Microsoft's New Commercial: Windows is a Generic Equivalent to OS X

By  |  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?

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.801900&w=425&h=350&fv=c%3Dv%26v%3D0bb6a07c-c829-4562-8375-49e6693810c7%26ifs%3Dtrue%26fr%3Dmsnvideo%26mkt%3Den-US]

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:

Walgreens

Instead of this:

Tylenol

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.

 
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26 Comments For This Post

  1. tom b Says:

    The problem for MSFT is that you're much better off buying a used Mac, or holding onto an existing Mac you might own than throwing up your hands in despair and settling for Windows. It's all about getting your work done with the minimum of fuss. Computers are not accessories; they are important tools in modern life.

  2. marty Says:

    tom,

    MS office (newest one) loads faster on my celeron 1,3 ghz than on my 2ghz iMac. like two or three times faster.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like my Mac but it’s far from being perfect.

  3. Dave Barnes Says:

    My reaction to this advert is: “Are you insane!” ?
    You are Microsoft and you have worldwide share of PC operating systems of 90%.
    And, now you run ads attacking the little mouse.
    Rule #1: Never attack down. Certainly, do not when the market share ratio is 10:1.
    Idiots.

    By the way. Have you noticed that even Wal-Mart no longer portrays itself as: “Always the low price. Always.” There is a reason for this. Whilst we are in a recession/depression, average REAL incomes worldwide have been doubling (or more) every 50 years.

  4. Randall Says:

    With the proliferation of web based systems, a.k.a. cloud computing, the operating system is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Because one needs merely a web browser, of which there are many that work on either operating system, does it really matter what the specs are? What one wants is an easy to use physical interface and lots of screen real estate. $699 for that system was a great deal.

    My bias: I run XP on a 15″ Macbook pro…

  5. Dizzle Says:

    Is microsoft trying to sell computer hardware or it’s OS? Im confused. Also the blind message “it’s cheaper, so it MUST be better” is a bit preposterous. You get what you pay for!

    I own both Mac and PC (vista machine) and I am MUCH more productive with my intuitive Macbook.

  6. L1A Says:

    i’m a mac and i got just i wanted too. /boggle at this =)
    by their logic we all should be driving kia or hyunday, i thinks

  7. Ron Evry Says:

    Microsoft is jumping the gun because they see Apple nibbling away at their market share and getting huge amounts of press. They are also jumping the shark, but that’s another issue…

  8. jvon Says:

    Lauren, I love your black VW Beetle you drive!

  9. Bob Says:

    as she said, “just not cool enough for a Mac”, and that’s the way we like it.

    thanks for coming, bye bye.

  10. Steve Says:

    Interesting, Windows is pitching itself at the budget end of the market now. No further need for XPPro, Vista Ultimate or 7…

  11. DysfunctionalParrot Says:

    Maybe MSFT should have Seinfeld giving shoe advise again to Bill. Makes about as much of an impact.

    And cheaper? Since when did Microsoft sell computers? Ediots.

  12. Paulo Sargaço Says:

    You have a point there, Harry. Funnier then that, Microsoft seems to be making a case, not only for hardware, but for a particular brand of hardware: HP. I guess that their reasoning is that if they push PC, their business is kind of guaranteed. Which… is true. Not many people buy a PC to scrap Windows and install Linux.

  13. Stilgar Says:

    I really like this article, but I’m not sure Microsoft (MS) is trying to accomplish.

    Anytime I read forum posts or hear people discussing Mac vs PC, the main argument for PC users is inevitably, “PCs are cheaper.”

    That being said, I don’t think MS is necessarily trying to convince everyone PCs are better. This commercial seems to reinforce the concept that most PC users have: PCs are cheaper than Macs. The subject matter of the commercials with children working with pictures and video are targeted slightly more toward the operating system with the general message of, “we’re easy to use (too).”

    My impression is that MS is willing to let a few people go to a different platform, but right now they’re trying to prevent more PC owners from making the jump to Mac.

