Microsoft’s latest advertising campaign, while more stimulating than the Seinfeld/Gates spots, has one goal and one goal only: sell PCs. Microsoft’s endgame, it seems, is to persuade people into purchasing Windows-running PCs by leveraging the fact that Macs are more expensive than PCs.
I’m not going to get into this argument because a) it’s been done before, and b) the answer always comes out with just a little bias. In my opinion, the hardware comes out costing the same (with negligible differences) no matter how you run the numbers. What I would rather discuss is how Microsoft is making its attack and what it is actually doing to help Apple.
Let’s first focus on what Microsoft is not doing. Microsoft, as you will notice if you have watched any of the commercials, is not talking about Windows, at all. This is interesting given the fact that Microsoft is a software company first and foremost. It is also interesting when taking into consideration that Apple’s wildly popular “I’m a Mac” campaign knocked Windows’ flaws and shortcomings without holding anything back. Windows Vista is capable of some pretty impressive stuff and Microsoft is not touting any of it.
Windows and OS X are very similar in terms of what they allow users to accomplish and yet, in many ways, they are very different in how they allow users to accomplish varying tasks. I’m not saying that one OS is necessarily “better” than the other (at least not now, I’ll say that later). The two camps are different, though, and it is surprising to see Microsoft not point out the areas in which Windows is (or is perceived to be) better than OS X.
However, what Microsoft is throwing some pretty hard punches by pointing out one glaring fact: Macs are not inexpensive. This is not to say that Macs are too expensive; I’m not going to get into this argument. What I will say, however, is that the numbers are close. Maybe not exact, but close enough. Given that Macs are not too expensive, nor are they inexpensive, what we are left with is a solid piece of hardware at just the right cost. Windows-running PCs, on the other hand, come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and, what Microsoft is hanging its hat on, prices. If you have given any thought to purchasing a Mac, or already have one, or three, then you know that Apple is not to keen on catering to the bargain-bin shoppers. Apple will tell you this is about overall experience and not releasing a product that is incapable of delivering the promise of excellence.
The problem is that while Microsoft is pointing out how “expensive” Macs are, they are also doing a little promoting for Apple. Microsoft’s “real” people featured in these commercials often make comments that actually say something positive about their competition. According to the campaign, Apple’s computers are “sexy” computers for “cool” people. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and neither could Apple spokesman Bill Evans who told MacWorld. “A PC is no bargain when it doesn’t do what you want. The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool; with its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price.” I am glad that Microsoft is admitting the facts.
Another fact that Microsoft is promoting for Apple is that Macintosh is a premium brand. In the same way that one can purchase a well-equipped Honda Accord for the same price as an entry-level BMW 3-series; one can also purchase a PC or Mac for about the same price. Microsoft’s strategy, then, is to point out that Apple makes premium, quality computers, while Windows can be purchased to “run” on just about any cheap inexpensive computer.
I’m not going to answer the question as to whether Microsoft’s campaign is a bad one, but what I am saying is that I think Microsoft can do better.