Daniel Eran Dilger
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Microsoft’s latest ad attacks Mac aesthetics, computing power

Giampaolo

Prince McLean, AppleInsider
Continuing its advertising campaign which seeks to promote generic PCs running Windows as more attractive than Macs, Microsoft’s latest spot plays up specifications over aesthetics as opposed to just suggesting that PCs are simply cheaper as the previous spot did. However, it end up making the opposite point instead.

Microsoft’s latest ad attacks Mac aesthetics, computing power

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Following Lauren, the latest ad introduces Giampaolo, who says he’s looking for portability, battery life, and power. “I’m technically savvy,” he says, “I know what I want. I like a computer that allows me to customize.” He’s shown shopping at Fry’s Electronics, where he picks up a unibody MacBook and says, “This is so sexy!”

Giampaolo then explains why he can’t buy it, saying, “Macs to me are all about aesthetics more than they are the computing power. I don’t want to pay for the brand, I want to pay for the computer.”

Of course, it’s really Microsoft that’s paying for Giampaolo’s computer, and Steve Ballmer is not going to picking up the tab for a MacBook. So instead, Giampaolo uses his $1500 budget to ultimately buy an HP Pavilion HDX 16t, which he says has everything he needs.

“That thing is gigantic”

On HP’s website, that model starts at $1000. At Fry’s, the salesman in the ad points out its typical configuration of $1,100, although HP’s “recommended configuration” is $1400, still within Giampaolo’s budget. However, it’s an odd choice for somebody who wants portability, as the 16“ widescreen model he lugs out of Fry’s weighs over 7.3 pounds naked, almost twice as much as the ”sexy“ MacBook that was ”all about aesthetics.“

HP certainly isn’t ”all about aesthetics.“ The cheap plastic body of the HP Pavilion HDX 16t is 1.7 inches thick, nearly twice as bulky as the MacBook. All that size surrounds a large 16” screen with a miserably low density 1366×768 screen resolution. Giampaolo could upgrade to the 1920×1080 option, but that would have bumped him over his artificial $1500 ad budget, even when applying a $200 instant rebate HP offers.

Battery life not so good

“What would have the best battery life, that could still accommodate my needs?” Giampaolo asked while shopping. It sure wasn’t what he picked out.

HP rates its built-in battery for less than 3 hours, but reviewers gave it less than two. That’s not very good at all for its category. HP also offers a $150 expansion battery that hangs off the back of the already large system to give it twice the battery life. The “sexy” MacBook is rated for 5 hours with a single battery.

“It’s a pretty strong contender”

In terms of power, Giampaolo’s third primary need, the “recommended configuration” of the HP Pavilion HDX 16t that he apparently purchased ships with a 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duo P7450 paired with 4GB of PC2-5300 DDR2 RAM, which is a slower memory architecture than Apple was shipping in early 2006 MacBooks three years ago.

The latest MacBooks that Giampaolo feared were “all about aesthetics” pair a Core 2 Duo P7350 or P8600 with PC3-8500 DDR3 RAM, delivering a peak transfer rate that’s twice as fast as the HP machine Giampaolo selected.

So much for Macs being about “aesthetics more than they are the computing power,” or Giampaolo being “technically savvy.”

Hopefully, Giampaolo is at least technologically savvy enough to upgrade to the 64-bit version of Windows Vista (or downgrade to the 64-bit version of Windows XP) in order to actually take advantage of that 4GB of RAM, as the standard version of Windows can only actually use about 3GB of it, a technical problem he wouldn’t face on the MacBook.

Given that only a fraction of the PC installed base runs a 64-bit version of Windows (Microsoft reported that less than 6% of users hitting its software update servers were running 64-bit Vista last June), there’s lots of “technically savvy” PC users with loads of installed RAM their computer can’t even use.

And while Giampaolo can upgrade to even more RAM, he can’t upgrade his new system to use the faster DDR3 RAM specification used in the MacBook. That would make his system faster overall and allow it to take full advantage of the installed CPU’s 1066MHz front side bus, which HP chose to cripple by pairing it with a 533MHz memory architecture to save money and deliver a cheap system for people who don’t know what they’re really buying as they shop at Fry’s for good-sounding GB and MHz numbers rather than focusing on finding a computer that does the things they want it to do.

Giampaolo was distracted by marketing

Of course, with the scant money that he’s saving (he could have bought the high end MacBook by matching Microsoft’s money with his own $100), Giampaolo will now get to go shopping for software, where he can easily spend several hundred dollars just trying to match the features and usability of the free iLife and Mac OS X tools Apple bundles with the MacBook.

Giampaolo will also have to spend hours of his time installing and running antivirus and adware tools, and stay on the lookout for that Conficker computer worm that Microsoft is warning Windows PC users about on the front page of its corporate website.

