfort, downright lack of safety, and performance of the originals. (Let's not forget that only 10,000 Minis got to the U.S. before being deemed too unsafe!)

The nostalgia we may feel for these originals resides in the personality of the brand, and that has been successfully retained by BMW (in the case of the new Mini), VW (for the new Beetle), and Apple (with its iMac and iBook).

My problem is not really with people wanting to own and use these old treasures, but with those who want money for the privilege of selling you theirs! It really is a joke to see an eBay auction or Loot classified for antiquated (pre-PPC) Macs looking to generate anywhere between £50-250 from a sale.

Of course, I recognise that if people are fool enough to pay over the odds, then that's their problem. So here's a message to buyers: "Wake up people!" Yes, that ancient Mac may have cost someone £5,600 new in 1990, but the performance differential between their beloved IIfx and an "elderly" (but newer by 8 years) Rev A iMac is massive (25-fold by Norton's System Ratings!).

I wouldn't part with more than £200 for a Bondi beauty, which makes the IIfx worth about £8 in my book. For too long there has been a healthy "pre-loved" market for older Macs that has inevitably acted as a brake on the potential audience for new machines.

I work on the assumption that Apple recognised some time back that sales volume can be driven by lower prices on iMacs, iBooks, PowerBooks, and Power Macs. Such a strategy bringing in not only first time PC owners, Windows converts, and Mac upgraders, but also by cannibalising second-user sales.

Think about it. Good for Apple, good for market share, and a good nudge to software developers who look at share to determine whether to invest in Mac software development - critical in the era of OS X. I think that we can safely assume that an incidental knock-on effect of the longevity of Macs and the unquantifiable second-user market is a gross underreporting of Mac market share! Cheaper new Macs are good for all Mac users in terms of the long term choice of software we can run!

So how about this for a plea. Sellers, let's have an amnesty on pre-PPC Macs - just give 'em away. Buyers, if you feel the urge to part with your "hard earned" on a Mac, don't pay through the nose for anything beige - bargain hard! And preferably buy new - you get the least outdated and best designed computing technology available to mankind, and you'll be helping yourself and the rest of the Mac-using community by building measurable market share!

Jon Wareing is a marketing consultant and trainer with a side interest in things Macintosh since 1990. He is not affiliated in any way with Apple Computer other than as a frequent customer.

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