Aug 10

Microsoft goes Mac-sniping

After playing the part of punching bag in the Apple’s long-running Mac vs. PC campaign, then fighting back with a peashooter in its own I’m a PC campaign, Microsoft is on the warpath. With a new section in their website entitled PC versus Mac, they’re turning the volume all the way up to 7.

Before we pause to read, let us enjoy the accoutrements. While most web pages display a window title, Microsoft actually crams a mini-ad into that tiny space — complete with a double-dose of “more.” You can almost hear the marketing chief exhorting his troops, “Make every pixel on this page sell!”

As you can see above, the navigation area atop the main image does a perfect job of differentiating PC from Mac. It’s a mess. We get two navigation bars (awkwardly spaced), four tabs, a “Were you looking for?” pop-up and an ill-placed, barely noticeable “PC versus Mac” title. Appropriately, the woman’s face seems to be saying, “No, really, I’m glad to see you — I just didn’t have a chance to clean up.”

Well it’s August, maybe the web designers are on holiday. Let’s just skip directly to the content. Like Apple’s Why you’ll love a Mac pages, Microsoft breaks its story down into bite-size chunks. Do they pass or fail?

1. Macs might spoil your fun.
Microsoft makes a point that in the universe of PCs, you can find models that have Blu-ray, TV tuners, 3G wireless, and the ability to connect to Xbox and TV. Can’t do that on a Mac. Fair enough. Pass.

2. Macs can take time to learn.
This section boldly states, “The computer that’s easiest to use is typically the one you already know. While some may say Macs are easy, the reality is that they can come with a learning curve.” It’s been a while since I’ve seen logic as lame. This is like telling the stick-shift owner that automatic transmissions are easier, but they come with a learning curve. Of course they do. Everything in life has a learning curve. Once you learn, it might just make what’s left of your life more pleasant. Fail.

3. Macs don’t work as well at work or at school.
This isn’t just a scare tactic, it’s at odds with Microsoft’s own business. Here we are warned that it can be difficult to share files with PC users if you use Apple’s productivity suite. No mention that if you use Microsoft’s own fabulous Office for Mac, you get seamless compatibility guaranteed by Microsoft itself. Ugly fail.

4. Macs don’t like to share.
I never knew it was hard to share on a Mac until I read this. I share things instantly and effortlessly all day. Whatever setup was required was so insignificant I don’t remember it. Fail.

5. Macs might not like your PC stuff.
Here, we discover that files from Apple’s productivity suite won’t open on a PC. Hey wait a second. Didn’t they just say that? Oh, and if there is a Mac version of the software you want, you’ll have to buy it again and relearn it. Uh… buy it again, yes. Relearn it, no. Double fail for redundancy.

6. Macs don’t let you choose.
This section starts by saying “PCs give you a lot more choice and capabilities for your money.” Interestingly, they never mention the money part again, even though it’s probably their strongest argument. Instead, it’s all about Blu-ray, TV tuner (didn’t we already discuss this already too?) and all the colors you can choose from besides Apple’s white or silver (watch it pal, that’s aluminum!). Fail.

The beauty of Apple’s famous-but-now-defunct Mac vs. PC campaign was its tone of voice. With humor, it delivered a very aggressive message without making Apple sound nasty. On Apple’s website — then and now — the comparisons to PCs are presented positively (“It’s designed to be a better computer,” “It’s compatible with your stuff,” etc.). Microsoft’s tone is far less appealing — you might even say whiny and threatening.

I don’t knock Microsoft for creating these pages. They have a business, and they need to stop the growing number of defectors in their tracks. However, I will say that some artful writing would have helped. A lot.

They might have waited till the designers got back from vacation, too.

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  • It’s incredible to me that Microsoft (and other companies) give so little thought to the design of their Web pages. Different fonts, lack of alignment, buttons and text placed somewhat randomly on the page. It fights any attempt to show that Microsoft computers are simple and friendly to their users. Just contrast that with the clean layout of the Apple page you reference. Why can Apple do things so right (most of the time) whereas Microsoft can do no right (all of the time)?

  • Liebman

    I couldn’t agree more, Scott. It’s baffling. Someone should write a book about it.

  • Tony Gill

    Yes, this is an ultra-lame failed attempt, and your observation that they also fail to hit the biggest, easiest target — the massive price differential between Macs & PCs — is spot-on, Ken.

    I’m due for a new laptop soon, and just for giggles, recently compared the cost of a 17″ MacBook Pro with an equivalently-specced 17″ Sony Vaio (Sony arguably come the closest of all the PC makers to Apple’s industrial design aesthetic).

    I was amazed by the price differential: A Sony Vaio EC290X with 17″ display, Intel Core i5 2.53GHz processor, 4GB RAM and 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive can be had from Sony’s website for $959.99 — compared to $2,299 for the equivalent 17″ MacBook Pro with almost identical innards. You could buy TWO Sony Vaios for the price of the equivalent Macbook Pro, and still have $400 left over in change!

  • And the funniest thing is that they finished copying the Apple campaign 4 years after Apple started it.

    @Tony Gill,
    You forgot to mention the 2 hour dvd play back battery on that PC.

    The pc weights 7.3 pounds, and is more than 25% thicker than 17″ MBP.
    PC has no magsafe, no mention of multi-touch keyboard, etc.

    Also, you can get a BTO 15″ MacBook Pro with higher resolution than that 17″ PC.

  • Ian

    Ironically Macs, thanks to bootcamp, makes for a better Windows computer than most other vendors PC’s, let alone being able to run virtually under OS X.

    I believed that MS attempts to undermine Macs in order to appease computer manufacturers are so lackluster becaused of the the possibility that so many Macs are running Windows in one form another as well as not trying to play favorites with one hardware vendor over another. They really don’t care.

  • ken segall

    Great point. Microsoft has been doing its little juggling act since it used its investment in Apple and commitment to support Office for Mac to help ward off the evil spirits of government regulators. It can’t be seen trying to squash the Mac, but its PC buddies certainly demand support to prevent further Mac gains. Tricky. Still, there’s no excuse for crappy design and questionable claims.

  • Doug

    Okay, I enjoy reading your commentary. But you know what, it’s about time Microsoft fought back against the very deliberate lying that the Mac vs PC ads on television did. They stretched the truth on many fronts.