A critique of Apple’s marketing to Windows users

I was chatting with my colleague Ted Bahr about Time Machine, the backup software included with Mac OS X 10.5.2 “Leopard.”

Ted is a multi-platform guy. He uses an iMac at home, but in the office, he has an ancient Dell laptop running Windows XP. Although he likes the Mac, he’s far from passionate about either platform.

Shortly afterwards, I stumbled across one of Apple’s fun “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads about Time Machine, and instant messaged the URL to Ted so that he could watch it.

Ted’s immediate response: “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to download QuickTime to view it.” He then called Apple “stupid” for putting a barrier between a Windows user and its marketing materials aimed at converting Windows users.

Ted is an absolute whiz at detecting the weak marketing efforts, and he’s right on the money here. Who are the targets of the “I’m a Mac” ads? Windows users, who might be tempted to switch to the Mac. In some cases, the Windows user might stumble across the ad. They might go looking for it, after seeing an ad on TV. Or, the user might be sent the link, as I did for Ted.

Apple wants — or should want — those users to be able to watch those ads. They should make sure that it’s super-easy.

Do those Windows users have QuickTime installed? Some do, certainly. But not all. Ted didn’t, for example. I would guess that this is not unusual in a business. In fact, in a tightly managed enterprise environment, a Windows end user may not be allowed to install the QuickTime application or browser plug-in without contacting IT.

Therefore, suggests Ted, Apple’s Web repository of “I’m a Mac” ads aren’t really marketing at all, they’re just there to cater to zealots. If Apple was truly serious about reaching Windows users with its Web site, he says, the company would post the ads in both QuickTime and Windows Media formats, giving users a choice of which to watch (or better yet, sniff out the platform and play the correct one automatically). No plug-ins required.

Ted’s right. While Apple may be delighting its existing customers by delivering streaming media in QuickTime, its purpose with the “I’m a Mac” ads isn’t to evangelize the benefits of QuickTime, but to sell Macs. Apple shouldn’t require that prospective customers install special software (even if that software is free) in order to view marketing materials.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
3 replies
  1. Paul
    Paul says:

    I suspect that Ted is in a small minority of user that don’t already have Quicktime. At my workplace Quicktime is deployed to every desktop (99% Windows) because it is the most appropriate software layer for delivery of media. Also, anyone with an iPod (or just iTunes) will have Quicktime.

  2. Ted Bahr
    Ted Bahr says:

    I have another comment (this is Ted). I did go online at home on my iMac and watch ALL of the Mac vs PC commercials – they are awesome. I have seen a few here and there on TV but seeing them all in a row (and most I have missed) just makes a powerful statement.

    I am dumping my Dell laptop at work and getting a new Mac laptop and am pretty excited about that!

  3. OvermindDL1
    OvermindDL1 says:

    For note, I do not have Quicktime, nor do any of the computers at my work, nor do my friends (we tend to be allergic to monolithic software like that). However I (I do not think anyone else does though) have Quicktime Alternative as I can then watch it on VLC like I do everything else. My work disallows it in full though… So of all the people I personally know, a hundred at least, maybe one has Quicktime installed, and that is because they have an IPod.

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