The I'm-a-Mac/I'm-a-PC ads have lost their entertainment value, but nobody's told Apple, which just introduced three new commercials in the threadbare series. Not only are the ads tired, they target issues are no longer relevant to the current PC market.
You can watch the new Apple commercials on Apple's Get a Mac page. Or you can just wait for them to come around on your TiVo.
The first of the three new commercials, titled "PR Lady," has the PC hiring a PR woman. The PR woman, played by a pretty brunette in a business suit, puts a positive spin on "that whole Vista problem." "And by problem," she explains, "he means a few early adopters faced some minor challenges."
"Podium" portrays the PC guy as a politician giving a campaign speech, going over many of the same issues as the "PR Lady" ad, and also talking about incompatibilities between Vista and older hardware.
And "Boxer" has the PC guy as a fighter in a silk, hooded robe.
The commercials have two problems:
First, they've lost their charm. When the series debuted last year, they were fresh and outrageous. The ads were just two talented actors, wearing street clothes, talking on a bare white stage, without flashy special effects, quick-cut camera changes, or babes in skimpy clothes.
But that was a year and a half ago. The Mac vs. PC ads have lost their freshness. The new batch is as out-of-date as an episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Heck, the actor who plays the Mac even looks worn out and tired in the new batch.
What's worse is that the message being delivered is also out-of-date: People who bought Vista in the first months of its availability did have quite a few problems, more than previous versions of Windows, certainly more than the real, but less severe and numerous, problems that Leopard upgraders have seen in the weeks since that operating system launched. Vista was missing many device drivers for existing hardware, performance was problematic, and security warnings were frequent and annoying. These problems are typical for new versions of Windows (and the Mac OS, too, for that matter), but they were worse for Vista.
However, those problems have diminished over time, as reflected in some recent market share numbers. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft reported that its third-quarter earnings were boosted by strong demand for Vista, Office 2007, and Halo. More recently, Net Applications reported that Mac market share was actually down slightly in October and Vista gained market share for the ninth consecutive month.
Translation: Windows users had problems with Vista. They're getting over it. And, with Microsoft releasing a Vista update this week, and a service pack coming in a few months, Vista will only gain momentum.
The Apple community still hasn't caught on, though; for example, the deservedly respected Apple blog 9to5Mac asks: "What kind of market share INCREASES can Apple expect to see in 2008 with Leopard getting raving reviews and Vista floundering?" Vista floundering? Not any more, people.
I expect that Apple will sell a a few Macs because of the new ads. After all, they're not aimed at people like you and me, they're aimed at the general consumer, who doesn't know much about computers, and has heard rumors about Vista problems.
But Apple would do better to emphasize the real reasons to buy a Mac: Macs are more reliable, more secure, and easier to use than Windows.
And, speaking of obsolete perceptions among consumers, Apple should also get the message out about cost. Most people in the industry still believe the Mac is a more expensive option than the PC. But that's not true anymore: A 2006 study by analysts at Interpac showed that Windows computers are twice as expensive to own as Macs. More recently, CIO Magazine reported in August on eight financial reasons to use Mac OS.
Until recently, it was a fact that Mac hardware was significantly more expensive than Windows hardware -- but that's no longer true on the midrange and high end. For midrange and high-end systems, Macs and PCs are quite competitive. True, on the low end Windows still kicks the Mac's butt; Apple simply doesn't offer anything under $700. But then again, if you're really looking for the cheapest possible PC, you should stay away from Windows and the Mac, and buy Wal-Mart's Linux PC.
Moreover, Macs retain resale value long after PCs are worth only scrap metal.
There are real reasons why Macs are preferable to Windows. Unfortunately, the latest round of Mac commercials doesn't cover them.