I also agree. $500 is bottom of the barrel, and this is with ANY vendor, PC or otherwise. I recently read an interview with the CEO of Gateway, and he was very bitter about the direction the PC market has taken in the last several years.
He stated that at one time his company (and others) would typically sell a $2000 computer and make $300-$400. Now, they mostly sell $500 computers and struggle to make $40 off each computer.
With hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing operating costs, Gateway is taking a beating trying to keep things afloat with $40 here and there. It just doesn't work. In fact it has gotten so bad that Gateway is now going to be "expanding" into other household devices. For example their flat-screen TV did so well they are going to come out with several other models, and they're looking into video cameras, MP3 players, etc. (Sound familiar?)
It's difficult to feel sorry for Gateway, since they are one of the companies most responsible for this rush to produce ever cheaper PC's. But that's not the point. The point is that even companies who helped create this business model are leaving it because it is simply not sustainable.
People who complain about Apple charging too much for their computers or demanding too high of a margin are missing the point - Apple is only doing what every other PC maker on the planet wishes they COULD do. The only thing is that NONE of the other PC manufacturers has enough consumer loyalty to pull it off.
Polls have shown time and time again that for the vast majority of PC users, there is very little brand loyalty. And this applies much more to the sub-$1000 market.
Don't kid yourself. The CEO and founder of Gateway has made it clear that he would go for Apple type margins in a New York minute if his company could get away with it, but he knows that he can't. Do you think it's any different at Dell or Acer. No way.
You are not going to see a $400 Mac anytime soon, if ever, because Apple has no interest in trying to cover billion dollar operating budgets with $30 per machine profits. Does this make Apple fundamentally different than other PC makers? Only in the sense that Apple has enough consumer loyalty that they CAN DO THIS.
I have been using Macs since the early 90's. I spend all day on the thing, and I bill out tens of thousands of dollars a year on it. Would I trade the Apple quality and reliability in order to save a few hundreds bucks one time?