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Monday, October 20, 2008, 03:15 pm PT (06:15 pm ET)

New Apple ads savage Microsoft's $300m Windows campaign

Not content with just criticizing Windows Vista itself, Apple has launched a pair of new TV spots that accuse Microsoft of launching its ad blitz to distract the public from the problems with its software.

The two ads, which first began airing this weekend, continue to feature John Hodgman and Justin Long in their familiar PC and Mac roles but question the direct lack of references to Microsoft's own product.

The first, "Bean Counter," is the most direct and tackles Microsoft's well-publicized $300 million marketing campaign for Windows, which already includes $10 million just for a set of ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld as well as the company's usual online, print and TV efforts.

Long's persona suggests that PC — and thus Microsoft — is putting far more money into marketing Windows than into fixing it, creating a smokescreen to mask the problems with its latest operating system.

In turn, "V Word" jabs Microsoft for its conscious decision to avoid mentioning Vista by name in its "I'm a PC" counter-campaign, which tries to shift the focus to the general Windows brand. Bringing up Vista simply "doesn't sit well" with PC users irritated with the platform, Hodgman's character says.


Apple's "Bean Counter" ad.


Apple's "V Word" ad.


The two spots escalate the war of words between the two competitors, which had avoided directly referencing each other until Apple's "Get a Mac" ads began in 2006 and the company's computer sales growth started outpacing that of most Windows PC makers. While it's never been clear whether or not the ads and sales are connected, Microsoft has increasingly charged Apple with hijacking the Windows message and successfully persuading the public that Vista is flawed even after Service Pack 1 and other fixes are said to have sorted out most of the teething troubles with the new software.

But while Apple has lately shifted its attention more to commenting on Microsoft than the positives of its own platform, Microsoft has also taken to spreading doubt through indirect channels: on the eve of the new MacBook launch this month, one executive sent email messages allegedly meant for employees that support the widespread notion of an "Apple Tax" and of unnecessarily excluding hardware and upgrade options from its systems. The Redmond, Washington-based firm has also taken to shadowing Apple's retail efforts by creating Microsoft Gurus that fulfill a similar role to Apple's Genius Bars and Mac Specialists.

Outside of its commercials, Apple has typically been less imitative but no less blunt, using its recent MacBook presentation to directly credit perceived problems with Windows Vista for driving customers to the Mac.