Originally Posted by JeffDM
The problem with penny counting is that there is still a cost to developing for the Mac, and the actual market for the cards is small. If we were generous in saying that the Mac Pro is 1% of the upgrade card market, then you have to consider that that's a lot fewer machines to spread that driver & firmware development cost over.
I don't doubt a premium for Mac GPUs is required to justify the additional development costs of a Mac version. But while some Mac GPUs have a reasonable premium, others are approaching price gauging to put it bluntly.
For example, the new Quadro FX 4800 Mac Edition is priced at $1800. The comparable PC version costs around $1600. So a $200 or 12.5% premium. This is reasonable, maybe even a little bit low, considering the very high-price point and small target market.
However, you have the 512MB HD4870 where the Mac version is $350 and the PC version has a MSRP of $150. A $200 or 233% premium. It's very hard to see development costs and small market justifying this premium. The development costs of the HD4870 drivers are shared with the HD4850 in the iMac, compared to professional Quadro drivers which should be fairly distinct from even GTX 285 drivers and the combined market of the HD4850 and HD4870 would be much larger than the Quadro FX 4800 Mac Edition. Yet the Quadro manages to have a tiny premium in comparison.
Similarly, the GT120 for the Mac Pro (rebranded 9500GT) retails for $150 while the PC version averages around $60. A $90 or 250% premium. And with the GT120 the standard discrete GPU in both the iMac and Mac Pro the target market is larger than the HD4xxx market and substantially larger than the Quadro market, yet the premium is even higher. What's more, driver development effort is minimal since the GT120 is just a rebranded 9500GT, which is a shrink with upclock of the 8600GT, so the drivers would basically be the same as existing 8xxx and 9xxx GPUs.
I don't mind a premium to account for development effort and small market, but the facts actually point to the exact opposite. The smaller the market, and the more unique the driver, like the Quadro, the smaller the premium, while the large market, little development effort parts, like the GT120, get a huge premium. I guess the reasoning is that the mainstream mass consumer is subsidizing the high-end niche market. I can actually respect that somewhat, otherwise a Quadro card may never have come to Mac at all. Still, it isn't exactly pretty. From my purchases, I guess it's kind of easier to overlook when buying a MacBook Pro since the GPU is built-in and hard to price, but it's just in plain sight when buying a Mac Pro.