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Summary:

Another Laptop Hunter ad is upon us, and with five of these babies under our belt it’s time to step back and see what, if anything, works, and what doesn’t. It’s not hard to see the predicament Microsoft is in. It wants to push Windows machines […]

LaptopHunter_Lauren#2

Another Laptop Hunter ad is upon us, and with five of these babies under our belt it’s time to step back and see what, if anything, works, and what doesn’t.

It’s not hard to see the predicament Microsoft is in. It wants to push Windows machines yet is hamstrung by the following:

  • It can’t sell the operating system because “the V word” is pure poison.
  • It can’t sell the user experience because it can’t talk about the OS.
  • It can’t sell productivity out of the box because it’s got nothing to compete with iLife.
  • It can’t sell service or support because the perception is it’s all finger-pointing between hardware and software vendors.
  • It can’t sell quality because PC makers have no reputation (or a bad one) in this area.

In short, all it thinks it has is price. Well, when you don’t include any of the above, it should be easy to make your product cheap, and the PC community has proven this time and again.

Even if price is one weapon, you need more. You need to engage, or be funny, or be humble, or clever, or have some other catch. And, most important of all, you need to be likable.

Really, you need Lauren #1.

Seriously, of the five ads in the series, three of them are just silly. Giampaulo claimed to be tech-savvy and then went on to show that he isn’t. Sheila said she wanted to “cut video,” yet mentioned nothing about the software necessary for that task. Lauren #2 is going to be a lawyer, yet proved she’s not very bright — if you want a 13″ laptop with a budget of $1,700, why look at a 15″ laptop that’s $2,000?

Despite the attempt to depict “real people” shopping for a laptop, this latest ad seems awfully staged. Apple has excellent laptops that fit her requirements, yet they were ignored completely while she took the money and ran. She’ll probably make a great lawyer.

The first ad in this series was the only one that was even remotely effective. I took issue with it, but compared to the others it’s a thing of beauty.

I’d love to say this was due solely to Lauren #1. She’s cute, acted well, and was engaging and infectious. To be sure, that’s a big part of the ad’s appeal. But another key to its effectiveness was the price point chosen: $1,000. Apple has only one machine there (and not even one, if tax is figured in) which Lauren #1 easily blew off by saying she wanted a big screen. Further, Lauren #1 didn’t claim to be brilliant, or a professional, or tech-savvy, or any of that crap. She’s the only one who was believable, even if she was acting.

So, Microsoft, I’m begging you to bring back Lauren #1. Give her the same $1,000 budget so she can easily rule out a Mac, but have her get something, say, more portable this time. No one will question that she’s looking for another PC so soon; no one expected her to be happy with the first one for more than a couple months anyway.

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  1. Redhead Lauren FTW!

  2. The dismissive position you’re taking is not surprising, considering where I am reading this entry, however I have a few issues with it that force me to take a stand on the other side of the fence. First of all, I agree, in terms of marketing Microsoft has to take the price as its main weapon, just like Apple is using the virus issue (which by the way is getting oooooold). Personally I think that both the likability of the characters and their intelligence are besides the point, I don’t like the apple ad mac-dude for example, so what ?… the ads are still funny. We could comment on the number of neural connections in the grey matter of the authors of those commercials, but I’m not entirely convinced apple is doing so great in this department either.

    Price.
    Apple doesn’t have anything to offer to the middle- and lower middle-class income market. A 1000 dollar laptop with design issues (just to mention the breaking of the bottom case edges as a result of pressure from the display case) is not a bargain, regardless of its overall design and supplied software, it’s too expensive, and it doesn’t help that it’s sooooo pretty. The much, much better all-aluminum macbook is at least 300 bucks more – in the lower pc price segment, this is often half the price of a new computer.

    Design.
    Apple has been ripped off here by a lot of companies, but hey, learn from the best, screw the rest. There are a lot of PCs out there that are, simply put, pleasing to the eye. Of course, they don’t look as good as the Apple, but hence the price difference.

    In terms of technology and contrary to what Apple would want everyone to believe, aside of the multitouch, Apple doesn’t have a single hardware feature that would place it significantly above any of the laptop makers shown in any of the laptop hunters videos and has quite a few disadvantages which are becoming more pronounce as time goes by (bluray, hdmi, because god forbid you might want to play your bluray home videos on your mac, or burn a BDR, and did I mention the array of adapters that I now have? Last meeting I attended, every mac in the room has had its own adapter, because one user had the mini displayport to vga, another one minidisplay port to dvi, another one mini-dvi to vga… do I really need to continue?
    One could of course again mention the design here, which is part of the technology to manufacture a product, but specs-wise it’s just another computer.

