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Microsoft and partners revive Mac vs. PC ads -- without mentioning Mac

Technically Incorrect: A new advertising campaign from Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Lenovo and HP does what? Oh, you'll understand when you see it.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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PC Does What? What? What? Intel/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I'm not sure how much the likes of Dell, Lenovo and HP love Microsoft right now.

After all, the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant just slid very prettily into the PC category with its launch of the Surface Book .

Still, the bigger enemy is Apple. At least that's what one must assume from a new ad campaign launched this week by the comely cabal of Microsoft, HP, Lenovo, Dell and Intel.

The idea is very simple: try to make PCs cool after Apple's legendary "Mac vs. PC" ad campaign portrayed the PC design as dull and some of its operations as clumsy. The campaign sought to associate the PC brought with the image of an overweight, slightly pathetic individual in glasses whose dress code was painful beige-nerdy.

PC makers are also grappling with fewer people feeling the need to buy new desktop computers and laptops as PC sales experienced an 11 percent decline in the third quarter, according to IDC. Worse for PC makers, Apple now occupies a larger slice of the PC market overall, rising to 7.5 percent from 6.9 percent in the same period a year ago to fourth place, according to IDC.

To win back customers, PC manufacturers would like you to be stunned. In fact, they'd like you to say, "PC does what?" For in these new ads, that's almost all that's said. They're trying to create a catchphrase, you see. They're trying to get back into the collective metamind.

The ads all feature perfectly natural scenarios in which people would repeat the phrase, such as when flying out on a rescue mission to sea. Or training a trampolining team. Or delivering a newspaper in a hotel. Or when sitting by a pool.

Each ad is made to reveal at least one startling product aspect that will appeal to customers. PCs are now much thinner. They fold over 360 degrees. They have 18-hour battery life.

The subtext is, of course, is "Apple doesn't."

It's an attempt to rally PC users around a slogan and a hope. The question, though, is whether this campaign will add a little cool factor, not merely a catchphrase and some product information.

I fear it doesn't quite make it to lukewarm.

The ads show much of the problem of having several brands trying to create something together. They're ads that came out of a meeting, rather than a mind. They're certainly not offensive, but are they really going to create a sudden reassessment of the laptop world?

Or whenever a PC breaks down at the office is some wag going to immediately howl: "PC Does Not!"?