By Harry McCracken | Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 6:40 pm
Microsoft’s moving ahead with more commercials in its “I’m a PC” series, one of which it’s posted at a section of Windows.com called Laptop Hunters. Let’s watch, shall we?
Can’t argue with the truth of the basic gist here: There are tons of well-equipped Windows notebooks under a thousand bucks, and only one Mac laptop option, the basic white MacBook. If Lauren, the shopper in the commercial, had told me she wanted a 17-inch laptop for less than a grand, I could have saved her the trip to “the Mac store” she makes: Sorry, Lauren, Apple no can do. (Hey, I can’t afford a 17-inch MacBook Pro, either.)
But while the ad communicates a real virtue of Windows computers over Macs–much more variety and many machines at much lower prices–it doesn’t leave me feeling like Microsoft has conveyed a positive message about its operating system. At first I wasn’t sure why. But after watching the commercial a few times, I think I understand why.
Lauren’s quest is about about finding features at a particular price point. Windows machines can easily win that competition. But the ad–and all the “I’m a PC” marketing I’ve seen to date–ignores one kinda-important feature: the operating system. You know, the business that Microsoft is in, and the one most significant difference between a PC and a Mac?
Microsoft doesn’t say Windows is better than OS X. It doesn’t say it’s comparable to OS X. It. Just. Ignores. Windows. Period.
Which implies–to me at least–that it’s arguing that operating systems don’t matter much. Computers are all about hardware specs; software is a side issue.
This is actually a defensible position: More and more, operating systems are middleware that sits between a computer and the browser that gets you onto the Web. But it’s not an idea that leaves you feeling good about Windows. It leaves you thinking that Microsoft thinks its product is a low-cost commodity.
Kind of like when Walgreens makes the case to buy this:
Instead of this:
Except that Microsoft doesn’t even argue that its product is as useful as the more slickly-packaged alternative.
It’s a strikingly different marketing message than the one implicit in most of Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads, which tend to be about software, not hardware, and which make the case that Macs are better because their software is better:
I’m not out to bash Microsoft here–like I say, there’s truth in the message it’s conveying these days. But I’m still unclear as to why it devotes so much attention to comparing Windows PC hardware with Mac hardware–especially since the high entry-level prices for Macs already ensure that the vast majority of computer shoppers in the country will buy a Windows machine of some sort. (Chevrolet doesn’t spend much time trying to convince people not to buy Audis, in case you hadn’t noticed.) And I’d love to see a Windows ad do something I kind of assumed bold new Windows ads would do: make the case for Windows.