The strangest point of this ad is that Giampaolo didn’t get the portability, battery life, and power he was looking for, he just ended up with a cheap-appearing machine that obscured its real technical limitations under a flashy layer of misleading, specification-oriented marketing, the very thing he thought he was avoiding with HP: buying a brand rather than a computer. And that’s exactly what Microsoft wants people to do: buy its brand rather than a computer that does what they want it to do.

  • droughtquake

    I thought Fry’s forbade photos and cameras inside their stores.

  • Michael

    apparently not… if it’s microsoft, anything is possible (except venturing into apple stores for apparent reasons). the thought of macs being all about appearance is about as lame as they can get… do they really think consumers are that STUPID to buy a computer that doesn’t do what they want? Apparently all they managed to say is that PC buyers are stupid, just like Dan said of their advertisement.. which isn’t the best way to woo your customers. nice comments btw, i don’t know who dreamt up these commercials for microsoft, but they clearly just suck and flat out lie. they really can’t say anything truthful, unless they say they offer office and windows for people who need that… and can’t for people who don’t. it’s simply their business model being based on very little viable competition that rules them out of marketing their products effectively like apple does (again, Dan, you are awesome at spotting that kind of fact when no one else in the media does). well, let the advertisements play themselves out to the tune of millions of dollars down the tube (pun intended) instead of making their products better. sigh… switch to apple instead :)

  • darwiniandude

    This ad campaign does have the upside for microsoft that it provides fresh fodder for mac bashing by vista enthusiasts everyhere.

    It’s up to the mac guys to know their facts and retort with “Enjoy your cracking plastic shelled double heavy weight with less than half the battery life, cheapskate. ” or similar.

    In fairness to MS’s use of twisted facts, the Get a Mac commercials are very much tounge in cheek and certainly not accurate representation of windows.

    Meanwhile, Apple is laughing; whilst the sleepy giant microsoft has awoken from it’s slumber, stumbling drunkenly around trying to catch the nimble Apple dancing round it’s heels, Apple is tying it’s shoelaces together and cutting off it’s options with the iPhone and iPod Touch… ‘the next big thing’

    Jobs (paraphrased, I’m on my iPhone) “The PC wars are over. Microsoft won. It’s now time to focus on the next big thing.”

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  • Joel

    ‘“I’m technically savvy,” he says, “I know what I want. I like a computer that allows me to customize.”’

    Then why are you looking at laptops…? I thought this would be about how he looked at Mac Pro, and then decided on a Dell…

  • http://www.marketingtactics.com davebarnes

    This ad has NOTHING to do with Macs versus Windows machines. Only Mac fanboys (like me and you) think so.

    These ads are about spending money. Microsoft does not care what computer you buy. Even if it is a Mac. What these ads are really trying to do is get people to buy something, anything.

    There is only one way of this recession. The consumer (whose spending constitutes 68+% of the US economy) must start spending and must continue to spend.

  • luisd

    @davebarnes
    God bless Ballmer and his disinterested contribution to save America from the crisis!

  • http://www.marketingtactics.com davebarnes

    @LuisD
    I did not say it was disinterested. It is very much in Steve Ballmer’s interest that people buy a computer. Any computer will do though. Microsoft makes money every time someone puts MS Office on their Mac.

  • jdb

    @davebarnes What you say flies in the face of the focus of both of these ads. They both go out of their way to approach a Mac and then summarily dismiss it. If it was about just buying a PC, Microsoft has no reason to take the risk of mentioning their competitor.

    Referencing a competitor (especially one with less of a market share) is considered one of the primary sins of marketing. Microsoft would only do that in desperation.

  • sir1963nz

    Seems Microsoft assumes aesthetics gives a choice of looking (and being good) OR looking (and being) stupid……. and it seems they chose the later….. again.

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  • paoloon

    “There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and he who considers price only is that man’s lawful prey.” — John Ruskin

    Jeez, as many have pointed out (but it bears repeating given this crap M$ ad series) — following this logic everyone should be driving around in Hyundais instead of BMWs or Lexuses (Lexi?).

    What’s Ballmer’s argument for paying a premium for a quality, stylish car? Does he drive some crappy cheap car?

    This ad is worse than the Lauren one, for the reasons Dan points out. He’s supposed to be a computer geek and he ends up with a cheap HP luggable. Brilliant. (And at least Lauren was cute ;)

  • pointyfingers

    @davebarnes

    No amount of PC sales will save this economy from recession. The recession is all about derivatives bubbles of loans that cannot be paid because there’s no one to pay them.

    This ad has NOTHING to do with helping the economy, or even providing reasonable alternatives to macs (as this article argues). It’s about promoting MS and attacking Apple. Which isn’t a bad thing. Competition isn’t a bad thing. I think most people like a good back and forth between these two.

