Mac elitism? Technology, luxury etc.

A leveling of class distinctions in Apple products is going to sting people who valued the affectation of elitism that came with using Apple’s top-of-the-line products.

via Gizmodo – When Pro Doesn’t Mean Pro Anymore – MacBook

This review from WWDC 2009 raised my curiosity. The point of discussion is the leveling of prices in the “Pro” range of Macs, especially with the new 13-inch at 1199 dollars. The argument goes like this: showing off a top-of-the-line Pro used to be a clear sign of distinction; pretty much the same with the old Macbook black when compared to the cheaper whites (btw: I am now living with my second white…).

Uploaded on July 27, 2006 by galaygobi on Flickr CC license
Uploaded on July 27, 2006 by galaygobi on Flickr CC license

I have always been intrigued by the idea of elitism and technology, especially mass market technology as it is the case with these machines. The contrast is quite startling: you have the epitome of machine democratization, the personal computer (well, Macs), surged as a symbol of distinction.

Of course it might be argued that something similar happens for so many products and services. The top-of-the-line as sign of distinction. Yes. But I am more interested in the specific case now than the general phenomena.

I guess that there is big value to ripe for a company capable to bring distinction to its products. They could command higher prices, which should bring more margins. This has been historically difficult with PCs, where shrinking margins are the rule I think. I still remember when Dell took over that company specialized in computers for gaming, not only very powerful but also stylish, with fancy cases if I am not wrong etc. (no details from heart, I should check it out again).

I think that the issue might be an interesting subject of research. Scientific study but also market research. Maybe it is already very covered; again, to be checked.

This is also somewhat related to some earlier thoughts on technology and luxury, media and luxury.

In 2002 I scribbled down a few lines about these broader and distinct concepts as I was pondering the idea of “media recluse”, coined in a book about future trends (I can’t remember the title now; and the notes are in Italian, or almost all in Italian… so I will annoy me transalting myself… how bad): “digital divide inteded as the value of media and information… junk media for the poor and premium for the rich, The categories of luxury, value and misery should be applied to information and knowledge, if we hold true that we live in an economy dominated by knowledge and information. Information is equal for all but not everyone has the same access to information… the old ryhme”.

“Media recluse” were described as people that in the future would recede from information and keep themselves shielded from the media noise or the media pollution. A facet of elitism…

Now it come to my mind a paper about luxury in which there is an articulated discussion on technology and luxury; how technology makes luxury “affordable” and move products down the chain. But how down is down? What is the elitist threshold? It might correspond to a certain model of profitability — or digital divide seen from another perspective.

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