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Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 08:20 am PT (11:20 am ET)

Microsoft already on defense, cites "Apple Tax" in new emails

There's still a few hours to go before Apple takes the wraps off its new notebook line, but that hasn't stopped its rival to the north from scrambling into a defensive stance, firing off emails to its employs that bill the new systems as overpriced, underspec'd and locked down.

Gizmodo, which published excerpts from the Microsoft email, says the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant included charts comparing the feature sets of similarly priced Windows and Mac notebooks, and made repeated (eight) accusations of an "Apple Tax."

"The email is interesting: nothing they say is incorrect, but none of it is new. Most importantly, all of it misses the point completely," the gadget blog wrote. "Most Apple buyers are fully aware that they could purchase cheaper computers from another manufacturer — after all, Apple's hardware specifications aren't exactly closely guarded secrets."

Microsoft referenced a Morgan Stanley research note from last month in which the firm cited a bruised global economy as an indicator that growth in the high-end PC would fall, leaving much of the industry's growth prospects to " the sub-$1,000 market where Apple does not play."

"Even if Apple were to drop pricing, the Apple Tax still prices Macs well outside of the sub-$1000 range," Microsoft said. "You can get a PC laptop with a bigger hard drive, more RAM, a media-card reader, more USB ports, and a bigger screen, for much less than a Mac."

The software maker simply charged Apple with offering consumers only one "significantly upgradeable Mac," the Mac Pro priced at $2799. It said consumers can "upgrade just about any Windows desktop PC" without having to drop loads of cash on new software that would be required when making the switch to Apple's computer line.

"Repurchasing software to make your Mac do all the things your PC does will cost you hundreds of dollars," the company said. "Buying a Mac means scrapping your software and buying new applications (for up to $1,100) that run on Mac, just to do what you can still easily do on a new PC with the applications you already have."

Microsoft also lambasted Apple for withholding a slew of hardware features from its Mac line that have been available on Windows PCs "for years," such as HDMI, Blu-Ray, eSATA, MediaCard Readers, built-in 3G, Fingerprint readers, and TV Tuners.

"Not only does this mean you get to use the latest and greatest now, but since it’s so easy to upgrade PCs, it also means that your computer is more future-ready…you can get today’s technology now, and tomorrow’s technology the minute its available," the company said.

Microsoft is presently enthralled in a $300 million advertising campaign aimed at cleaning up the image of Windows Vista-based PCs, which have been tarnished at the hands of Apple and its own "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac" international advertising blitz.