Here's the thing; these ads target the Mac on cost, but why is Microsoft doing this? Sure they go face to face in the operating system marketplace, but as far as hardware goes, Microsoft doesn't make their own PCs; the laptop that Lauren walks out with at the end of the commercial is a HP product. Why does any of this matter? Because of the iPhone, which is slowly crushing Windows Mobile smartphones, and because the halo effect is working. There's a reason why they've chosen Lauren, a young twenty-something actress for this commercial; because a forty-something actor isn't going to make the same impact on the cash-strapped college audience. In effect, the ad is saying that "Macs are cool, PCs are cheap, and PC buyers are losers who can't afford a Mac..." Way to go Microsoft for that message.
If you've been on a college campus lately; one thing you're sure to notice is the abundance of white earbuds; the second thing you'll notice is that they've got an iPod/iPhone/iPod Touch; and if you go into the classroom, there's a good chance that the laptops are 50% Mac, and these are college students who are going to graduate, get a job, buy their own computer, and what are they going to buy? A Mac or a PC? They're going to go with that they're familiar with, and increasingly, this is a Mac. One of the brilliant incentives for students to buy a Mac is the great educational pricing, which, feature by feature gives the competitive advantage to the Mac -- wi-fi, microphone and webcam built-in, and virus free on top of that? The thing that Apple needs to do at this point is equip educational Macs with SSDs so that students won't ever have a hard drive crash, and they're golden.
The computer that Lauren picked out does have a 17 inch screen, which runs at a resolution of 1440 x 900, the same resolution as the 13" MacBook, so in effect, the screen is bigger with fatter pixels, but is not at a higher resolution; reading some of the reviews of this laptop complain about a variety of things, not least of all the speed of this laptop. Weighing nearly 8 pounds, I think this should hardly be called a laptop at that point; it's quite a lot to lug around, and that's where the Mac excels -- in the long term. In 2002, I bought my first Mac. To this day, it still works, albeit slowly and were I to stick it up on eBay, I could still get a couple hundred dollars for it. This is a 7 year old computer we are talking about -- any PC or laptop would be lucky to fetch even one hundred dollars. (This is Pentium 3/4 generation we are talking about folks -- relatively worthless processors at this point). Plus, research has shown that things get skewed when things become free -- this ad is one of many in which people were given free computers, and let's face it, who is going to say no to a free computer that can go up on eBay as nearly brand new?