    The situation would get really interesting if there was a third party producing TV commercials for Ubuntu. “You want OS value? Try free” :)

  14. fefe Says:

    Great tip, I’d try to get in touch with even more people to read this. Maybe i’ll link this to osforum.com or something. Thanks again

  15. Marc Says:

    OMG! Apple charge over the odds for their hardware! Well, I learnt something new today ;)

  16. Used to Be Mac user Says:

    After reading the posts, I find it amusing of the attacks on Microsoft. She said what she wanted
    1. 17″ screen
    2. Under $1000

    Sounds reasonable, most of us, including myself in todays economy, have a budget, and would like it to do a few basic things, 1)type a document for school/work, 2)email, and 3) surf the internet. Both Mac and Windows can do all of those, so it really comes down to price + whatever features she wants (no she did not say “I want a half eaten apple logo on the back”) and this commercial matches what she wanted (for $300 less).
    I think that she is right on, and if she did have a budget of $2,799.00 (Apples published price for a 17″ laptop) you could buy a pretty tricked out windows PC.
    In the I’m a Mac vs I’m a PC commercials Mac points out things it is strong in (video editing, pictures, etc), these commercials by Microsoft return the volleys with the same fairness that Mac started the battle with.

  17. tramster Says:

    Interesting.
    I did hear rumour that Microsofts adverts for the “I’m a PC” campaign were made on a mac!!!
    Anyone able to corroborate this?
    As for the ad, She got what she wanted for a good price. Apples capabilites where not in her criteria.
    Me, I’m a PC and I love the tinkering under the hood. Setting it up is whats its all about for me.

  18. kousik Says:

    @Randall
    Do you really know what the OS is for? Cloud is just for storing your data, and when you try to work on the data the OS becomes important.

    Anyway, good article — I am happy owner of both a Mac and a PC (as well as a Linux box), and I totally agree with you. However, I see another negative point — it tries to say that an average PC user is “less cool”, but I don’t think that’s a cool way to think of the customers!

  19. Travis Says:

    To used to be a mac user, I dont think you actually were a user. You seem to miss the point. No matter how “tricked out” your windows PC is, if you get a macbook pro for that price you are getting value out of every penny. Im not sure why she would ever need a macbook pro, as she doesnt seem like shes professional at anything except tweeting perhaps, but that is a beast of a computer. Do a part by part comparison of the macbook pro and it is a great value for the equipment, with a slight premium on the operating system, which is fine as it is infinitly better than vista. If you are looking for a cheap computer, sure buy a pc, or better yet a netbook, as most of those people really only need a browser and solitaire. The video editing commercial makes me crack up every time. “its only got 2 gigs” HAHAHA. If you want to do video editing you buy at least a macbook pro. I have a mac pro and everything is blazing fast and simple. And, when ive got spare time, I can play crysis in (shudder) bootcamp on very high settings. Sooo. Have fun with your pc.

  20. Travis Says:

    And about the price thing, I would like to tell a story. When my dad needed to buy a computer, he spent a very long time deciding. He had always had pc’s because his firm has a great hook up with dell ( my dad was an acquaintance). But he was sick of dealing with consumer customer support for my moms pc and his laptop. So we went out looking, he checked out hp’s, sony’s, all windows and he finnaly decided on a macbook base level. He fooled around with it for hours, over the course of a couple of weeks before buying and he is extremly pleased. He knew he could have gotten a pc for 700, but he simply hated the os. This is a guy who’s ski jacket is older than I am (im 23) and he got it in a bargain bin at a discount store for around 5 buvks. i have probably had a dozen new ski jackets and pants, atleast one every two years. This is a guy who loves a bargain and gets the best out of it. But apples customer support and ease of use WAS the good deal for him. Now, if you prefer vistas bugs and viruses and tech support from india from people reading off a list, by all means enjoy your purchase. ill pay a premium for quality.

  21. Guru Says:

    @Dave Barnes

    90% would be 9:1 not 10:1

  22. James Smith, João Pessoa, Brazil Says:

    I suspect the reason why MS Office loads faster on a Windows system than a Mac is that MS has some “hooks” in their software to help it run better than competing software or on a non-Widows system. While that might sound underhanded, if you were running a company like that, how would you do it? For once, I can’t fault this intelligent business decision my MS.

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  24. Jon Peterson Says:

    Incidentally, with your medicine example: the compelling argument should be "THEY'RE THE EXACT SAME THING, IN A DIFFERENT PACKAGE".

    No really. The FDA requires generics to be chemically identical to the name-brand. As soon as generics for a particular medicine start showing up, it's financially unwise NOT to switch, because you are literally paying more for the exact same product.

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