Like the age-old chicken-and-egg conundrum, there are some questions that are better left pondered than answered. More and more, consumers are rethinking the Apple or PC question. While paying $300-$500 more for a fancy piece of hardware might be tempting in good times, during times of economic crisis, consumers will need to be convinced anew. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has taken it upon himself to remind us all of this (imagine that) during a webcast interview with the editor of Business Week. When asked about the 16% plummet in Apple PC sales in February, Ballmer had this to say, “The economy is helpful. Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.” Does Mr. Ballmer have a point?

An article from PC World titled “Ballmer is Right: Mac Users Do Pay Dearly for Apple Logo” compares similary equipped Macs and PCs. You can read the article in its entirety at the Yahoo website by following this link:

http://tech.yahoo.com/news/pcworld/20090320/tc_pcworld/ballmerisrightmacusersdopaydearlyforapplelogo

From the author’s window shopping trip we can see that Macs are more expensive, but we already knew that. Ask any Mac user and you will hear a litany of reasons as to why their beloved machines are superior to PCs. They do have a point to some extent. The design is sleek, the software simple and intuitive, and malware headaches are kept to a minimum, but are these features worth a $300-$500 premium?

As an avid video gamer, I have been mostly a PC user my whole life. One cannot get the same gaming bang with a Mac as with a PC, and many cutting edge games have been entirely unavailable to Apple users. However, I have always harbored a bit of Mac envy when looking at my Apple-using friends’ cool devices. The envy was never enough to get me to jump ship, but I could definitely see the allure for writers, designers and students, who have always been the Mac’s bread-and-butter customers. Do the Mac’s dismal numbers from February point to a defection from even these, the most brand faithful of all? With the global economy in tatters, Apple is going to find it more and more difficult to retain those premium paying users. Hopefully, some of our readers will have had more experience with Macs than I, so I will ask these questions because I would like to know:

What do you think?

(1) The article estimates a Mac premium of around $300.00 for computers purchased in the United States. How much more expensive is a similary equipped Mac than a PC in your country?

(2) Does the Macintosh’s design, software and cachet make it worth the extra cost, even in this economy?

(3) Which do you prefer for work and play? Why?