  • pointyfingers

    yea, at least Lauren was cute.

  • http://www.marketingtactics.com davebarnes

    @jdb
    Only Mac fanboys will even notice the Mac/Apple reference. It does not matter that it is in the advert. The general computer buying public will not notice.

    You are missing the point. The US economy is not doing very well. Microsoft is attempting to get people to buy a new computer.

    If a million people view this ad and then go out any buy a new Chevy and not a new PC, Microsoft would be sooo happy.

  • paoloon

    I can’t take credit for this but I found this brilliant posting at 9 to 5 Mac. Would be nice to think that it’s true :)
    Curious in any case that MS has twice in a row featured HP and not Dull or one of the other PeeCee manufacturers…

    http://www.9to5mac.com/Microsoft-misleading#comment-32168 :
    —————
    How it really is….

    Sun, 04/05/2009 – 11:46 — 9to5Mac Noob (not verified) 2 points
    MS: Oh hi HP how’s going?
    HP: We’re the world largest seller of PC’s we’ve got warehouses full of these shitty laptops stuffed with Vista that no-one is buying.
    MS: Yeah so?
    HP: You assured us your last two advertising campaigns were going to turn around how our customers saw windows and these things would be flying off the shelves in no time.
    MS: Yeah so?
    HP: You had better sell these things for me in the next 30 days or we’re going to wipe the lot and instal Linux.
    MS: You wouldn’t dare.
    HP: You just fucking watch me.
    ——————-

  • gus2000

    I’m a purveyor of vast amounts of television, and frequently enjoy critiquing the 30-second travesties that attempt to pass for commercials. And I must say that I cannot fathom how I would sell Microsoft Windows to the public. “Even the richest men in the world are feeling the pinch of the current economy. Won’t you help?”

    Or, they could just copy the Fleggaard skydiver commercial. I’ve have no idea what Fleggaard is trying to sell, but I’d be willing to buy two.

  • enzos

    Gus, Paol, Dave &c. ..
    I’m laughing… how come all the other gadget blogs are full of tetchy Spotty Herberts bent on making a point, while this one is full of FUN! ?

    Cheers

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  • paoloon

    @enzos
    Because our Dan the Man has a very sophisticated readership :)

  • enzos

    How can I disagree?

    Sometimes interesting info. comes to light in the shallow end.. e.g. I didn’t know, before I looked him up, that the world’s first computer was named after a favorite of my father’s generation, “Heath Robinson”; which is no reason subsequent computers should look like his famous inventions http://forums.appleinsider.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=97052 comment 24.

    -Enz

  • Dmitri

    As Dan has often pointed out, when consumers have a choice, they DON’T chose Windows. It just “comes with” the computers they get.

    I think these ads are trying to remove choice from computer buyers by saying, “Remember: You have NO CHOICE. You MUST buy the cheapest computer you can find!” and hoping it sticks.

    I think it will work to some extent… But the thing is, even in a bad economy, some people still DON’T buy solely on what’s cheapest. Not everyone buys the cheapest car, and they still wouldn’t even if a manufacturer insisted that they “must.” And not everyone buys the cheapest computer.

    But it’s MS’s hope that they can get people into the “you have no choice but to buy the cheapest damn thing you can put your hands on.”

    We’ll see how it goes. I think that for some people who don’t know any better — or for parents buying computers for their kids at college — it very well might work. It’s the best thing Microsoft has come up with yet to get consumers to move away from the mac.

  • Baroosk

    You know after seeing both new Microsquish ads that tout others’ hardware, rather than the software that M$ makes, I think they are strying to restart the “Megahertz Myth” with the easiest differentiating factor left: Screen pixels vs screen inches.

    Yes That’s what I think they are pointing for. More inches is better… but not always!

    Here are the screen resolutions of her HP, and the Macbook/MBP.
    HP resolution–1440×900,
    MacBook 13 resolution–1280 by 800,
    MacBookPro 15 & 17 inch–1440 by 900 and less

    The MacBook’s screen resolution is 80% of the HP’s screen res.

    Watch this. It’s a new MegaHertz Myth…

    from Alaska in the early morning sun

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    I thought for its intended purpose, the commercial was actually pretty good. I think a lot of people go out not knowing exactly what computer they want, and then they shop around and buy whatever looks best for the cost.

    Of course, Dan has some valid points – just because something looks like a good value doesn’t mean it actually is. The guy wanted portability, battery life, and power, yet he picked an HP that was larger and heavier than the MacBook, and had shorter battery life and slower RAM. It wasn’t like the MacBook was double the price or anything – the difference was $300, and both machines were within his $1500 limit. So if you actually look at what he got, it doesn’t really add up.

  • adamk359

    I’ve been keeping my eye on these ads and the “backlash” from the “Apple faithful”. On top of that, there’s Microsoft’s “this is exactly what we were hoping for” BS.

