Why are Macs so expensive?

The iMac too no longer seems like the value for money that it once was. Even compared to the alternative all-in-one offering from Sony – a company hardly famed for producing underpriced hardware – it fares badly. The VGC-JS2E/S – available for around £900 – has the same size screen, a faster processor, more RAM and a bigger hard disk than the £949 entry-level iMac. The differences aren't huge, but they're there, and in a computer from a company rocking a similar boutique vibe to Apple.

It's not over yet

Despite this, all the other reasons to become a Mac user are still valid. Macs are beautifully designed and engineered, not simply from an aesthetic perspective but, more importantly for many, in usability terms too. The operating system is generally fast, elegant and – thanks to its Unix pedigree – secure and incredibly powerful as well.

It's easy to have ideological problems with Apple's business approach, and you should never fall into the trap of thinking that Apple is a nice, hippy company run on sunshine and granola. But the very thing that's the Achilles heel of its computers, media players and mobile phones – that unwavering desire to control and mould each user's experience of operating each particular device – is at the same time its greatest strength.

By shaping how users interact with its computers, Apple – and the vast ecosystem of developers who are creating software with the same grace and lair as Apple – assures its customers a much smoother ride. If you've become tired of constantly tweaking, petting and coaxing your PC to behave properly, it may still be time to think about giving a Mac a chance.

Yet that qualifier highlights the problem, because while in the past we might have suggested picking up a Mac mini or entry-level MacBook or iMac, just as a way of experimenting with Mac OS and seeing whether it was the right thing for you, we're less blasé now.

Today, not only are the Mac mini and iMac more expensive here in the UK, but the global economic situation is giving many of us reason to be much more cautious with our money. Buying a second or third computer for the household 'just to see what it's like' would be irresponsible for many individuals, regardless of the sound fiscal argument for economy-stimulating expenditure.

Still. These prices may be a blip, brought about in part by the weak pound and also by the lack of effective competition. It's likely that the more tech-savvy parts of the population are holding out on elective hardware upgrades until Windows 7 is released, and businesses too seem to be marking time before the next big round of computer purchasing.

Maybe once Windows 7 has proven itself in the market we'll see Apple working harder to compete, though with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard due out around the same time, it's highly likely that Apple will fight this battle with better and more advanced technologies rather than simply lowering prices.