Apple's brilliant piece of price discrimination segmentation

I was reading this article from the Grauniad thinking the usual. Whiny Apple fanboi whinges about his beloved screwing him like a pooch. So far so ordinary. (The flippant 9 year old daughter buying herself an iPod from pocket money and the talk of casually picking up an iPhone 4 on impulse should tell you exactly where in Islington this poor hack calls home.)

It seems Apple's latest wheeze is to force people buying its new hardware (iPhones, iPods etc) to upgrade their Mac OS to even use the new devices. Ideally they'd prefer you to buy a whole, shiny new computer, desktop or laptop, but if you persevere they'll settle for letting you buy an OS upgrade. Windows users, however, don't need to upgrade at all to use their shiny new Apple hardware.

Then it dawned on me. This is a brilliant piece of market segmentation to help them take more money from people willing to pay more. Price discrimination is the idea that you need to set your prices low enough that you capture enough of the people who are only willing to pay a certain amount, but hey there's some people willing to pay more so how do we capture those? Joel Spolksy has a great explanation of pricing and consumer surplus.

Different businesses do this in different ways. Does anyone really think a Lexus costs five times as much to make a Camry just because it's got a slightly spiffier engine, leather seats and a 12 speaker stereo? Microsoft does much the same with their zillion different versions of Windows, with their "Ultimate" edition designed specifically to fleece the fanbois and the more-dollars-than-sense crowd.

Apple's great wheeze is to realise that the true believers, the fanbois, don't taint their world with that awful Windows stuff. Only purity of Apple essence for them! The more price sensitive crowd, however, will have an iPod or iPhone but keep their cheap and cheery Windows desktop. Voila, instant price sensitivity segmentation. Now to just work on mining that rich, rich vein without them complaining too much. Genius!