Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Lauren buys a PC, and annoys the hell out of Mac users

Microsoft have a new web ad out, whereby a person known as ‘Lauren’ is on a quest to buy a laptop that meets her need for under $1000 US. Here’s the ad, first of all – I’d suggest you watch it first before you read my commentary so that you can make up your own minds:

 

Watched it? Okay, my views coming up….


Well, as someone who has solely used Macs at home for the past 2 1/2 years, my initial reaction was, well, something that I won’t repeat here. Had I posted something straight-away, rather than taking a couple of days to think up a more reasonable response, this entry would probably be full of bile and accusatory statements aimed at Microsoft.

But as it happens, I have had time to think about it, and it’s fair to say that Microsoft has made a big, indisputable point:

You can’t buy a Mac laptop with a large screen for under $1000.

No matter how much you think the ad is trying to be sneaky, that cannot be argued. If you are looking for a laptop, your budget is a maximum of $1000 and you must have a screen bigger than 13″, then you won’t find a new Apple laptop that will serve your purpose. Pre-owned maybe, but not new.

You will, however, find a number of Windows laptops that have larger screens for under $1000. If you’re lucky, you may even find one with comparable specs to Apple’s lower end MacBooks but with a larger screen than the MacBook. And if you’re happy with that, then buy it.
If not, then you’ll have to compromise. I use a 13″ screen on my MacBook and I personally find it to be fine. So you can put up with the smaller screen size, or spend around $2000 to get a 15″ MacBook Pro. It’s a lot more, but the MacBook Pro is a much more powerful machine, and it will therefore last you much longer. You may even save money as you won’t need to replace it in 3-4 years.

I personally believe that the extra cost of Apple products over equivalent spec’ed Windows machines is worth it. Apple machines generally have a high standard of build quality and look good, as well as coming with Mac OS X which I find friendlier and more intuitive than Windows. In other words, you are paying more, but you are also getting more for your money. It may not be something as tangible as a faster processor or bigger hard drive, but you may find you are saving time or feeling less stressed when trying to do something, and to me that’s worth paying a little extra for.

Take cars. Audi and Volkswagen are both part of the same company. Some of their cars share engines (I don’t know enough about cars to know which ones). The Volkswagen version will be cheaper and will be fine for someone who wants a car that gets from A to B in reasonable comfort. But the Audi will look nicer, have a nicer interior, come with more optional extras and has the brand factor of being an Audi. Though it may have the same engine as an equivalent Volkswagen, you may find it’s been tuned to go faster, or that the suspension has been tuned more to give a smoother ride. A similar principle applies between PCs and Macs – both will get the job done, but you may find that paying a little more for a Mac will get the job done faster and with less hassle.

So back to the advert. If your budget is $1000, you want a laptop with a larger screen and you’re not too worried about the brand, go for a Windows machine. Vista, for all its bad press, is quite a good operating system and will work well on a machine that has been designed for it (which all new Windows machines are). But, if you don’t mind a smaller screen, or are prepared to pay more, consider buying a Mac for the extra peace of mind.

In any case, the advert is a very clever piece of marketing on Microsoft’s part, and its controversy (or “Mac Zealot Baiting” if you will) will ensure that it gets talked about and noticed. It’s also a good comeback against Apple’s adverts, which, especially the more recent ones, have been a bit overly harsh on Microsoft and PC manufacturers.

Postscript: Just re-watched the advert and realised that Lauren drives a Volkswagen – irony!

13 Comments

  1. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Microsoft is calling Apple computers “cool” in their own advertising.
    So go ahead, Lauren, buy your cheap-ass uncool pile of Hewlett Packard shite. And best of luck to you… hope you have better luck than I have with the HP crap I’ve bought.

  2. To be fair it’s only recently that Microsoft have been responding to the whole Mac VS PC selling style Apple have been flogging for years…

  3. Neil I have to take exception with at least part of what you’ve said…

    I personally believe that the extra cost of Apple products over equivalent spec’ed Windows machines is worth it.

    My biggest issue with Apple computers is the price. Quite simply when it comes to hardware they charge more for less. Considering that, hardware-wise, there’s literally no difference between a Mac and a Windows box these days the fact that Apples are considerably more expensive is unjustifiable.
    For example there’s really no reason why the same video card that costs $165 for a Windows PC (ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB) should cost $350 on a Mac other than Apple knows you guys will spend the money. The fact that you’re also much more limited in what hardware you can purchase for your Mac compared to a PC doesn’t help matters any.

