Apple whines: Microsoft ads don't play fair

Apple has long had an ad campaign that belittles Microsoft and people who use PCs in a pretty smarmy kind of way. So it's a surprise that Apple is now whining that Microsoft isn't playing fair in its recent Laptop Hunters ad campaign. The real issue, of course, is that the campaign has been extremely successful, and Apple faces the loss of market share.

Microsoft's Laptop Hunter ads have been so successful that Apple lawyers called Microsoft to demand that they stop running them. As you might imagine, Microsoft didn't comply.

Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, had this to say about the ads and Apple's response to them at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans yesterday:

The PC Hunter ads, the PC Rookie ads clearly have been winners in the marketplace.

I pulled this out of my Sunday newspaper. I have an old habit because I came from retail looking at the Sunday tabs and circulars that are in newspapers. This is straight out of my paper last Sunday. This is a comparison out of a leading electronics retailer that you can get a 13.3-inch Macbook for US$1199 from that retailer. Guess what. That same retailer, you can get the same PC with more RAM, a bigger hard drive, and almost a three-inch bigger screen for US$649. What an incredible opportunity.

And so we've been running these PC value ads. Just giving people saying, hey, what are you looking to spend? "Oh, I'm looking to spend less than $1,000." Well we'll give you $1,000. Go in and look and see what you can buy. And they come out and they just show them. Those are completely unscripted commercials.

And you know why I know they're working? Because two weeks ago we got a call from the Apple legal department saying, hey -- this is a true story -- saying, "Hey, you need to stop running those ads, we lowered our prices." They took like $100 off or something. It was the greatest single phone call in the history that I've ever taken in business.

I did cartwheels down the hallway. At first I said, "Is this a joke? Who are you?" Not understanding what an opportunity. And so we're just going to keep running them and running them and running them.

The Microsoft campaign has clearly hit Apple hard; studies have shown that consumer preferences for PCs have gone up since it's been running. They hit Apple where it hurts, because in a recession, people watch their wallets more -- and Apple hardware clearly costs more than Windows-based PCs.

Apple's lawyers are used to throwing their weight around, doing things like forcing bloggers not to write about Apple products before they're released. But those strongarm tactics won't work against Microsoft -- as Turner says, it only makes Microsoft want to spend even more money on the ads.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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