Friday, March 27, 2009

Microsoft's Slot Machine

Microsoft's new banner ad, targeting Apple notebook computers on price, really irritates me. Not because it inserts itself between the masthead and the mainbars on the homepage, like Apple's  "ladder" ads. Not even because,  unlike the  "ladder" ad, it doesn't give me the option of closing it so I can have the news space back.

It bothers me because it's such a lie -- and one I think insults the intelligence of anyone who knows anything about computers, or who's used a Windows PC in the last 10-15 years.

The ad shows the roller windows of two slot machines, which are "turning" when the ad loads. When they stop, the rollers on the left depict an Apple Macbook model and its price, along with two worthless items -- a matchbook and pocket lint, for example. The rollers on the right depict a Windows laptop (from any of several vendors) and its price, along with two other items you could presumably buy with the money you'd save buying the PC instead of the Mac. The extra goodies include cellphones, a Zune, an XBox 360, and lots of lattes.

It's a fairly clever idea. But if it were true, the rollers next to the PC would show the extra stuff you HAVE to buy when you get a PC, just to keep it running. Antivirus software. A firewall. Spyware blockers. Let's give the benefit of the doubt and say you buy an all-in-one malware prevention kit (which still probably installs as three different programs). That'll add a couple hundred bucks to your PC price at least. Then, factor in that these programs are really "subscriptions" to virus- and malware-update patches, and that you'll be on the hook for another $50-$100 a year to keep them usable after your first 12 months of ownership. Let's hope you'll keep the machine for at least 3 years? So add in another $150 or so, at least.

Furthermore, if the slot machine were accurate, it would take into account the value of the great software -- for video editing, photo management, web-page and podcast creation, even music composition and recording -- that comes preinstalled on every Mac -- and that are all designed to work together seamlessly. The iWeb publishing tool can pull pictures from your iPhoto album, and podcasts from GarageBand's library easily, without making you hunt for files in folders, create umpteen copies, or move them around. It's smart, elegant software.

Some PCs come with some of those programs included (the slot machine doesn't say what's on the PCs it touts), but others don't. Each PC vendor offers a different package of preloaded software. These preinstalled programs are typically rinky-dink and/or "lite" versions of programs you have to buy to get sophisticated tools. To get equivalent capabilities on a PC will cost you hundreds more -- and you'll never find a set of PC programs that work together as well as Apple's do.

Add it up and decide whether it's worth the gamble.

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