    Apple machines generally have a high standard of build quality and look good, as well as coming with Mac OS X which I find friendlier and more intuitive than Windows. In other words, you are paying more, but you are also getting more for your money.

    I’ve used OS X a fair amount as part of my job and it’s definitely not a bad operating system by any stretch of the imagination. I’d debate whether it’s more intuitive as both OSes have their quirks and it largely depends on what you’re used to using, but it’s certainly managed to do with FreeBSD what Linux has not been able to do which is to make it user friendly enough for the average person.
    That said I don’t think it justifies the unreasonable premium Apple charges on hardware. Windows, particularly Vista, isn’t so difficult to work with that OS X should drive the price up all that much.

    It may not be something as tangible as a faster processor or bigger hard drive, but you may find you are saving time or feeling less stressed when trying to do something, and to me that’s worth paying a little extra for.

    If it were just a little extra I could agree with you, but it’s commonly much more than that. The aforementioned video card is $185 more expensive on the Mac than the PC. That’s a 47% increase in price.
    The 17″ MacBook Pro starts at $2799. A similarly equipped Windows laptop would be the ASUS M70 Series M70VN-X6 NoteBook which costs $1,449.99. That’s a difference of over 50% in cost and the Mac would have a slower hard drive (5400RPM vs 7200RPM) and a lesser GPU (GeForce 9400M vs GeForce 9650M GT).
    The MacBook is thinner than the ASUS and it definitely has more style, but aesthetics isn’t something I put a premium on. If that’s worth paying half again what you’d pay for a comparably equipped Windows laptop then more power to you, but a lot of folks such as myself don’t think it’s worth the extra cash.

  4. This is currently being discussed on Slashdot ( http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/03/31/1744204 ), but CrunchGear has found Lauren ( http://www.crunchgear.com/2009/03/31/who-is-this-sassy-lauren-she-of-the-cheap-hp/ ). She’s an actress and she’s under a NDA with Microsoft: if it was just a case of “film somebody off the street buying a laptop”, why would the need an NDA?

  5. I just laugh at that ad. It’s so ridiculous it’s not funny.
    Back when Vista was in its beta stages, I made my decision to switch from Windows based computers to the Mac. Back then, my Mac Pro cost a few hundreds dollars less than an equivalently equipped Dell system. Today, that is not the case. How Dell does this I just don’t know. If it cost them X dollars nearly 3 years ago, why does it cost them so much less now?
    To address Les’ comments. I can’t say for sure why a Mac version of a graphics card is more expensive than a Windows version. However, there is a difference. The Mac version has hardware acceleration for Macintosh graphics where the Windows version has acceleration for Windows graphics. That being the case, the Mac version isn’t going to sell as many as the Windows version. Demand may be the factor there.
    As to the OS. I fully disagree here. My parents were using a Windows box for close to 5 years. They had never had much luck understanding the system and it absorbed so many viruses/malware programs that I finally went out and got them a Mac Mini. Now, I rarely hear from them and the only time I do any kind of maintenance on their Mac is to do software/OS updates.
    Sure, they still don’t understand some concepts, but they can do things with the Mac that they were never able to figure out with Windows.
    So, sure Mac cost more than Windows based equivalents. However, I would get a Mac over a Windows based system any day of the week
    That includes development as well. I’ve been a programmer for well over 20 years and I have never had an easier time understanding how to program a computer before (including the older Mac OS) than OS X and the Mac/iPhone/iPod touch. Xcode, the Mac OS frameworks and Objective-C are just the most beautiful things I have ever had the opportunity to study/develop under.

  6. What I don’t get, right, is who the hell wants a big screen laptop? I had to spend way more than I wanted to find a 13″ laptop, rather than a bloody great 15.3″ thing. Unless I completely missed something, windows machines these days cost £250 for a WebBook that gives you migraines, £300 for an overgrown thing that seems designed to stay at home, in which case, a desktop surely does the job, and then almost twice that just to get a decently small laptop to run around the globe with whilst cycling half the time and taking trains the rest. So this really takes the biscuit.
    I can’t see the attraction of getting a larger MacBook, it just looks cumbersome and designed for people with, erm, oh yeah, cars!

  7. Dave M. writes…

    I can’t say for sure why a Mac version of a graphics card is more expensive than a Windows version. However, there is a difference. The Mac version has hardware acceleration for Macintosh graphics where the Windows version has acceleration for Windows graphics.