    Operating system.
    Apple HCI is the best in the world, but 95% of all people using computers won’t notice. Vista is a huge improvement in terms of HCI over XP, sure it’s different enough, to piss people off, but it is an improvement nevertheless. Vista might have been a huge disappointment when it was introduced, but it was really killed by bad marketing and issues with hardware support. However… that was 2 years ago… today the computers are powerful enough to deal with everything that Vista throws at them, and much much more.
    With Windows 7 Microsoft is finally breaking out of the evil vista circle, if it’s as good when it’s done as it is now as a release candidate, I won’t have a reason to spend 1500 bucks on a computer. Mac OS was my only reason driving the switch to Apple.

  3. The fanboys are at it again…

  4. Yes, Lauren #1 is number one! She was very attractive in that ad.

    >>It can’t sell productivity out of the box because it’s got nothing to compete with iLife>>

    When did iLife become a productivity package? When I think productivity – which would explain the headache – I think of iWork, AppleWorks, Microsoft Works, Microsoft Office, etc. In fact, most all consumer PC’s here in the States ship with a full working copy of Works. It’s a functional, useable productivity suite for the home user.

  5. It has games and uTorrent, and it should stick with that. I would use Linux & Mac exclusively if I didn’t want to play games. (uTorrent Mac jus isn’t there yet).

    I wonder what the percentage of market share for Mac is if we exclude all the businesses.

  6. Chris Pratt Monday, May 18, 2009

    @Matt: Speaking of things that are getting really ooooold, let’s add “Macs are just about looks” to that list. I use a Mac for *utility*, not looks. The thing could come wrapped in a brown paper sack for all I care. With my Mac, I can run circles around the most proficient Windows PC user in *any* given task. A bold claim to be sure, but one any Mac user knows can be backed up.

    With Macs, you’re paying for the time, attention, detail devoted to the user experience, from purchase and throughout its considerably long life (Does anyone actually ever get rid of a Mac they purchased?) My time saved by owning a Mac, alone, easy covers any additional upfront cost.

    Balhmer likes to throw around the term “Apple Tax” to insinuate that you pay a premium for the Apple logo. In truth, it’s better viewed as an investment: the computer equivalent of a Roth IRA. If there is a computer tax, it’s a Windows Tax, and it’s paid in time, sweat, and tears.

  7. Tom Reestman Monday, May 18, 2009

    Scott,

    Fair enough. “Productivity” does tend to denote the WP/SS/Pres trio of apps, so your point is noted. However, the issue is that I should have used a different word, not that we just blow off iLife.

    A fresh Windows 7 install has very little; not even email, calendering, IM, photo software, etc. You need to hit up MS and get the Windows Live Essentials apps for that. (I’d like to point out not having to install these apps is the main reason Windows 7 installs in a relatively short time.)

    Even when Live Essentials is added to the mix — and I believe it should be because I assume PCs with Windows 7 will also have these apps — the OOB PC can’t touch iLife. People don’t buy PCs to just have an OS, they want to DO things, and iLife excels at what many people actually buy a computer for.

  8. Ballmer’s “Apple Tax” campaign is a failure on multiple levels. Here’s an overview.

    http://technicalconclusions.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/ballmer-apple-tax-campaign/

  9. And let me just tell you, I had a roommate who went to NYU film school and met a lot of people who went to school with him. For those of you who might not know, NYU’s film program is considered one of the best in the country, if not the world. I am telling you, none of these people ever considered editing their films on a PC. It’s all Mac and it’s all done using either Avid or Final Cut Pro editing software.

    You might find a small minority of people who use Adobe Premiere (which exists for Mac & PC) and an even smaller number of people using products like Sony Vegas, but the vast majority of professionals are using Mac’s with Avid or FCP.

  10. Regarding the price difference. I have both PC’s and Mac’s and I will tell you that while I have spent less on the PC’s, I have spent much more time dealing with crashes, hiccups, and other failures and boot up problems. The Mac’s have always been nearly perfect and glitch free. Of course any computer can give you problems and crash on you.

    Hardware-wise there might not be a huge difference between comparable systems, but the OS makes a huge difference. I don’t know that I would be considered a “power user”, but in my business (graphic design) I do end up logging some serious hours at the computer (sometimes as many as 10 to 12 straight hours right before a big deadline) and when I use a Mac, I spend my time working on my project. When I use a PC I end up working on fixing errors with the PC.

    Sorry, but I became a convert because of my professional experience with the two platforms. Every PC I’ve ever used is much more unstable than the Mac’s.

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