Apple made several high-profile announcements at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose this week, and one in particular caused a lot of buzz in the media, on social media, and even among audience members right after the announcement was made. Unfortunately, the reason for all the chatter was not the the new product's features or design, but its price. Apple had just told the world that it would be charging $999 for a monitor stand.
Apple has carefully built an iconic brand, and a fan base of users who willingly pay a premium for its products because they value the impeccable design, ease of use, and prestige that go with owning the company's products. Those prices have been climbing higher of late, and Apple CEO Tim Cook even appeared on "Good Morning America" to explain why some iPhones cost as much as $1,449.
But many customers and observers feel that charging nearly a thousand bucks for a monitor stand crosses a line. At WWDC Apple VP of hardware engineering John Ternus began by announcing the price for the new Pro Display XDR monitor at $4,999 for the base version or $5,999 with special glare-reducing nano-texture glass. He had already noted that this product was intended to compete with professional level monitors costing $40,000 or more. Then he went on to mention that the mount for the product would cost $199, and that the stand for it would cost $999. He didn't say any more about either of those products--but with that last announcement, the audience, which had been listening attentively, began conversing among themselves, and Ternus, seeming slightly flustered, stumbled a little over his next line, before handing the stage back to Cook.
The audience members in San Jose weren't the only ones talking about the pricey monitor. Twitter users had a lot to say, some of it while the product announcement was still going on.
Ridiculous. You could get an Apple monitor stand for that kind of money https://t.co/LWbDrlIJ1a-- Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) June 4, 2019
Now, as my Inc.com colleague Don Reisinger has noted, the monitor is obviously not intended for ordinary users. It's called "Pro" for a reason and it's why Ternus made a point of saying this monitor is intended to replace professional-level models costing tens of thousands. Industrial design writer Rain Noe makes a pretty powerful argument that no one should be surprised by a thousand-dollar monitor stand from Apple, since its legendary head of design, Jony Ive, has free rein to design the best products in the world as he sees fit, without regard to cost. The monitor does tilt in various directions, switching from portrait to landscape, and is held in place magnetically so it can easily be detached if you need to move it somewhere. Then again, Microsoft has a similar product that can do these things and also lay flat like a drafting table, and the monitor and stand cost $3,499.
Others have opined that this whole thing would've been a non-issue if Apple had simply raised the price of the monitor by $1,000 and included the stand, or provided a discount if it shipped the item without one. I think that's likely true, and I also think things might have been different if, rather than simply mentioning the stand and its price in passing, Ternus had provided a brief explanation as to why this is the best monitor stand ever created.
Instead, as Noe points out, Apple seems to be intent on securing its status as the technology provider of choice to the 1 percent, people and/or companies for whom dropping $999 on a monitor stand is no more disturbing than buying a $7 cup of single origin coffee. And that can be distressing to the non-1-percent population that's spent years waiting in line to buy the newest product on the day of its release, out of pure devotion to the brand.
The $999 monitor stand looks like a rare misstep from a company that usually knows how to price its products just right so that its very loyal fan base will save up to buy them. Will it lose some of that fan base because of it? Probably not. But when you launch a new line of products and all anyone can talk about is how overpriced one of your accessories is? You're definitely doing something wrong.