    What, exactly, is that supposed to mean? Near as I can tell the only difference between the Mac and Windows version of the same graphics card is which driver disk it comes with. The hardware is the same regardless and you can take that Mac Radeon, slap it into any Windows PC and go out and download the ATI Windows drivers for it and it’ll work just fine. There’s no difference in the hardware at all. Surely the Mac, if it’s as easy to program as you claim it is, shouldn’t be all that hard to adapt the graphics drivers to such that it would justify a 47% increase in price. The more likely explanation is that Mac users are used to paying extra for the hardware so they charge you extra.
    Again I have no major complaints about OS X, but I don’t think it justifies the 50%+ markups Apple demands for the hardware.
    Graham asks…

    What I don’t get, right, is who the hell wants a big screen laptop?

    People with poor eyesight for starters. And, as a gamer, I’d love to have a 17″ gaming laptop to take to LAN parties.

  8. Wow Les, you in a bad mood today? Sheesh!
    I had read a long time ago that graphics cards for Mac’s, even though they use the same hardware slot, have “hardware acceleration” that differ depending on the machine being purchased for. Mac had Quickdraw/Quartz acceleration and Windows based had DirectX acceleration. If this is not true anymore then fine.
    In fact, if there is no difference between the cards at all? Why buy from Apple’s store, why not buy from Amazon and download the Mac drivers from the graphics card web site?
    I fully agree that Apple jacks it’s accessory prices way up. They wanted more than 3 times the price for 2GB’s of RAM for my MacBook and almost as much for 4GB’s for my Mac Pro. That’s why I bought them from other venders. No one is forcing people to buy those things from Apple. Also, programming a Mac program is a very different beast than programming a Mac graphics driver. Just like writing a Windows program is a way different beast than a Windows graphics driver. You don’t use C/C++ or Objective-C to program drivers (at least one didn’t back when I was programming Windows), I would assume that assembly is required there. Maybe now that processors are speed demons, it’s not necessary to do drivers in assembly. I can’t say, haven’t wrote one in well over 20 years.
    Anyway, I don’t want to get into a huge argument about Mac vrs. PC here. I don’t think Neil wants that either. I was just stating something I had remembered from a while back. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

  9. Hmm. I’m definitely a VW person, then, for the reasons you identify as ‘advantages’ of an Audi. 😉

  10. Dammit, I want to be a Mac person, and I AM cool enough! But I don’t even have $1000. I would TOTALLY be satisfied with a 13″ screen. WTF do you need a big screen for anyway?! I just want a Macbook. Le grand sigh.

  11. Bottom line: You get what you pay for. You can drive a Kia or a Ferrari…they’ll both take you cross country, but there are definitely differences! I’m not sure why Apple doesn’t take more advertising advantages Macs have regarding the viruses PCs are prone to get. I guess whatever works best for you…buy it. (Not everyone wants or can own a Ferrari!) Just never, EVER make me use a PC!!!

  12. Meredith: When I bought my first notebook computer (Windows based), it cost just under $2,000. This was back in June of 2000 or so.
    Now, you can get Windows based notebooks for really cheap. However, I wouldn’t expect it to perform as well as that $2,000 notebook I got back in 2000 (relatively speaking).
    I would say that depending on your needs, you should be looking at a notebook for around $1,000 to $1,500. I would say that anything under $1,000 could be considered a “NetBook”. Now, if that is what you are looking for, then Mac’s are not for you. If you are looking for something that can handle decent games and even virtualizing a Windows machine, then the Unibody MacBook is a good choice. It will be around $1,300. But that $1,300 will get you the ability to run Windows virtually (using Parallels or VMWare Fusion) or with BootCamp. It will also be able to play pretty much any game that runs on the Mac with a decent frame rate since it uses the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics chipset.
    I understand that you don’t have $1,300 now, but if you can save up just a little longer… You could spend less and get something like the Dell Studio 17 notebook. It’s currently going for $700. However, it doesn’t support DirectX 10 due to it’s graphics chipset. The next machine up that does support DirectX 10 is the Studio XPS 16 which is $1,200. So you see, the Studio 17 is a fine “NetBook” type computer, but for a real computer, even from Dell, you need to look at something closer to a range of $1,000 to $1,500.

  13. http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/17/laptop-reliability-survey-asus-and-toshiba-win-hp-fails/
    Just because Its an Apple product, does not mean Its more reliable… It’s just over-priced because of the screen, amount of money they throw into marketing, not to mention the profit they get for every product is huge…
    The only thing I really do love about Mac’s is the screen (usually uses non-TN panel), but that’s about it.