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June 12th 2012 3:39 pm

Battle of Student Offers! Apple vs Microsoft vs Sony

So with back to school offers out, which do you like the most?

As a reminder:

Apple: Buy a mac get $100 App store card, but an iPad get $50 App store card ( store.apple.com­/ca­/browse­/campaigns­/back­_to­_school )

Microsoft: "U.S., students who buy a qualifying Windows PC worth $699 ($599 Canada) or more at participating retailers can get a 4GB Xbox 360 console for free" ( windowsteamblog.com­/windows­/b­/windowsexperience­/ar... )

Sony: "Buy a custom S, T, Z and L Series PCs plus select ready-to-ship models, and get a PS3, PS Vita, $200 off Playstation Gear, or 8% Savings ( store.sony.com­/webapp­/wcs­/stores­/servlet­/CategoryD... )

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Lets start with Sony: don't buy a Sony. Their gaming stuff is nice but their computer hardware has always been bad. It's very pretty (sometimes), but not well made and tends to have problems.

So now you have to look at Microsoft vs Apple (just like the old days). There's really no other way to look at it: Microsoft technically has the better offer. A 4GB 360 appears to be going for $200, so that's twice the value of Apple's offer (even more because Apple doesn't have any $699 Macs). But this assumes you don't already have an XBox, or don't mind having only the 4GB version. Still, you could sell that console on ebay and end up ahead.
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Of the 3, the most disappointing one has to be Apple's back-to-school offer. I remember Apple offering a free iPod with a Mac purchase for years, and it was only recently that they've only offered App Store gift cards, which is definitely disappointing. Can be helpful getting some applications for free, but still: I think many students would want an iPod (granted, they probably already have an iOS device).

It's nice that Microsoft's offering the same Xbox 360 deal again this year, but it is still just the bare-minimum version of their console: 4 GB. But for any student who hasn't got an Xbox yet, it's a good start for them. (Though, they'll also need to pick up a regular Xbox Live Gold membership to make the most of it...) It also helps that there's a wider variety of PCs to choose from their offer.

For me personally, I'm a bit more interested in Sony's student deals. I like how they have different offers to pick from, so you have more of a choice on what to get. So, if you don't want a PS3, like me (already have one), I could go for a Vita. If I had both, I could go for the $200 towards other PlayStation accessories/games. Though, you are limited to a Vaio, and it's been a long time since I've had any experience with a Vaio.

In terms of bonuses for students, I say Sony's offer is the most appealing due to it's variety and value, but if you want a better variety in your laptops, Microsoft's PC offer is the way to go, if you don't have an Xbox 360 already, that is.
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If you're wanting a solid Windows laptop or desktop, there's no reason to pay extra for bloatware and branding (two things VAIO are notorious for). The customers these savings are aimed at aren't doing the research we do here, and just want something that works and looks cool that comes with a video game console/other Sony discount on the side. Definitely not for anyone that actually cares about what goes into their new computer.

Microsoft's deal is great because it's ubiquitous. Lots of options through many different retailers--it's almost shocking Best Buy isn't on there considering the success of their brick and mortar stores, especially when it comes to moving laptops. The free console definitely makes this a deal aimed at a very particular market, but there are plenty of people going to college that would love a free baseline 360, even if they don't plan on using it.

Apple's is actually smart, IMO. It's true that they used to bundle iPods with their student deals, but the $100 in App Store credit can apply to so much more. For Apple's business, it's better than handing out free iPods: $100 in free digitally-delivered app store content is an open invite to fall in love with their entire delivery platform. Encouraging people to buy iTunes content by giving them a free iPod is arguably more expensive/less effective than encouraging people to buy more Apple products (like an iPod) by hooking them on the Apple ecosystem? Free iPods were a successful deal for Apple so there has to be confident market research behind the decision to offer app store credit instead.
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I absolutely agree that Apple's move was smart for them from a business standpoint, but there was also a decent fallout when they did first remove the iPod as an incentive.

Of course $100 to the App Store is better than nothing.

It seems to be a common view in this thread that people are cautious towards buying a vaio. I am among this crowd as well
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But who cares about fallout from dropping the free iPod promotion when iPods are newer and shinier and there are iPads and iOS6 all sorts of new products! Seriously though, for all the negativity Apple may have generated for no longer offering students free iPods, it certainly hasn't impacted their student business.

They could instead choose to shuffle off older model iPods off for free on students. Give them last year's hot item for free, get them baited into the Apple ecosystem and force them to re-purchase due to accelerated obsolescence. But that's just evil and spiteful.

Fun story about the Vaio. I tried to buy one in 2006 that was specifically designed for (then) "high-end graphic design work" but came equipped with a poor excuse for an integrated graphics processor. Paid extra to drop a dedicated GPU into it and no standard graphics cards would actually fit in the desktop thanks to Sony's terrible form factor design. Ended up taking my business elsewhere and paid much less for it. Vaios in general have always seemed like one step forward, two steps back, and one shot in the foot for good measure.
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