For the most part I’m not that interested in the ad war between mac and PC. I think the mac ads are cute, mostly because John Hodgman is adorable. There’s lots of talk online right now about this ad, saying that “Lauren” is an actor, she never went into the mac store as she said she did, and the PC she got is a piece of crap, etc. Dishonest marketing? Of course! What marketing isn’t dishonest?
When I first saw the ad I went to see what computer she got, and I saw that it was 8lbs and laughed.
I personally don’t care about the mac/pc war because in general I think mac will continue to produce good products regardless, they’re making plenty of money to keep them in business, they’re still producing macbooks, which will be my computer of choice for the rest of the forseeable future. I like to love my laptops, and I love using macs. I generally think that mac is good as a niche; they aren’t going to produce crap computers for the cheap audience, because they don’t cater to the cheap audience. I don’t really want to see them change that priority just to get the greater market share. So as a mac user, I like them having a healthy share of the niche market. Seems perfect to me. So if PC wants to create a persona who “isn’t cool enough to be a mac person”, that’s cool. I mean, if “Lauren” wants to spend 25K on her car but won’t spend more than 1K on a computer, well, maybe she’s really not a mac person.
But in musing about it, the “regular person” technique, a few things are jumping out at me. She wants a cheap, 17-inch laptop. Why 17-inch? Clearly not for professional reasons; the 17-inch computer she got doesn’t have the juice to do any video editing or whatnot. For watching movies? It’s funny, because things are getting smaller these days. Most of the students at my campus have laptops, but the ones who got the bigger ones generally don’t want to lug them around. (And Lauren’s laptop is 8lbs…she might as well have gotten a desktop, really, for the amount she’ll be willing to drag it around.) The smaller laptops are getting more popular because of their sheer usability as portable machines. Netbooks are all the rage because of there incredible portability; we’re entering an era where we’re finally savvy enough about our needs to not always get the biggest and best “just in case”.
Maybe that’s why this ad makes me laugh. Lauren wasn’t trying to get the biggest and best, like we used to, trying to make the most of her investment. She just wanted the biggest, for the least amount of money. Why? This request just doesn’t resonate, particularly not in our current computing climate. Big laptops are increasingly a pain in the ass for everyone who owns one. Currently, the only people who appear to really want a big laptop are professionals who have particular kinds of work to do that requires a big screen and a modicum of portability for presentations. I’m a professional who wants lots of screen real estate; I have an external monitor at work on which I extend my desktop. I wouldn’t want a 17-inch laptop. It’s just not practical.
The only laptop I regularly move around these days is my beloved netbook, which gets online and plays all my favourite tv programs for me while I’m on planes, trains and automobiles. I can sit at the bar and check my email on my netbook, and still have room for my dinner and my beer. I get more comments on that netbook than I’ve ever gotten on all of my macs put together. People love the idea of a usable, small, cheap laptop. If you’re a coolhunter, you’re probably looking at small, fast and cheap. You can buy gigs of space on USB drives for peanuts these days; why spend hundreds for a big internal hard drive? Small hard drive, small physical computer, big RAM, bloody great OS (Ubuntu, anyone?) No one’s that excited about a big laptop running Vista, no matter how cheap it is.
Apple is often a bit a head of its time, sometimes painfully. They got rid of floppy drives well before it was a good idea (even I had to buy an external in the 90s). They took out the phone jack in the last few years too; that’s what pushed me to give my dad my old wireless router so I could still get online when I was visiting. They’re usually on the right track, but they pull the plug on things a tad too early. They keep you slightly uncomfortable with the things they declare as dead. But why is it that microsoft always seems to be, just as painfully, a step behind? Everyone else is talking about cheap, fast and small, and they give us an ad about cheap, slow and huge?