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‘Hi, I’m a PC’: Pointed ad campaign has Mac fans laughing

You’d think it would take a lot to ruffle Bill Gates’ feathers. He’s worth about $56 billion, and his PCs claim more than 90 percent of the market. He’s widely considered a visionary of our times.

And yet, there are these silly commercials that have managed to get under his skin. The generally unflappable chairman grows visibly vexed when asked about Apple’s ad campaign personifying a PC as a bespectacled nerd and a Mac as a slimmer hipster. The campaign takes direct aim at Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows Vista, charging it with a long-overdue release, a confusing array of options, a cumbersome upgrade process, incompatibility with peripherals and an obtrusive security block.

“My new operating system arrives, and I’ve had nothing but problems,” the PC, played by John Hodgman, tells the unassuming-looking Mac (Justin Long) in one ad. “I mean, let’s face it: This party’s a bust.”

Gates sounded off on the campaign in a Newsweek interview last February. “I don’t think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are,” he said. “I don’t know why [Apple] is acting like it’s superior.”

Gates may be feeling particularly bitter this week, as Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo generates considerably more hype than the Consumer Electronics Show he keynoted last week.

Making brand comparisons using actual names, called comparative advertising, is not new here (some countries ban the practice). Clorox has named Windex in ads; Blockbuster has named Netflix and so on.

But Apple’s campaign is significant because it attaches a personality to the products – and hence, their users. “It’s a focus on image,” said Lori Lohman, an Augsburg marketing professor. “Apple wants Macs to be viewed as the trendier alternative, and that particular message may really resound with the millennial generation.”

Lino Rulli, 36, a Minneapolis native who works for Sirius Satellite Radio, gave the campaign a qualified thumbs-up. “I’m a Mac guy, so I think it rocks. Though I wish the Mac guy was a little more masculine, personally. I would actually prefer it if he beat up the PC guy,” Rulli joked.

That scenario is illustrated in a parody that has garnered 1.6 million YouTube viewers. In it, an animated Steve Jobs unleashes on Bill Gates, whose Kermit the Frog voice makes him sound utterly defenseless. “It sucks! You suck! I’m cool, and you’re a pathetic old man!” Jobs bellows before physically assaulting Gates.

Some of the 3,211 YouTube commenters expressed sympathy for Gates, while others liked the humor and, hence, seemed more deeply devoted to Apple. One viewer wrote:

That is so funny. 🙂
i love macs.

Some local businesses rejecting Vista

The local companies I surveyed, including 3M and U.S. Bank, said they’ve passed on Vista.

“We’ve stuck with XP because it’s easier to use and network,” said Gina Crill, 3M’s product information representative.

All of Dell’s business computers can be ordered with XP, which many consumers prefer, said a salesman at Best Buy in Inver Grove Heights. Folks have had to buy new printers and update software to work with Vista, he said.

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