Apple Archive

AppleDesign Helps Older Macs Retain Their Value

- 2003.04.18

Not only do new applications make a computer outdated, the system's looks also contribute.

The PC that currently resides in our den is from about 1998, and although it is five years old, it's been upgraded considerably since it was purchased. When I bought it, it had already had a replacement motherboard, processor card, sound card, video card, and DVD-ROM drive. I added a 60 GB hard drive, network card, and CD-RW drive - about the only thing that remains of the original machine is the case and the power supply!

Even though it isn't particularly slow and runs Windows XP Professional well (I know, I said I'd never upgrade, but I did find that XP Pro actually runs better than Windows 2000 on this machine), but it is starting to look a little bit old.

"Modern" PCs come with black or silver cases with blue LEDs. This machine has none of that.

The same goes for the Gateway 2000 laptop I am typing on (for use until I get my new one). While it works fine, runs fine, and even has a DVD-ROM drive, it is close to five years old - which means it's about 2" thick and very heavy (around 8.5 lbs). Perhaps this is why these computers don't cost more than $200 to buy on the used market, even though this particular one is easily as fast as a WallStreet PowerBook and offers more features, such as built in USB, a floppy, and a "combo" drive. But it still isn't particularly desirable.

Perhaps that's because Apple laptops are designed to withstand changes in style better than most PC notebooks. The basic style of the PowerBook G3 was present from 1998 all the way into 2001, when the PowerBook G4 was introduced. The G4 case style has been around for almost two years now and is carried over to the newer 12" and 17" aluminum PowerBooks.

Honestly, the G3 PowerBook still looks modern, even the older 233 MHz model. Unfortunately for the Gateway 2000, it has the same looks as a notebook from 1995 - and since Gateway has changed their logo several times, it makes this computer appear even more dated.

Apple's consistent logo (plain white since 1998) makes their portables - even older ones - look more up to date than laptops from other manufacturers.

I find that older IBMs are the same way; IBM has kept their textured case, basic keycap design, and ThinkPad logo the same for at least ten years. While it's easy to tell a 1993 ThinkPad from a 2000 model, it's more difficult to tell a four year old 300 MHz 600E from a new 1.8 GHz R40.

But PowerBooks still command the higher price. While a more consistent design is a factor, the other factor seems PowerBook G3to be that Mac technology moves more slowly than PC technology. Four years ago, the 500 MHz PowerBook G3 was the fastest Mac laptop you could buy. A 500 MHz PC laptop was quite respectable as well. However, today Mac notebooks have only reached 1 GHz, while PC laptops frequently come in 2 GHz versions.

Since there is only a 2:1 difference between a 1 GHz and a 500 MHz processor, the older models still command a higher price. But 2 GHz and 500 MHz are quite far apart, and older PC notebook prices are generally low.

There is still the case that most people don't even understand that performance in basic tasks (word processing, web browsing, email) doesn't differ greatly between the 500 MHz and much faster machines. Sure, the 2 GHz will load Windows faster, but your email's not going to pop up on the screen much more quickly.

Apple laptops will reach eventually 2 GHz and beyond and perhaps undergo a complete restyle. Then PowerBook G3 Pismo and Lombard prices will plummet, and prices on the 15" G4s will fall a bit as well. In fact, when the current 15" models get restyled, I am sure the price on the old 15s will drop considerably as well.

After all, they'll no longer look just like the current model.

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