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Is Apple Really Afraid of Microsoft’s Laptop Hunter Ads?

The news that Apple legal asked Microsoft to stop running its controversial laptop hunter ad campaign must have made the hearts of Windows fanboys flutter. Does this mean that Apple is afraid of the truth, that they are being hurt by Microsoft’s expanding ad campaign?

Supposedly the objection was the result of Apple’s recent price reductions on the refreshed MacBook Pro lineup. But you also have to remember that all we know about that supposed notice, which came in the form of a phone call, comes from Microsoft. Nobody from Apple is going to confirm that such a thing really happened, and even a denial would only draw more attention to the claim.

Now before we look at the motive behind this alleged phone call, consider this: Apple didn’t send a legal letter to Microsoft, an action that certainly would carry more significance. So even if someone from Apple did get in touch with Microsoft, the communication was essentially an informal one, and the source of that call isn’t being named. It might well be that someone in Apple’s legal department made the call of their own volition, without actual authorization. Or maybe it came from someone pretending to represent Apple.

Indeed, the sole confirmation that such a thing even happened is actually limited to the verbal recollection of one Microsoft executive, COO Kevin Turner. Despite what some of the lurid headline writers may think, that call, from whomever it came, is not an official or formal request to pull down the ads. From what Turner says, it may just have been intended as a humorous reminder that Microsoft is running spots that are now outdated because of Apple’s price changes. That may be the beginning and end of it, but Microsoft is using that event to buttress its contention that Apple is being hurt by the ads.

I’m skeptical, simply because Mac sales are on the increase again, and as you’ve read here and elsewhere, two models in the MacBook Pro line remain backordered. I suppose you could suggest that Apple might have done better without the Laptop Hunter ads, but the mention of Apple and their products is so brief and flitting that the point of the variety and cheaper price of a Windows PC is not really brought home.

As far as I’m concerned, the ads are so poorly produced as to be almost amateurish, and I’d suggest to Microsoft that they find a competent producer and redo them forthwith. In fact, if Mac users hadn’t drawn attention to them, I rather suspect they would have eventually disappeared from the airwaves. But maybe that was Microsoft’s intention in the first place, since there are so many flaws in these alleged comparisons, flaws that are easily found. Worse, the ad isn’t about Windows or its supposed advantages, but about someone getting a chunk of money to buy a note-book computer. It’s all about price, and perhaps to promote HP, Sony and and other manufacturers whose products are supposedly bought during those ads.

Who was it who said there is no such thing as bad publicity?

Apple’s real response came in the form of a statement to the press that a PC, regardless of the price, is no good if it doesn’t meet the needs of the buyer. The same argument is cited when Apple is asked whether they plan to build a netbook. The keyboards are cramped, the screens are tiny, the computers are slow. Beyond basic Internet access, email and some word processing and basic checkbook apps, what are they good for?

The netbook is hardly an original concept either. The form factor is similar to the Apple eMate 300, designed as a larger version of the Newton, dedicated to the educational market. Indeed, my son, Grayson, was attending elementary school when he was given one for a few months. He played with it for a few minutes, handed it to me to look over. After trying out a few functions, I returned it to him, he put it in a drawer and forgot about until it was time to return the unit to the school.

This isn’t to say that a netbook, properly designed, can’t serve a purpose. But a good design doesn’t mean shrinking a note-book, and scrimping on features. Besides, the PC makers in that market are pushing expensive add-ons to boost profits, and they are slowly enlarging the form factor until it becomes little more than a standard note-book with a low-powered processor. In order words, it’s a product without any vision behind it.

As to Microsoft, maybe those Laptop Hunter ads will vanish in a few months, though as long as we can’t resist dissing them, I suppose they’ll remain on the air. But if they fail to increase sales of PC hardware, and, in turn, Microsoft Windows, they’ll end up being a colossal waste of money.

And, to sum up, it’s very clear from the facts at hand that Apple legal didn’t direct Microsoft to stop the campaign.