Technical Support Coordinator, BAKA Computers
Reviews are mixed so far on Apple's announcement last week that they're doing away with the "Suggested Retail Price" and will instead publish street prices "more in line with the market" in the future. The announcement accompanied Apple's introduction of rebadged and new computers (see TidBITS #195) and new printers.
According to Apple, this is a marketing move aimed at bringing Apple's published prices closer to typical selling prices. The company says other manufacturers' published prices have generally been closer to the final selling price, making other products' prices seem lower, by comparison, than Apple's Macintosh prices.
The change may make Macintosh computers seem more economical, but infuriates some dealers, whose margins have been shrinking anyway. The difference may also confuse users who have grown accustomed to asking for, and receiving, discounted prices for large purchases. Because the published prices have been reduced across the board without matching reductions in the dealers' acquisition costs, many dealers will be unable or unwilling to significantly discount hardware purchases.
Apple apologized to dealers a couple of years ago after a Macintosh advertisement quipped "But who pays retail price anymore?" in the small print. The effect may be the same this time, but no apology is likely.
Future months will tell whether or not Apple's strategy has the desired effect: increasing Macintosh sales by making Mac prices more visibly competitive. If so, dealers might stand to gain from the increased sales. If not, Apple might simply be shrinking the pieces of an already-small pie.