Memo to Bill Gates: Don’t argue about the Mac
In a Newsweek interview Bill Gates is asked about the Mac by Steven Levy. Perhaps it was the fact that Stephen Levy wrote a book about the Mac or maybe Bill is just sick of hearing about how great Apple is but his answers reveal far too much Mac jealousy, heck it makes the Mac seem like actual competition.
There is no point in belaboring Bill Gates’ words (Daring Fireball has you covered) but a discussion about what Bill said is in order. The first rule when operating from a superior market position is not to mention the competitor. You don’t see Toyota running ads comparing Toyotas to Mazdas and the reason is that by talking about a competitor it means you see them as a threat and you thus legitimize the competing product. Of course Bill was directly asked about the Mac and the similarities of OSX and Vista so saying nothing was not an option. Here’s what you can say:
“Sure, there are some similarities between Vista and OS X, a system wide search is an obvious need. It isn’t a big deal that OS X had it first, implementing new features is much easier with a limited operating system and Apple did a great job. Because Windows powers such a huge variety of things, from enterprise to home entertainment we have many more variables to consider when putting a new product out there. Frankly, ours has to work.”
The above gives Apples a few props and simultaneously makes OS X look like a product that is only for those with limited needs. Put differently, instead of being petty Bill should reinforce the stereotype of OS X.
Bill gets irked again when asked about the Surgery get a Mac ad, calling the ad FUD. Bill let me help:
“Well upgrades are always a cause for concern, everyone fears the unkown but we like to give consumers choices. You can be perfectly productive without upgrading but the experience of Vista is so much better you’ll want to upgrade! Don’t get me wrong, for the truly technophobic out there, people who don’t want to play games or fear more than a handful of choices in software and hardware the Mac is a wonderful choice. Windows is the OS for the rest of us.”
It is easy stuff Mr. Gates, you can sound magnanimous while digging the knife ever deeper. Though when talking about the iPod you do want to pull out the knife and stab, stab, stab. Different market positions demand different tactics.