A form of price control
that Apple Computer
in particular is very fond of.
Basically it comes down to this: Apple sets a Minimum Advertised Price on all equipment in its current lineup. You put equipment on the rack with a listed price lower than that, Apple revokes some of your special privileges as an Apple Licenced Vendor.
(Apple has a LOT of control over its vendors. Like, a LOT. They are finicky and make people who want to sell macs jump through all kinds of quality-of-service-related hoops. This is because apple is afraid of being hurt by people interpreting poor vendor representation as a reflection on the quality of apple's products-- which, if you remember the days when people would go into Sears and see one two-year-old Performa for sale with all the files renamed to ",,,,aaa", the mouse missing, and a 9" monitor, and think "wow, macs suck" based on that, seems like a valid concern. Apple is now dedicated to selecting its vendors with an iron fist, and rejecting anyone who cannot provide good materials to their customers or provide good support for the products they sell.
Interestingly, though, when i asked someone i know who is an Apple Licensed Vendor to read this node and correct any errors, he said that i had a couple minor inaccuracies but that he couldn't correct them-- since discussing the exact terms of the MAP would violate his vendor NDA!)
Most notably, apple actually kind of helps the vendors pay for some machines, and if the MAP is violated apple stops helping, meaning the vendor starts losing a couple hundred dollars per machine sold. Nobody ever, ever violates the MAP. Ever.
Apple does this to protect vendors by preventing price wars. The logic is to ensure no vendor ever has to sell at an unreasonably low price in order to stay competitive, keeping the reasonably shaky business of selling Macintoshes from becoming literally unprofitable.
Of course, the MAP also makes things a bit odd, since it means that out of the Big Three mac catalogs that control the mac world-- MacConnection, MacZone, MacMall-- all of their prices are literally identical, since they all sell at the MAP. This means that the vendors are forced to distinguish themselves by what is bundled with the machine-- this vendor gives you a discount on a printer, this vendor gives you extra RAM. When buying a mac you wind up basing your decision wholly on who gives you the best bundle, since all prices are the same anyway.
Please note a vendor can still dip underneath the MAP when *selling* a machine-- the price only applies to advertising and listed prices. However, because of the nature of the MAP, they are secure in that they will never *have* to.
The Japanese government believes the MAP is an illegal form of price control, and at one point was trying to get apple to stop. I don't believe the issue was ever resolved completely.
Please correct me if any of this is not totally accurate.