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Of Blu-ray and Document Pinning

Microsoft has decided, in the wake of the now-ended “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” campaign, to come out “swinging” and go after Apple. But you have to wonder who devised those comparisons on their site and what planet they actually living on, since it’s clearly not Earth.

One serious complaint, such as it is, appears to be the lack of Blu-ray on a Mac. This supposed to be some humongous blunder on the part of Apple, because so many people these days are buying high-definition movies. Well, not quite, as sales of both Blu-ray and regular DVDs are down over what they used to be even when combined, perhaps because there aren’t so many flicks you want to see again. They’ve already sold new versions of the old movies some of you had on VHS, not to mention Blu-ray counterparts of regular DVD fare.

Yes, you can get Blu-ray drives as an option on many PCs. I suppose if you expect to use your PC as a TV set, that’s a good thing, but as some have pointed out, Blu-ray is somewhat of a moving target. There’s now a 3D version, which requires media with twice the capacity and new hardware to match. I suppose that’ll mean something eventually, when people no longer have to spend a thousand dollars or more extra for a 3D TV.

Yes, there are external Blu-ray drive options for the Mac, but you’d need third-party software, since there’s no native support in Mac OS X. Blu-ray, according to Steve Jobs, remains a “bag of hurt.”

But the question is whether it matters, since you can get movies by other means, such as iTunes, Netflix and other online options.

More to the point, is this a compelling reason to use a PC rather than a Mac? I don’t think so. But Microsoft is desperate to convince you that the PC is cool and the Mac is an expensive, needless luxury that just can’t get the job done. And, no, I won’t cover the Microsoft’s grammatical lapses that have already been cited by others.

We do have a bunch of silly claims put forth on Microsoft’s site about the advantages of the PC, and anyone familiar with both platforms ought to consider  these arguments as pathetic as I do.

The Blu-ray option is part of the “Having Fun,” category, where the PC’s genuine advantage in gaming is extolled. If gaming is what you want, there’s a growing number of titles on the Mac, and you can still install Windows under Boot Camp if you must run titles unavailable on the former.

That’s as good as it gets for Microsoft. Under the “Simplicity” category they claim the PC is “easy to use, PCs do what you want: they just work.” That, of course, mimics the well-known argument made for Macs over the years. While Windows has grown better, it still takes far too many steps for simple driver installations and configurations. When things don’t work, it can become a nightmare. The “they just work” claim is a sad joke.

Microsoft also has a “Sharing” category, where they tout the ease of networking on a PC, and my response is the same.

Under “Working Hard,” Microsoft simply wants to convey the age-old myth that Macs are not suited for work environments. That’s hardly worth a response, since millions have been using Macs as their primary work computers for the past 26 years. Even Microsoft introduced its key productivity apps, Excel and Word, on the Mac first. Or maybe Steve Ballmer’s brain is too wasted to remember how former CEO Bill Gates double-crossed Apple and begat Windows using interface technology he snookered then-Apple CEO John Sculley to provide.

When it comes to “Compatibility,” most any peripheral anyone cares about runs on both the Mac and the PC, and manufacturers ignore the former to their peril. Indeed, lots of products do just work, since there is extensive built-in support for many of these devices in Snow Leopard.

Now when it comes to choice, if you crave a pink or a blue computer, you won’t find one in Apple’s arsenal. I suppose this is a matter of some degree of importance to potential customers who feel that Apple’s aluminum-clad design motif isn’t satisfactory for their needs, or they want processors and graphic card options that Apple doesn’t provide.

Of course, that’s largely window dressing, other than meeting the hardware needs of a devoted gamer. A different color or screen size doesn’t really deliver a machine with a superior operating system or superior product reliability, but that’s probably all that Microsoft has left these days since they cannot honestly boast of having a better operating system.

That, of course, is what you can readily conclude from Microsoft’s pathetic TV ads. People run around with silly grins on their faces because Windows 7 lets you pin document windows to the sides of the screen, as if this was the greatest invention since sliced bread. No wonder the stock market long ago gave up on Microsoft as a compelling investment.

Sure, Microsoft is still selling lots of software licenses. Many of these are to existing customers who couldn’t take Vista and stuck with XP. It’s also true that Microsoft has a huge momentum and overwhelming dominance of the PC operating system market. Nothing Apple can do can change that, except on a long term and probably in baby steps.

One has to conclude that Microsoft’s management has concluded that they need more smoke and mirrors to compete, and I feel bad for the people who are going to be taken in by this nonsense.