A bit shy of a month ago, Microsoft started rolling out a line of commercials that may be their most direct attacks on Macintosh to date. The “Laptop Hunters” commercials follow shoppers through stores, documentary-style, as the individuals try and find a machine that will suit their needs for under a particular price. If they can, Microsoft buys them the machine.

I guess Apple has spent so many years having Justin Long tell consumers what a PC is, it’s time for Microsoft to tell us what a Mac is. Fair enough. Have at you!

The result of each ad, of course, is that the person is unable to find a Mac that will fit his or her requirements and be within budget. The earth quakes, seas part and it becomes a big “whoopee!” moment for Microsoft and the PC world when they choose a PC instead.

 

The first commercial, seen below, trails a younger redhead girl on her voyage of computer buying bliss. Her only real requirement is that the laptop has a 17” screen, and her price has to be under $1,000. She only finds the MacBook for under that price, with its 13” screen, and says she’s not cool enough to be a Mac person.

There is a lot of commentary on the net about how this girl is an actress, these aren’t really unscripted videos of real people, etc… to that, I say big deal. If you actually believe they are real people, that’s your problem. Of course they’re actors. Of course it’s scripted. This isn’t “Blind Date.” Of course when Lauren “walks in” to the Mac store, the screen cuts away, cuts back, and the same guy who was standing next to her when she walked in is still standing there, revealing that she never actually entered. I’d rather talk about the targeting of the ads than worry about whether or not Lauren will be in the next Kevin Smith movie.

First, view the other two ads, so it’s all fresh and ready in your noggin:

 

What these ads are doing is catering to a trashed economy that is concerned with money. Price is really the only argument here. The commercials admit that Macs work well, have “sexy” design, and are more popular. As Giampaolo puts it in the second video, “I don’t want to pay for the brand, I want to pay for the computing power.” Focusing on the money is probably a good tactic for a lot of people, because it’s legitimately most consumers’ concern with the state of the economy.

So what are they really doing in these ads? These commercials compare Macs to cheap PCs with similar specs. The shopper will look at the Macs, comment on how cool they are, and then go find a PC with relatable stats for less money. Seems logical…

Unfortunately, Macs are not considered low-end products like the PCs being used as comparison tools in these ads. Macs are sold in the premium range of computers. Many news outlets recently reported that Apple spokesperson Bill Evans, in response to these ads, said, “A PC is no bargain when it doesn’t do what you want. The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price."

Not everyone can afford a Bentley. Bentley doesn’t mind.

I’d like to whisper in Giampaolo’s ear that I still have a six-year-old Mac Quicksilver model G4 tower that runs better than some less than one year old HP towers I’ve used recently. But what Bill Evans says is true – and it’s not just that they are cool because they look cool, but because of how they operate. Macs don’t try to impress and function better simply on stats. They don’t always work better because of the numbers associated with their processors. They work better because one company makes the entire system, and everything is designed to work with it. You don’t make action figures out of G.I. Joe, Batman, Spiderman and Sephiroth parts and expect it to be a Barbie.

This is coming from someone who used to build PCs for a living.

The pricing of PCs is manipulative in itself, anyway. No doubt, it’s cheaper to buy a PC. Always will be. There’s that whole competition thing that makes PCs of comparable stats cheaper than Macs. When you have a ton of computer companies building for the same OS instead of one, you get cheaper products. That and all the pre-loaded crap software that comes on nearly any PC you buy from the store. Why’s it so cheap? Because it’s already been paid for by other companies loading half the hard drive with sludge that you will have to delete when you buy the thing. But I digress…

All this is my main problem with these ads. The argument is price, bottom line. Quality gets shrugged aside.

Giampaolo looks at a Mac that would work for him, but ends up with a tank of a laptop that wouldn’t have half the battery life of the Macs he touched. His fingers are too big. Buddy, my hands are huge. I’m typing on my 13” MacBook just fine right now.

The PC was cheaper, not more suitable.

My other problem with these ads is: is it really advertising Microsoft? I understand what they are doing and how they are targeting, but that’s because I’m into technology. If I showed this ad to my Dad, or my Grandpa, would they know what is being advertised? Advertising a PC isn’t advertising anything. Are they advertising HP? Lots of people seem to walk away with those. Or maybe it is Best Buy? No, it’s the OEM copy of Microsoft that you’ll be stuck with when you buy any machine in the store outside of a Mac. That’s pretty roundabout advertising, and you can’t tell me a very affordable eMachine is going to be more suitable for anyone.

Plus, you can install Windows on a Mac. It’s on this computer I’m using right now. Apple is happy to advertise running Windows on your Mac, because it does so natively and runs it very well. So how is attacking Mac a good stance for these ads, when a lot of users have a double OS and run Windows on their system? This ad literally attacks my purchase of a MacBook, yet I’m also their customer because I have XP. This doesn’t strike me as the best strategy…

I think the overarching thing is this – people who buy Mac computers see the purchase as a true investment, because they will hold onto it for a while. More importantly, it’ll hold on to them. If you buy a Mac, you aren’t the type of person who gets a new computer every six months. You’re also not the kind who needs one every six months, because the one you bought three years ago still works. Macs have the longest overall performance life, the highest-rated customer service, and you pay more for a system that is all Mac. You’ll get more for your money with a Mac than a PC, both now and down the road. $799 isn’t cheaper than $1499 if you have to pay it over and over again. I digress again, for now I sound like an advertisement…

On that same hand, you can buy a $2,000 PC pretty easily. I have spent in excess of $2,000 on PCs twice. If these Microsoft commercials really wanted to be fair, they’d compare those to a MacBook Pro.

All of this isn’t so much that Windows doesn’t work for people. It’s not even that PCs are bad – I still have two of them. It’s just that the ad doesn’t represent the products honestly, and attacks its own consumers who benefit from both.

Mac sales keep going up, despite the price. iPod and iPhone sales do the same thing, despite being more expensive that competing products. Why? Sure, they look cooler and are trendier. But really, it all just works. Go ahead and pay $500 for a computer, then expect to buy another one next year. If you’re making an investment, you want it to work.

Ask Microsoft about things that don’t work, and they can tell you about Vista and the Zune. These days, the best thing they’ve got going is the Xbox 360. And I’ll take sides and fight to the death with anyone who wants to argue its supremacy over other consoles.