Survey Suggests Microsoft's PC Ads Are Working

BrandIndex, a U.K.-based market research firm, conducted daily interviews with 5,000 people since the beginning of the year and found that throughout the first quarter, most had a higher opinion of Apple's brand that they did of Microsoft's. But since early April, around the time Microsoft launched its 'Laptop Hunters' advertising campaign, that trend has reversed itself and the Microsoft brand now has the higher perceived value.

Microsoft channel partners who were frustrated by Microsoft's failure to respond to Apple's 'Get A Mac' campaign are relieved to see Microsoft gaining ground on Apple in the battle of public perception. Their message to Microsoft: Keep firing away.

"I still think that Apple has a far superior ad campaign, but it's good to see Microsoft finally standing up to defend itself," said Daniel Duffy, CEO of Valley Network Solutions, a Microsoft Gold partner in Fresno, Calif. "If they stay on this path and continue to develop innovative and unique ads, I think they can turn the tide that has been favoring Apple."

Windows Vista's User Account Control was intended to improve security in Vista but instead ended up annoying many users. As a result, Microsoft's attempts to explain that UAC was vital to security in Vista mostly fell on deaf ears, and Apple was able to capitalize on this frustration in an advertisement that poked fun at UAC.

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Matt Makowicz, principal at Ambition Consulting, a Somerset, N.J.-based solution provider, sees the UAC example as an opportunity for Microsoft to turn the tables on Apple by continuing to highlight the cost advantages of PCs. In this scenario, the Apple community's stance that people don't buy Macs based on price would be overshadowed by the fact that PCs are better options for cost-conscious users.

"PCs cost less than Macs, and that's the truth. Any argument that Macs have better usability and longevity will only serve to illustrate the truth of the Microsoft ads," Makowicz said.

While certainly entertaining, it's unlikely that the Microsoft-Apple advertising battle will much of an impact on businesses, where the desktop PC platform's dominance looks set to continue.

The majority of small businesses are aware that PCs are what's needed to run all of their software, says Brad Kowerchuk, president of Bralin Technology Solutions, North Battleford, Saskatchewan. "They're not interested in learning new line-of-business software, nor are they interested in running emulators on Mac or Linux to try to cobble a solution together," he said.

"Has anyone ever tried to run a business on a Mac? Good luck with that," said Michael Cocanower, president of Phoenix-based Microsoft solution provider ITSynergy. "It can be relatively easily accomplished in the SOHO market, but once you need that first server and want to grow your business, I doubt you're going to standardize on Mac."