Laptop hunters? More like desktop replacement hunters

When Microsoft released its first Laptop Hunters ad, I found the concept interesting—a fresh angle on the Mac vs. PC rivalry and an opportunity to show what the Windows laptop market has to offer. Unfortunately, as more ads come out, I'm getting the impression that Microsoft is stuck in a rut.

The company released its fourth Laptop Hunters spot yesterday. Here it is:

Okay, first of all... a self-described artist and filmmaker who can afford a MacBook Pro but turns it down because the default config has "only" 2GB of RAM? Really, Microsoft? Is this how you're going to woo one of the few Mac-loyal demographics out there?

But I digress—that's not the subject of this rant. See the system "Sheila" walks away with? If it looks familiar, that's because we already saw a variant of it in the second Laptop Hunters ad. And the two other ads in that series feature very similar machines:

  • Lauren has a $1,000 budget and gets a 17" HP Pavilion dv7.
  • Giampaolo has a $1,500 budget and chooses a 16.4" HP HDX 16.
  • Lisa and Jackson have a $1,500 budget and pick a 16.4" Sony Vaio FW.
  • Sheila has a $2,000 budget and goes with a 16.4" HP HDX 16.

All of these systems have large displays, aren't very portable, and run Windows. Microsoft's message so far seems to be: "Why buy a Mac when you can get a good deal on a bulky, Windows-based desktop replacement notebook at Best Buy?"

I'm sure many people would be perfectly happy with a large notebook like that, but come on. If you've ever walked into a brick-and-mortar chain store, you'll know those thick, bulky laptops are all over the place. Consumers already know about them, and there's a good chance they don't find them very exciting. It's like Microsoft is so eager to get actors to talk trash about Macs that it's completely forgotten to pimp the PC notebook market's biggest upside: diversity.

Netbooks have been conspicuously absent from the Laptop Hunters series so far, but that's not surprising. I'm sure Steve Ballmer doesn't want to advertise Windows XP-based computers at this point, especially when his company only makes about 15 bucks for each netbook-bound XP license.

But why not showcase something like HP's Pavilion dv2? It's a great little ultraportable with a low price tag and Vista installed out of the box. More importantly, it has zero competition from Apple. Where's the ad with Alfredo looking for a sub-$800 laptop to take away on vacation? Microsoft evidently likes promoting HP systems, so why not use this one to highlight the limited scope of Apple's mobile offering?

Even ignoring newly released low-cost ultraportables, though, the PC notebook market is brimming with options. In my view, releasing four commercial spots about similar 16-17" systems just shows a fundamental lack of originality and imagination on Microsoft's part.

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