It’s hard out there for Mac users: on targeted Orbitz search results, Apple changing ‘no-virus’ claim

• Are you a Mac or a PC? If it’s the former, you probably see a different set of search results when looking for hotels on the company’s travel sites. The Wall Street Journal reports that Orbitz is starting to try to exploit the travel company’s findings that people who use Apple computers — which generally cost more than PCs running Windows — spend as much as 30 percent more a night on hotels, and are more likely to book four- or five-star hotels. So the company is experimenting with displaying the more expensive hotels higher on the search results, although it says it is not charging Mac users higher prices for the same hotel rooms. The sites also offer a way to search results by price.

Orbitz isn’t limiting its targeting, which is based on tracking customers’ online activity, to operating systems. According to the WSJ, Orbitz also serves search results differently to potential customers based on the referral site, where they are booking from and more.

Does the move warrant the outrage that’s pouring out on social media? With tweets and Facebook posts along the lines of “shame on you,” Orbitz says on its Facebook page today: “A misleading headline and the selective placement of the WSJ paywall cuts off the story and leads people to jump to conclusions. If you carefully read the WSJ, it never says Orbitz charges Mac users more.” Jacqui Cheng writes for Ars Technica, “some more expensive hotels might show up on the first page of your search results, but the secret is: you don’t have to book them.” If nothing else, Orbitz is being transparent about its practices — ones that probably will become more commonplace amid the rise of online tracking and big data. It’s not as if Mac users didn’t know, but: You have been tagged as big spenders. Now go book a rinky-dink motel to throw them off.

• In other Mac news, Apple has dropped from its website the claim that its computers “don’t get PC viruses.” Instead, the Cupertino company’s “Why You’ll Love a Mac” section now says Macs are “built to be safe.”

Apple computers have been marketed as less susceptible to viruses. But threats such as the Flashback Trojan, which infected what were said to be hundreds of thousands of Macs recently, plus the Mac Defender malware discovered last year, have prompted some security experts to say that Macs’ “malware-free times of Mac users are behind us permanently,” according to CNet. They’re saying that as Macs’ market share grows, so do security threats.

But Rich Mogull, founder of security-research company Securosis, points out the potential conflict of interest inherent in findings or analysis by those in the computer security business. He tells the New York Times Bits blog: “Two issues in two years is relatively minor compared with what happens in the Windows world. … Antivirus companies, in particular, can be pretty deceptive. They have been marketing Apple’s immunity far more than Apple has.”


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  • RedRat

    Hey what about us Linux users??? Using their reasoning, I guess, we are the cheapskates and they probably show the 1 star hotels.

  • sd

    Nah. Linux users build their own shelter wherever they end up. 🙂

  • Jeff

    You have to wonder about the decision making capabilities of the people in charge of Orbitz. Just because Mac users willingly get bent over by Apple does not mean they’ll drink the kool aid for any old hotel.