Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Orbitz 'taxes' Mac users with pricier search results

Microsoft and Windows OEMs have long used the "Apple Tax," which is the "extra" that Mac users pay to get a similar machine vs. a Windows box as a selling point. However, those who are OK with paying such a tax may be willing to do so because they have higher household incomes, a fact that hasn't been lost on travel company Orbitz.

A new report in the Wall Street Journal shows just what all that data that we send back to the Mother Ship is used for. Orbitz has discovered that users of Mac computers spend as much as 30 percent more a night on hotels, so it has begun showing them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows users see.

According to the WSJ, Forrester research said earlier that the average household income for adult owners of Mac computers is $98,560, compared with $74,452 for a Windows PC owner.

Notably, the Orbitz results are not being manipulated "too much." The company isn't showing the same room to different users at different prices. It's also fair to point out that users can opt to rank results by price.

Instead, Orbitz explained that costlier, possibly luxury-laden offers are displayed "more prominently" in the search results.

The change to the site came via a study conducted by Orbitz, which found that Mac users typically spend as much as 30 percent more on their travel accommodations than those accessing the site using Windows. That's right; Windows users are cheapskates.

The WSJ performed its own tests, and found that some results were unaffected, depending on the cities of the desired hotels. However, a Mac search for a hotel in Miami Beach for two nights in July had the following results: “Overall, hotels on the first page of the Mac search were about 11 percent more expensive than they were on the PC."

Hotels on the first page of search results for Baton Rouge, La. were 13 percent more expensive in terms of Mac vs. PC.

Meanwhile, a rep from Orbitz' big rival, Expedia, told the WSJ the publication that it doesn’t offer different results for Mac and PC users.

Mac vs. PC distinctions are only beginning to impact Orbitz' site, the company said, in a slow roll-out. That is also just one part of user data that Orbitz uses, as well, with other data, such as location and history, also affecting search results.

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