Mac Guy is back as PC Guy

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In the mid-2000's, there was a well loved Apple Ad Campaign with Justin Long as the anthropomorphized Mac, and John Hodgman was the anthropomorphized PC. Inevitably, John would show the moral and technical flaws of being a PC, while Justin would cooly, just be there to observe the shortcomings, sometimes with a quip, sometimes with silent derision or pity. Well, Intel brought Justin Long back in five ads doing the same, with the shoes reversed -- at least as closely as intellectual property rights will allow.


Here are the ads:

2 in 1 flexibility

In the first one "2 in 1 flexibility", Justin does a pretty good job of pointing out one of the weaknesses of the Mac over PC convertibles. With a PC you can get a device that runs mobile apps and laptop apps, you can use touch or keyboard, depending on your use-case. And with a Mac you can not: you need to get two separate devices (each at the price of one of the Intel devices), and maybe some other add ons.

They have a point. We can argue that the Mac is faster and more responsive than that PC laptop in real usage, the iPad is far less clunky and has a better battery life, we can talk about the better security, often better software, and so on. All are valid points and why I am firmly in the Apple ecosystem. But to be completely fair, they still have a point.

Apple has always been about constraints: taking away things that they don't think you need.

When it works, they save you on complexity, costs, or increase reliability. Not all choice is good choice. But Apple is not always right. When they're wrong, they do things like refuse to let you have touch on your laptop, because they know that an iPad is a better experience for touch. They're correct, 90% of the time. But 10% of the time, my muscle memory is going to take over and want to just move an object/window or click a button, and I get a smudgy screen with no payoff, and a reminder that Apple's religion is getting in the way of my usage. It's not enough to make me switch to a PC, but it is a reminder that Apple can be stubborn assholes when they are wrong -- and that while Microsoft's featuritis is often annoying, occasionally it gets Apple-esque constraints out of my way, so I can do what I want.

PC Gaming

In the second one "PC Gaming", Justin hammers another weakness of the Mac over PC -- gaming. Steve Jobs initially wanted to avoid the stigma of the Mac being a toy, so he obstructed it (or didn't promote it). Decades later, it was just that PC's were cheaper, had faster graphics and wider reach... and so the barb that "no one really games on a Mac" is still semi-true. The Mac is great for casual gaming, and yes you can get some of the more popular games on a Mac -- where must will under-perform far less expensive PC's. So it's a bit overstated. But as someone who was an occasional gamer, I often was handicapped with Mac versions, or bought a PC rid if I wanted to get serious -- despite having a far more expensive computer right there.

It is possible that Apple Silicon will help rectify that. So many games are on iOS phones and tablets, and now porting them to Mac hardware and OS will be cheaper and easier than ever. But Apple's policies are still in the way, just ask Fortnight.

So is the ad completely fair? No. There are gamers on Macs, and you can still have plenty of enjoyment on the platform. And iOS is as strong or stronger than the PC gaming, in many ways. (Just not on the highest requirement / hardest core games). But neither is quite the slouch they are being barbed as. But if you are buying a computer for gaming, Intel and Windows is still the better choice.

Having Choices

In the "Having Choices", Justin voices another on-the-mark hit with the fact that Apple decides what you want, within some pretty tight constraints. The market is tight enough that they're not going to design for all the edge cases, or something that fits your needs. You want a gaming laptop that is barely portable but has huge screen, power budget and compute/graphics, you're out of luck. You want something that it isn't in the footprint of the middle of the market, and you're likely to be outta luck.

Now Jason's barb that your choice is grey and greyer isn't valid. Apple often offers machines in multiple colors, and they do have different sizes and performance profiles. But the general barb that you do have more form factor variety is still on target. That being said, while Apple does constrain your choices, they also usually do a really good job of it, and at balancing a system. So while you can make lots and lots of bad decisions in PC's -- something that looks good on specs but is nearly unusable, or has many character flaws -- Apple's worst is often far better than PC's worst, or even PC's middle. But Apple's best, is the best balanced... but not always the best in one extreme dimension, where you can get a PC that fits that niche better.

Touch Screen

"Touch Screen", is a little bit of a rehash on the first one (2 in 1). But it points out that while Apple has the failed feature called the touchbar (a small touchscreen that replaces function keys -- with none of the tactile feedback of a real key), it is actually quite limiting. And I won't rehash the point that the main screen not having touch or stylus support, or fold-over usefulness of PC's and a couple failed ChomeBooks -- he does have a point there.

The thing is that the device Justin is using (Asus ZenBook Duo), takes all the worst features of the Apple touchbar, and makes them worse. Great, I have a device with a nearly unusable second screen, that I have to look down from my work on, and crowds my keyboard towards the bottom of the device (a less ergonomic place), and most software won't be optimized to take advantage of it?

Of the ads, this one misses the most (so far). Use a ZenBook for a month and the MacBook, and ask which one someone wants to keep. I will be 9 out of 10 users will be far more enamored with the Apple device (especially if it's the new MacBook with Apple Silicon) than that ZenBook, even with two touch screens.

Three Monitors

"Three Monitors", just goes full deception mode.

Yes, there are Macs where if you plug in one 5K monitor, that's all it can support. While on the PC laptop you might be able to support 3 x 2K monitors, for far less actual resolution... oh and the Macs can support 3 x 2K monitors as well. So that's not a fair comparison.

Of course there are some PC laptops that do have more display support than some MacBooks. But I regularly ran 3 monitors on mine -- usually 1 Retina (High Resolution) and 2 regular resolution displays. So there is no practical constraint that a Mac can only run one external display.

If they had been honest and just pointed out that sometimes PC's support more displays than some Macs, it's fair. But as presented? It's pretty far down bullshit highway.

Conclusion

Overall, the first 3 ads are fair. They're biased and not pointing out what the Mac does better -- and there's a heck of a lot that the Mac does better. Battery management, silence (lack of fan noise), balanced systems that perform well all around, form factors, reliability, display quality, security and on and on. The Mac is a better choice for many people, most of the time. But it is fair to point out your strengths and the other guys weaknesses, and "market" by trying to make what you're better at, seem like the most important thing.

Where I have a problem is when that crosses bullshit valley, and starts making you go, "wait, what?"...

While 3 out of 5 being mostly fair, and 2 out of 5 setting off my bullshit detector, I think they got more right than wrong. But if you murder the truth in 2 out of 5 cases, you kind of aren't trustworthy any more.

Apple's Mac versus PC was successful, because they could run the ad for many years as a series, and stress all the ways they were better. Intel ran out of good material after 3 ads. I could do 10 for the Mac, without even trying hard. So unless they get a lot better writers, or better implementation of their ideas, this doesn't bode well for this effort by Intel.

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