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She’s Got Issues

I saw one of these Microsoft “PCs are cheaper” ads during the basketball game last night. It’s probably best of me to leave the advocacy to those who are good at it (e.g., Daring Fireball), but even setting aside tiresome evangelism, this campaign still seems like an odd duck:

  • One of the classic rules of advertising is that #2 trashes #1, but never vice versa. Avis says “we try harder” to catch Hertz, but Hertz never even acknowledges Avis. As the market leader for decades, it doesn’t have to. So why does Microsoft, still enjoying at least a 10-to-1 advantage over Mac in market share, feel the need to take potshots?
  • And did you notice the fallacy with that point? It’s that Microsoft isn’t even advertising its own product, which is the operating system. They’re forced into telling you how great PC hardware in general is, not why Windows is great. I suppose the Linux community could expect a free ride off this campaign, if it works, because it too benefits from a “buy a cheap PC” message.
  • The big question is, how much does price and feature set matter? If it’s the only thing that matters, then the iPod never had a chance against the Zen Nomad.
  • That said, there is a perception that Macs are more expensive, largely driven by the fact that Apple doesn’t even bother making zero-margin el cheapo computers. Saying that you’re “paying $500 for a logo” is rubbish, but I think some people will buy it.
  • But is it really just about styling? The ads seem to make the point that Macs are “sexy” – are they admitting that most PCs are ugly? – but I don’t know how many Mac users really pay that much heed to appearance. If it’s just about the sexy, then why would people try so hard to get OS X running on admittedly ugly-ass PCs?

Finally, couldn’t Microsoft use this exact same line of reasoning in selling the XBox 360 against the PlayStation 3? The cheapest PS3 is double the price of the cheapest 360, yet Microsoft hesitates to do so, even though the 360 is something they actually make and sell (as opposed to PCs, which they do not).

Maybe the difference is that – for this console generation and in North America at least – they know they have Sony beat. But can’t we say the same for desktop operating systems? I mean come on, it’s still 10-to-1 right? Maybe, but there’s a sense that a lot of innovators have switched to Mac, as Fortune noted in a recent article about Boxee. If cool new stuff is all on the web, is multi-platform, or (heaven forbid) is Mac first, then Microsoft’s classic advantages are lost.

But if that’s the case, then unless “Lauren” from the ads is a developer – oops, wait, she’s an actress – then it’s hard to see how selling her a cheap-ass laptop does much for Microsoft.

Comments (2)

  1. joshy688

    I once heard that the hardest job was being a marketing guy tasked with increasing Coke’s marketshare. When you are on top it’s difficult to grow in a saturated market. Since their biggest competition is their old products they should really be advertising the great awesome stuff in Vista, but…. 🙂

  2. And you know, if Vista were awesome, and if the appeal of a Mac is its “sexiness” or “stylishness”, then shouldn’t we see some fashionable person somewhere running Vista on a MacBook? Yet in all the cross-platform tech conferences I’ve gone to over the years (JavaOne, CodeMash, ApacheCon, Java Posse Roundup, etc.), I have never seen anyone running Windows on a Mac.

    Seems like there’s more interest running OS X on cheap-ass PCs – totally unsupported, not easy, and a violation of the OS X license agreement – than in running Windows on Macs, which is free and supported via Boot Camp (as well as various commercial virtualization solutions).

    My honest opinion: I do think Macs cost more, I think this is the cost of entry for using OS X, and I think more and more people are willing to pay it.

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