Blog Post

Microsoft Takes My Advice (Mostly)


When writing about Microsoft’s (s msft) previous Laptop Hunters ad, I made the following plea:

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

In its newest ad, the company did reduce the budget (to $700), and I think this tack is its best bet.

The ad itself is unremarkable, but the “hunters” could easily rule out the Mac because of their budget. They didn’t have to invent ridiculous “excuses” that only make it clear they’re ill-informed. They simply had to point out there’s no Mac under a grand and be done with it.

It doesn’t mean they didn’t say stupid things (for example, I love it when he says “See how it just seems a lot more sturdy” when he’s not even holding the device). It’s especially stupid because having that line spoken while showing a silver PC reveals a massive case of “Unibody Envy.” And it doesn’t make the laptop they acquired any better. As I said about the original Lauren’s $700 choice:

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you got anything more than you paid for, or found some sort of computer bargain, or know some secret the rest of us aren’t clued in on. You asked for little, and that’s exactly what you got.

The point of using a low budget isn’t about the PC they get, it’s about avoiding comparing it to a Mac. Face it: When a valid comparison takes place, PCs frequently lose. It’s much better for Microsoft to avoid any comparison at all.

Want some additional advice, Microsoft? Run more of these sub-$1,000 ads. They tout low PC cost, get a shot at Apple (s aapl), and yet avoid any direct comparison. It’s a win-win-win for you. Sure, the buyers get mediocre hardware, but what do you care? You’re selling software.

Oh, and bring back Lauren.

30 Responses to “Microsoft Takes My Advice (Mostly)”

  1. It’d be funny if come October, Apple shoots off adds for shopping for OS upgrades. Give someone a budget of $40 and send them out to buy an OS upgrade.

    Microsoft’s ads don’t mention anything about the buyers’ existing platform or collection of software. So we can just assume the buyer in OS upgrade ad just wants to buy it for the heck f it.

  2. WAIT! What about the white MB that’s in the refurb store for $750? Or the Mac Mini for $499? I just bought my 6 year old a refurb Mini because my old Dell he was using was too old and wouldn’t wake up (re-installed XP then 7 – think the motherboard is bad) – he LOVES the Mac…so much that I bought the Mini to keep my MBP safe : ) Oh and yes it has the new Nvidia graphics…

    SO many people buy notebooks and they never leave the house (or desk)….

  3. D Dell

    There is a wide range of reasons why the public will buy a PC over a Mac, not just the few I have read here. I thought about getting a Mac Pro. I researched both and compared features, specs, price etc. After several days of reading I am leaning toward another PC laptop and here is why. I have several major programs and a few minor ones that will not run on a Mac. I just paid a few hundred for MS Office 2007. Will I have to turn around and buy that suite again for the Mac? And that is only one suite of programs I want to use on two different computers. I use a PC in my business and must have programs that work on either computer and be able to pull up and edit file formats on both. I doubt if I can do that between a PC and Mac. Or am I wrong? And in case you are wondering why I read this blog, is because I have an iPhone plus I am still interested in the Mac.

    • Kendall Tawes

      You do realise Macs have been able to dual boot into Windows since 2006. It’s easy to do too. Just run the Boot Camp Assistant with a copy of XP service pack two or later and you can do just about anything a Windows PC does as it is a Windows PC too.

      I have XP service pack two on my MacBook Pro and have yet to find a piece of software that will not work in the Windows installation minus a USB TV tuner card from 1999 that is incompatible with the sound driver. Though that’s not compatible with my last Toshiba PC too. I now only boot into Windows for some old games but that’s about it.

    • ondonge

      you can always use a VM (Virtual Machine) software suck as VMware, or Parallels, some others are free. This way you can use mac as your primary OS and windows when you need it. Or just use boot camp in leopard.

  4. John_B

    Unless the video crew took the receipt, there is nothing to prevent these people from returning the laptop tomorrow to either buy a different one or pocket the money. Even without a receipt, many BB managers would exchange that new, unopened laptop new for a better (more expensive) model.

  5. Jason Harris

    Outside of ambigous claims like “mediocre hardware” that can’t be backed up by any actual specs, there isn’t really much comparison at any price. You can build a Dell that has same or better on every hardware spec compared to the $999 macbook for $750.

    Go to the high end MacBook pro, and you can top the $2500 machine for $1500

    There are reasons to like Macs, but the basic advantages are the nicer looking form factor and the OS. There is very little argument that they offer VALUE…it’s a status brand, and obviously there are better values out there. Just like a Honda Accord doesn’t have that little Mercedes logo on the front, the Dell doesn’t have a big glowing Apple on the back. That’s the real difference, and that’s what you’re paying for.

    You know how you know these ads are working? Because on an Apple site you’re feeling threatened enough to need to downplay them.

    Hopefully with Win7 pretty much negating the OS differences at the high end, and Apple not even playing down at the low end, Apple will push to innovate again and stop resting on the laurels of an OS that’s fundamentally the same as it was nearly 10 years ago.

