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Is it uncool to be a Mac user in these tough times?

Microsoft has a new anti-Mac ad campaign that attacks Apple pricing. There's some interesting subtext to the ads as Microsoft tries to make it cool to be cheap.

On Thursday, Microsoft started running new anti-Mac ads that are designed to take a serious poke at the one spot where Apple has traditionally been vulnerable: pricing.

All you have to do is shop for a computer to know that Macs are more expensive than Windows machines on a spec-by-spec basis. But when you buy an Apple PC, you willfully know you're paying a little extra--or sometimes a lot extra--for an Apple-designed product.

Apple fans will tell you that Apple PCs are not only slicker-looking but that they're also built better, last longer, and run a better operating system. In other words, you're not just paying the Apple premium for looks, but also for brains and brawn.

If you're a Windows fan, it's nice to see that Microsoft is finally fighting back with an effective argument after getting shoved around badly in Apple ads in recent years. But there's some interesting subtext to the ad, which follows Lauren, a very Apple-looking gal (not to stereotype or anything, but she's got that whole artsy thing going on) as she tries to buy a 17-inch laptop for less than a grand and ends up with a Hewlett-Packard PC for $699 (good luck carrying that thing around).

The key point for me in the ad is when she says, "I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac person." Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but I get the feeling that Microsoft is trying to to tap into this wider notion that it's uncool to be ostentatious these days.

In other words, if you're buying a Mac, you have too much money on your hands (i.e., you got a bonus while everybody else didn't). In fact, you should feel a little guilty for overspending--and buying from Apple--in these tough times.

Translation: It's no longer cool to be cool for the sake of being cool. But it's cool to be cheap and utilitarian.