If you've been living under a rock the past few years, you might not have noticed Apple's resurgence. The rest of us have been reminded of it daily - from the iMac through MacOS X and to the iPod - it's been hard to avoid seeing mention of Apple daily. Why is that, and why don't we see such developments from Dell, Gateway or HP? This is actually a multi-layered question that we will explore in depth. These layers are inter-woven, though some extend deeper than others. The best place to start is probably at the bottom - the core of the situation (it'd be disingenuous to call it a problem.)
It is you, the end-user. As consumers, we have the final vote in a product's success. Though a designer or design team creates the concept, a board or committee approves it and workers and technology make it a reality, and marketers hype it up, only consumers can make it succeed. Thus, the success of Apple's products is ultimately decided by us. Whatever other considerations there are, we choose to buy them.
We do this knowing that they are, typically, more expensive than similar competitive products. After all, the latest and greatest Macintosh can easily be outperformed in most if not all benchmarks by offerings from major manufacturers, mom & pop shops and even those that build their computers at home. Whether we choose to pay for the name brand, the styling, features or whatever - we generally convince ourselves that it's worth it.
Now, where is the possible reason for a price premium on a PC? Only Apple makes Macintoshes. Any number of major manufacturers, as well as smaller shops and home users can make a PC. And while there are many MP3 players, it was Apple that came up with the iPod - a design that combined key features like storage capacity, size, styling, interface, legal downloads (no doubt generating significant RIAA support) - all with an excellent marketing campaign to sell it. Thus, no matter how much better or cheaper competitors are, they're not iPods. Sort of like how a Ford Mustang is and always will be a Ford Mustang - no matter that other cars might suit your needs or desires more.
Quite simply, we accept that Apple products will cost more. In fact, we want them to - this re-affirms our need to own the best (but within our means). There is certainly a difference in quality between an Armani suit and a custom from your local tailor, but as with any premium item, the price can only be justified by the value we put into the name and slight improvements.
We do not place the same emphasis on PC products. In fact, it is quite opposite. We expect PCs to be plain, fast, and cheap. These are the draws for owning them - they're good, rational reasons - but they're not sexy. It makes sense to own a Honda Accord or Dodge Caravan, but it's sexy to own a Toyota Supra or Cadillac Escalade, even though we're hard-pressed to justify the existence, never mind the need for either. Desire itself provides enough reason for their viability on the market.