    First off, no Microsoft, Apple fans are not lashing out in anger. We’re laughing at the horrible job these ads are doing to help you sell PCs bundled with Windows. We’re laughing at the fact that you have to basically deceive the average user into believing what they are getting is the best you can get for less money. Here’s an example of a comment from a BusinessWeek.com article on the same “Giampaolo” ad:

    “You’re way wrong about the 17″ Pavilion. I’m an ordinary (75 year old) computer user since the 1970s. I just bought a Pavillion DV7, at just under $700 and it is the best I’ve ever used. I wanted an AMD processor. The salesman told me that’s the best you can get. I did not face the usual startup problems. Just took it on a 10-day vacation to California and it worked exceedingly well. I’ve never had another laptop that didn’t balk and sputter trying to connect with other wired or wireles systems. It is all I could possibly want in a computer (I write books and newspaper editorials). The Microsoft lady shopper got it right.”

    A tech savvy guy (or gal) does not go into a store and ask for opinions. They buy direct from the manufacturer and customize. If Giampaolo were as tech savvy as he says he is, but had no chance to go online to purchase the computer, he’d simply ask the salesman what they had in stock for “x” brand laptops with “y” type specs and get out of there. What does he need with the salesperson after that? The salesman is sitting there going through all kinds of different laptops…meaning Giampaolo has no clue what he wants. He really wants recommendations…and the salesperson is all too happy to oblige. The man in the quote above from the BusinessWeek article is exactly the same: claims to be tech savvy (maybe he was back in the 70s but some things have changed) but then buys an HP based on the fact that the salesperson basically said it was the best money could buy. Personally, I have no idea how good AMD processors are, but Intel’s processors seem to be ending up in a lot more computers than AMDs processors. Others commented on how the AMD was far from the best this guy could have gotten.

    This is all stuff Microsoft is hoping for: Ignorance is bliss and settle for Windows. I cannot stress this enough. Microsoft does not see fit to even bother trying to tout the advantages of Windows anymore…they just hope you’ll settle for a cheap PC with Vista on it and dispose of it in a couple years for another that will have Windows 7 on it. This is probably the only way Microsoft can actually make money with Windows anymore: Advertise the OEM’s computers for them and make money from the licenses.

    The strangest part of all of this is that Microsoft and apparently even Crispin Porter + Bogusky are acting like Apple fans are all up in a tizzy over these ads because they suggest that Apple products are just about wow factor and aesthetics rather than actual computing power. The problem with this logic is: We’re not upset. We’re easily ripping these ads and their claims to shreds. These ads do not worry me, and I highly doubt they worry Apple. This is Microsoft’s hail Mary last ditch effort to regain some people who have switched or to keep those who plan to switch as well as the XP users who are too scared to even think about upgrading to Vista/7.

    There seem to be a lot of people out there who say “wow, you Apple guys sure do seem offended about all this”. Who are these people? Microsoft-hired blog trolls? Then Microsoft says “yes, we can feel the hatred coursing through your veins” (Ballmer kind of looks like a portly Emperor Palpatine if you ask me) and “this is exactly what we were hoping for”…as if trying to do a Jedi mind trick (to continue the Star Wars theme) on us waving their hands in our faces as if it will magically sway us into feeling enraged about all this. I have not seen any Apple user get enraged over this. Usually they just explain how the ads fail and go on their way. What Microsoft is really doing is performing the Jedi mind trick on the average consumers hoping they’ll look more at their pocket books rather than at the specs.

    Sorry for the novel-sized post. I’m just getting a kick out of all of this.

  • darwiniandude

    Apple had the lead with the Mac in 1984, but frittered their lead away. Microsoft won with windows 95, but are slowly lossing their lead.

    People I know who have never been mac people now have mac books. People that bagged macs in school in the 90s. The tide is turning.

    And as the business owners toy with iPhones and macs at home, whilst they aren’t likely to swap out their office PCs with Macs I think Linux will play a part.

    In otherwords, Apple takes the consumer from windows, an Linux takes the general workstation from windows. Microsoft can’t compete with free.

  • alansky

    Well… Chevy ads may attack the power and style of the BMW, but only a moron would believe it. Which is perfectly fitting since only a moron would buy a lowly pc instead of a state-of-the-art Mac.

  • KenC

    Clearly, Giampaolo, is NOT a “technically savvy” geek. He’s surely an actor, just like Lauren.

    He says he wants power, as one of his three attributes, and he twice looks at a netbook. There’s not a single netbook that would promote “power” as one of its attributes. Any “technically savvy” geek would know that.

    And why is he even mentioning this “little camera”, since every laptop has a “little camera” now? Isn’t he “technically savvy”?

    And, where is his antivirus software that he HAS to buy? Isn’t he “technically savvy”?

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