Thursday, March 18, 2021

Intel’s Anti-Mac Ads

Sami Fathi:

Intel has called on the services of former “I’m a Mac” actor Justin Long in a series of new ads in which Apple’s latest custom-made M1 processors are cast as inferior to newer laptops powered by Intel processors.


In one ad, Long promotes the flexibility of Windows laptops, specifically the Lenovo Yoga 9i versus a MacBook Pro. In another video, Long meets a PC user gaming on the MSI Gaming Stealth 15M laptop, powered by a Intel Core i7. Long then asks for a Mac, before swiftly agreeing with the PC user that “no one games on a Mac.”

Juli Clover (tweet):

Intel is continuing its anti-Apple ad campaign, today sharing a tweet that calls out the lack of ports on M1 Macs. In a photo, actor Justin Long sits on a couch with a Windows PC and holds up a handful of Apple dongles.

Juli Clover:

As part of its barrage of attacks against M1 Macs, Intel this week launched a “PC vs. Mac” website that’s biased heavily in favor of PC machines that are equipped with Intel chips and that makes questionable claims about Apple’s M1 Mac lineup.


PCs offer a “complete touch screen” instead of the “constrained Mac Touch Bar,” along with “2 for 1 Form Factor options” while Apple makes customers pay for “multiple devices and gear.”

John Gruber:

I’m sure some will claim to find this ad campaign to be a sick burn. I find it cringey, and kind of hard to watch. It’s neither parody nor sequel. It’s an attempt at comedy from writers who have no sense of humor. The concept isn’t actually anything beyond “Let’s hire Justin Long as our new pitchman, that’ll show them.


The truly weird thing is that Justin Long was always pitching for Intel-based computers, at least indirectly, in the “Get a Mac” campaign, the introduction of which coincided with the start of the Intel Mac era: 2006-2009.


So one of my takeaways from this new “Go PC: Justin Gets Real” campaign is that it highlights just how unusual Apple’s relationship with Intel has been. The Mac was an Intel-based platform — not just x86 but Intel chips specifically — for 15 years, yet neither company ever advertised it.

David Sparks (tweet):

As for me, I’m annoyed with Apple’s lawyers. How did they not write an “I won’t pitch competitive products ever” clause into Long’s original agreement? I write clauses similar to that all the time. Last week I did something similar on a lease agreement for a donut shop.

Ezekiel Elin:

PC vs Mac courtesy of Intel, an older take[…]

John Gruber:

No trip down memory lane exploring Apple/Intel commercials would be complete without this one from 1997.


Update (2021-03-19): John Gruber:

Really hard to believe I didn’t recall this ad yesterday. I blame the fact that I was trying to think of ads about specific Macs that mentioned Intel — and completely overlooked one of my favorite commercials ever, because it was entirely about the Intel partnership itself.

The message was that the two great companies of the industry were finally together: Apple, the product maker, and Intel, the chip maker. 15 years later, though, I can kind of see how Intel might have been a bit peeved. It paints Intel as needing the Mac for its chips to reach their potential, not the Mac as needing Intel chips to achieve performance-per-watt parity with the rest of the PC industry. It’s implicitly a bit insulting, and an utterly Jobsian way to frame the new partnership.


Intel is in trouble. For Intel to be Intel they need to be leading the industry. The best fabs, the fastest chips. Right now they can’t credibly argue that they’re the best at anything. They haven’t just lost the Mac. TSMC is absolutely killing them at fabrication. All modern smartphones are built on ARM chips. Intel tried to gain a foothold in the cellular modem business, and failed.

I think the new ads make some good points about PCs vs. Macs, but to me they feel weird and desperate due to the above context and the fact that they aren’t really about Intel.

Peter Steinberger:

Yes the campaign is cheesy, but accidentally activating Siri on the TouchBar is so real. It was such a good day when I found out that the “button” can be removed.

Josh Centers:

Intel rightfully points out some of the dumb things about newer Macs, but fails to acknowledge that PCs slavishly copy the same mistakes. There actually is an opportunity here for Intel to develop new laptops that don’t suck.

Jack Wellborn:

Most of the benefits Intel is touting — variety of hardware, touch screens, face unlock — all come from the laptop makers or Microsoft.

Nick Heer:

The funny thing about these Intel ads is that they could work just as well for PC makers that use AMD or ARM processors.

Update (2021-04-16): Dave:

My question is who is the intended target of these ads? The general public? I doubt it. If they wanted to reach the computer buying public they would give Microsoft ad money to produce these commercials. Also, why isn’t Microsoft running these ads? This is something Microsoft should be doing, not Intel.

If I had to guess who they were for, I would say Intel employees.

Juli Clover:

When discussing Intel’s new plans, Gelsinger said that Intel plans to pursue Apple as a potential customer, which would see Intel producing Apple silicon chips for use in Apple devices if Apple does indeed decide to use Intel’s services.

Nick Heer:

There is a lot of nostalgic spin in this presentation but, if you peel away the saccharine layers, it seems like Gelsinger has the insider perspective to structure a better path forward, and an encouraging level of staff support.

Ken Segall:

So, what do we make of Intel’s new campaign? Hold that thought, because it’s best judged in the context of history—and a juicy history it is.


Here are the reactions I had after my first and only viewing.

Sami Fathi:

Intel has been on a relentless marketing drive against Mac computers in recent weeks, positioning them as inferior to Windows laptops powered by Intel processors. In a slight slip-up, however, Intel has accidentally used a MacBook instead of a Windows laptop in one of its newest ads to promote one of its new 11th-generation chips as “the world’s best processor.”

