I've been fascinated by the recent series of Microsoft ads that go after Apple. On one hand I commended Microsoft for having a unified message in Microsoft Gives Apple the Full Court Press. On the other, I think the message is off kilter as I wrote in Apple's Value is More than Skin Deep.

That's why a recent post on BusinessWeek, Mac vs. PC: What You Don't Get for $699, caught my eye. In it, Arik Hesseldahl breaks down why the PC is not such a bargain and quotes a terse Apple spokesperson, who left it at this:

"The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price."

Probably not the point Microsoft was hoping to make, which has left me wondering why Microsoft is targeting Apple at all, and if they are really rivals for the same business. I spoke to Dave Caolo, who is co-lead blogger at TUAW.com to get his view.

Microsoft is Confused

Caolo believes Microsoft has a serious identity crisis. It's simply not sure who its target market is and this has resulted in them trying to be all things to all people. "The current batch of ads puts their identity crisis front-and-center," Caolo says. "Microsoft doesn't sell computers, they sell an operating system; an operating system which is conspicuously absent from the current campaign. When I first saw the "Lauren" ad, my TV's volume was muted and I thought it was an HP ad."

Does The Platform Really Matter?

Caolo believes Microsoft's ad campaign is flawed from the start, especially because it sells an operating system than can run on a Mac or a PC. If the company's goal is to sell OSs perhaps it shouldn't be trashing a perfectly viable hardware option, Caolo suggests. "What they don't seem to realize is that every Mac is a potential Windows box! VMWare Fusion and Parallels run Windows in a virtual environment, but Bootcamp, which is bundled with every Mac, runs Windows natively on that machine's hardware. Quite well, too. Why they don't just point this out is beyond me. "

Sorry, Wrong Message

As the Mac spokesperson pointed out, in the Lauren ad she actually admits that Macs are cool. Caolo says the ad sends the wrong message. "To me, the Lauren ad is the worst one. First, she calls the Mac "Cool," and declares herself "...not cool enough" to own it. So she picks up an HP, the computer for losers! I'm sure HP is thrilled about that." Caolo adds that Apple's response is about what he would expect, "terse, a bit snarky and to the point."

He suggests that the series of recent Microsoft ad campaigns have been a string of failures. "With the Jerry and Bill ads, the odd "I'm a PC" ads (even Microsoft is not a PC; they don't sell computers!), the Vista fiasco and now these ads, Microsoft is in need of a PR Extreme Makeover." I think he's right and that it's high time Microsoft stopped trying to find an answer to the 'Get a Mac' ads and found their own message.

Great read. Now send a link to this directly to Steve Ballmer. Somebody gets it. Microsoft sells SOFTWARE.

PC's run just about ever OS out there. WinX, *nix, *BSD, even Mac's own OSX (as proven by Pystar. Need we say more?).

Microsoft still has their head so far up their own @$$ they're still thinking in terms of x86 vs. PowerPC!!! Go on, bash Mac's. Then when those "too cool" Mac users actually might "need" Windows to run something Mac won't/compatibility testing/cross platform app testing/etc ... they'll be too ticked off at you bad mouthing them to shell out RETAIL for your product.

Great plan.

Thanks. If you can track down Ballmer's address, feel free to pass it along. :-)

Thanks for commenting and I'm glad you liked the post.