    • I’d argue that since you admit the OS is one of the “basic advantages” of Macs, and Vista & Windows 7 represent moves to “negat[e] the OS differences”, that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that OS X hasn’t changed fundamentally.

      Negating the software/OS aspect of use to argue that “there is very argument that they offer value” based on hardware price alone is silly, because one reason many people switch to a Mac is because they like the OS (which you admit). The better user experience I have on my Mac is one of the big reasons why I bought it, because it represents a lot of value to me. Calling it a “status” brand based on price alone is ridiculous and easy way to pretend that people don’t make an educated decision.

    • Jason,

      “Outside of ambigous claims like “mediocre hardware” that can’t be backed up by any actual specs”

      I can hold a unibody MacBook by the corner and realize how solid it is, and do the same for a big, overweight PC and realize how comparatively flimsy it is. There’s no spec for that.

      You can believe marketing checklists of specs are all that differentiate models — not just in PCs, but in most other hard goods — but I think that’s nonsense.

      Whether a consumer is willing to pay for quality is a completely different issue. But to pretend the differences don’t exist because of some geek list of processors, drives and RAM is silly.

    • Yeah right. Like how Apple refused to acknowledge LCD screens cracking at the corner as a design flaw for months? Apple products are gorgeous, but build quality has never been their top priority. They push the envelope too far on mechanical cleverness and the result is often a failure-prone design. If you want solid, get a Thinkpad.

    • greenpaz

      Marco, I don’t buy that argument about build quality not being a priority with Apple. I have an iBook that’s five years old, and I’ve never had a problem with “build quality.” The laptop has never quit on me, and I’ve hauled that sucker all over the United States. (And not a single virus, by the way.) In fact, I would argue that the problem with Apple products is they last so long that they become technologically obsolete well before they stop functioning, making it difficult to justify the purchase of a new product while the old one is still running great.

  6. ryemac3

    The reason that Microsoft are pushing the cheap hardware is because the average PC user doesn’t know what an OS even is. Nor do they know it’s something they can buy or upgrade, or need to upgrade. You can’t push a $300 OS when your average user has no idea what the hell it even is.

    You have no idea how many people I asked when I worked retail what OS they ran and they’d say “I don’t know. It’s Microsoft.” I ask again. “Yeah, but what OS is it, XP, 2000?” “I don’t know. It’s Microsoft.”

    Most PC users, and I’m not talking about anyone that goes to any of these tech sites like us, I’m taking about the PC idiot users you see in these commercials whose PC usage barely goes beyond casual web surfing and email. They can’t comprehend why you’d need to or want to pay $2000 for a computer because they can’t envision what you’d need to do, or could do with so much hardware. These users have no idea what’s involved in professional music production, photography. (Think Logic, Aperture. Final Cut)

    Do you know how many perfectly functional PCs I’ve pulled out of the dumpster because they were tossed because they had a virus on it? After a quick reinstall, I have myself a perfectly functional computer. Free of charge. It’s amazing how many people just don’t know any better. We tech savvy computer/Mac users take it for granted and think that everyone knows what’s going on, but you’d be amazing at how many people just do not have the first clue about computers.

    And those are the PC users that Microsoft is targeting. I’m telling you, most people only care that when they turn the computer on, they can get to the internet. They have no idea what a Gigabyte is, or how much 1G or RAM really is. Tech specs are waisted on these people and that is not the selling point of the PCs they are selling.

    We get so mad watching these commercials, but the truth is, we are not the target audience.

    • Most people would rather have a computer that boots to the browser in 1 second and takes 1000 hours to rip a DVD (which they’ll never do) than a computer that takes 100 seconds to boot and 40 minutes to rip a DVD.

      The Crunchpad may be onto something, except by the time they ship, some Android device will already be doing the same thing.

    • The market for these PCs will never be gone. There will never be a day when all people either have to have all of that functionality or want to know how it works. Take for instance the vehicle you drive everyday. Do you know all the inner-workings of every component or do you even care. Even the fit and feel of the car, does it matter that much to you? Or is the real thing whether or not when you go outside to start it up, it works on the first try and gets you to the grocery store. There will always be casual drivers and there will always be car buffs. The same with cheap and expensive pcs.

  7. I think the best thing is the crappy looking plain cardboard box the laptop came in. Could you imagine ever shipping a laptop in a plain non-desrcript cardboard box?

  8. What I don’t get is why Microsoft is selling PC’s. They don’t make PC’s for crying out loud! Not likely, but these people could be going home and blowing away the OS and installing some other reasonable OS.
    I guess it is hard for them to sell their outrageously overpriced OS on it’s own merits. Oh, and what 1 of 7 version will they actually promote? If MS used animal code names for their OS they would use an elephant. Slowly evolving, slowly moving, and when they crash they make a big boom!

    • It’s because most of the market doesn’t distinguish between hardware and software. They want an experience.

      Apple decided to do it all on their own, and Microsoft decided to let partners handle the hardware. It’s a different business model, but at the end of the day both companies want to sell one thing – an experience.