Update (2021-06-07): Michael Potuck:

In an ironic move, Intel is now using the MacBook Pro in a new ad to promote “The world’s best processor on a thin and light laptop” that’s not found in any of Apple’s notebooks.

12 Comments RSS · Twitter

LOL at David Sparks wishing Apple had required Justin Long to sign a 12 year non-compete clause.

^ Exactly! :D

Intel must be really, really, really nervous. All those ads remind me of the Blackberry ads making fun of the iPhone. Intel should move to ARM, as Apple has done. The writing is on the wall.

Besides that, they miss the most important feature: no macOS inside means awkward Windows inside. A deal breaker! Once you try Mac, you do not want Windows (much less Linux flavors like Ubuntu, Android, etc), even for free!

"Anti-Apple", heh. That's a ridiculous way to frame it. Any ad for an established market is anti-[competitor], by design.

I'll disagree with Gruber (not the first time).

As a Mac user, I actually enjoyed the ads, they are funny and clever in that they actually target some weaknesses in Apple's hardware. Processors are only one aspect of this: PC makers have been busy innovating on form factors over the last decade or so. One can argue about how successful they are, but at least they are trying new ideas. Where are the touchscreens, clamshells, tablets etc on the Mac side? The MacBooks still have the same form factor the laptop had 30 years ago! Sure I can run stuff 10 billion times faster on an M1, but that's not all there is to a computing experience.

@Sparks: “I write clauses similar to that all the time.”

You can write all the clauses you like, honeybun. That doesn’t make them enforceable.

Honestly, the instant anyone asks you to agree a no-compete clause, you say “Of course! That’ll be $X payment up-front for the initial 3/6/12-month period, plus a $Y fee for each year you wish to extend thereafter.”

If they genuinely don’t want you competing against them, then they will pay you to sit on your ass not competing. And that’s brilliant! Achievement Unlocked! Go enjoy your free year on the beach, and that big yellow thing in the sky (what is that?).

Otherwise they’re just trying to steal food out your mouth, and no court of law is going to rubber-stamp that outside of a Banana Republic. (Which, to be fair, the US is well on its way to being.)


@Intel: “no one games on a Mac”

I’ve got news for you, Boo: nobody games on a PC either. A handful play on consoles; a BILLION on their mobile phones.

(Okay, technically there is a teeny tiny tiny tiny percentage of people who do own monster videocards that light up with every color of the rainbow; but even they’re more preoccupied nowadays with burning our planet for Bitcon.)

So let us know when Intel has a phone that we can all play games on. Or a new advertising agency. Whichever comes first; it’s cool.

Say what you will about the other ads, but the dongle ad is right on target.

"Intel should move to ARM"

Why? Intel's primary remaining advantage is the installed base of x86 software. It's power & performance issues have a lot more to do with loosing fab supremacy plus pound-foolish chip design strategy rather than ISA.

Their loss of fab supremacy is in large part due to their failure to establish themselves in the mobile market (and, I'd argue, a much earlier failure to compete in the discrete GPU market). Moving to ARM won't suddenly or even eventually bankroll cutting edge fabs because Intel has very little to differentiate their offerings in that market. Their performance and power consumption will suffer from lagging fab technology. Apple is committed to its own designs. Qualcomm offers integrated modems. MediaTek has low-cost designs for many niches, as do others, like Allwinner.

""Anti-Apple", heh. That's a ridiculous way to frame it. Any ad for an established market is anti-[competitor], by design."

Except that Intel and Apple aren’t really competitors. Apple still sells mostly Intel. And all the criticism applies to Macs that include Intel chips. In a way Intel is advertising against its own customer.

And none of the PC features Intel is advertising were contributed by Intel and would remain if other manufacturers switched to ARM.

They literally have nothing pro Intel to say. That’s why they went anti Apple. I don’t think that’s ridiculous to point out.

The really funny thing about these ads, the thing that the Apple-dependent blogaratti seem to be overlooking, is that nothing in the ad is about *Intel's* processors. The ads are about what you get from the PC ecosystem - any of those devices could just as easily have AMD cpus, or ARM cpus.

These ads are about how boring, conservative (outdated), and low-function Apple's laptop designs are.

As for people complaining it's "immoral" for Justin Long to go work for a competitor to the company he worked for previously... have a look at who Tim Cook was working for, prior to Apple.

>Intel should move to ARM

Intel's primary problem right now is that their fabs can't keep up with TSMC. By moving to ARM, all they would achieve is to further commoditize their product, and add Samsung to the list of competitors they are inferior to.

Right now, Intel is selling every chip they make, because TSMC is oversubscribed. Why would they take away the only advantage they still have, and move to ARM?

What Intel needs to do is gain back its fab advantage. That's it.

>Except that Intel and Apple aren’t really competitors

They're not direct competitors, but it's pretty obvious why Intel is doing this. TSMC is Intel's competitor. Macs will be 100% TSMC in a few years. The more people Intel can convince to use a Windows PC, the better for Intel in the long run.

>they feel weird and desperate due to the above context
>and the fact that they aren’t really about Intel.

You think they would be better if they were *more* about Intel? I think they work much better as "PC vs Mac" ads than as "Intel vs Apple" ads. This isn't the 90s, where people cared about CPUs. CPUs are fine now. People care about convenience and style and entertainment, not CPU speed, so that's what Intel is focusing on.

I do think that these ads aren't that great. They're too short, which makes it difficult to really explain the advantages Intel is trying to highlight. The Mac vs PC ads worked because each had one point, and each made that point succinctly, clearly, and in a fun, rememberable way.

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