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!