Microsoft Keeps Heat On Apple With New PC Ad

In the third installment of its "Laptop Hunters" advertising campaign, Microsoft continues to pound home the message that PCs are cheaper and offer more value than Macs. It's not yet clear what impact the ads are having on PC sales, but the campaign is definitely working Apple and Microsoft partners into a lather of opinion.

The latest Crispin Porter + Bogusky ad features the mother-son team of Lisa and 11-year-old Jackson, who head to their local Best Buy to find a fast notebook PC with a big hard drive and suitable gaming configuration for less than $1,500.

Lisa suggests checking out the Macs on offer, noting that "they're kind of popular" among kids Jackson's age. However, Lisa quickly realizes that Apple has a different pricing structure than that of PC makers. "These are way more money, dude!" she tells Jackson.

Jackson, in a tone tinged with sour grapes, agrees. "They're a little too small. Maybe we'd rather go PC," he says.

Sponsored post

By this point, it should be obvious what happens next: Lisa and Jackson find a Sony Vaio notebook with a 16.4-inch screen and a Blu-ray player that meets their budget criteria, and Microsoft hands Lisa 15 Franklins, with the underlying message being that this scenario would never have been possible at an Apple Store.

What's interesting to note is that none of Microsoft's ads have mentioned Windows. That's probably due to the struggles the company has endured with Vista, and it's a marked contrast to Microsoft's efforts last year in the Mojave campaign to show people that Vista's bad reputation in the market was merely the result of negative groupthink.

Microsoft and Apple partners' reactions to the new campaign have thus far been straight down party lines. But according to some solution providers that sell both Macs and PCs, Microsoft's choice and value arguments leave the software giant open to counterattacks from Apple on a number of fronts.

"I understand that a customer can get a lower-resolution 17-inch notebook running Windows Vista at a good price," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar Technology, an Atlanta-based solution provider. "But Windows Vista Business is considerably more expensive than Mac OS X, and Windows also requires the purchase of strong antivirus software."

Macs handle large files much more efficiently and are easier to maintain, according to Dailey. Macs also ship with full working photo management, iTunes, music composition and sophisticated DVD development software, all of which add value to the Mac purchase, he said.

John Eaton, president of Eaton & Associates, a San Francisco-based solution provider that sells both Macs and PCs, doesn't find the ads compelling. "They're a pale, weak comeback to the very clever Apple ads. It's true that PCs cost less, but there are a lot less expensive phones and MP3 players, and people are willing to pay for value and neat design."

NEXT: How will Apple respond?

In future ads, Apple might also choose to point out that Macs are now fully capable of running Windows as well as other x86 operating systems as virtual machines, said Nick Gold, senior account executive at Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore-based Apple specialist.

"Apple has done a lot lately to make sure Macs can play with Microsoft systems, such as Active Directory and with OS X 10.6, native support for Exchange," Gold said. "If you need to rely on something that is only available for Windows, you can do that on your Mac. Likewise, you can boot your Mac into Windows exclusively."

Ken Wallewein, a partner with K&M Systems Integration, a Calgary, Alberta-based Microsoft partner, doesn't believe the PC price argument will resonate in the market, but he likes the fact that Microsoft has begun to take the Apple bull by the horns.

"I doubt the price angle will dissuade many people who are sufficiently interested in Macs from checking them out," Wallewein said.

Michael Oh, founder and president of Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based Apple partner, also thinks the ads will continue to polarize thinking around Macs vs. PCs, but said they probably won't do much in terms of bringing more consumers into the Microsoft fold.

"These ads could sway people who are on the fence, not because Windows gives more choice and a better price, but because they're not taking into account the reality of viruses and spyware and additional IT costs," Oh said.

Microsoft has been making a counterattack against Apple in the blogosphere as well. In a blog post earlier this week, Brandon LeBlanc, a communications manager on the Windows Client Communications Team, said Macs are not only priced higher than PCs, they also cost users more over the life of the computer -- a concept Microsoft calls the "Apple Tax."

This is another aspect of Microsoft's argument that PCs offer users more value than Macs, although it has yet to be a focus of the current advertising campaign.

"Cost is getting something cheaper. Value is a function of getting more of what you want, regardless of what you spend. And you're a lot more likely to find that with a Windows PC," LeBlanc wrote in the blog post.