Microsoft: Apple wanted 'Laptop Hunters' ads pulled

Redmond's chief operating officer recounts a phone call he says he got from Apple's legal department, demanding the removal of the TV spots.

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Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

It should come as no surprise that Apple isn't a big fan of Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" ads, but some may be surprised to learn the Mac maker's lawyers reportedly called a senior Microsoft executive and demanded the ads be removed.

Kevin Turner, Microsoft chief operating officer Microsoft

The topic of the TV ads, which feature prospective buyers comparing the prices and features of Apple laptops and Windows-based laptops, came up at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans on Wednesday. Kevin Turner, Microsoft's chief operating officer, was at the conference to announce that Microsoft was planning to open its first stores this fall, with at least some of the locations likely to be right near an Apple store.

But the most intriguing part of Turner's speech was when he recounted a telephone call he says he got from Apple's legal department demanding that Microsoft remove the ads. Here's Turner's tale, according to Microsoft's official transcript:

And so we've been running these PC value ads. Just giving people saying, hey, what are you looking to spend? "Oh, I'm looking to spend less than $1,000." Well we'll give you $1,000. Go in and look and see what you can buy. And they come out and they just show them. Those are completely unscripted commercials.

And you know why I know they're working? Because two weeks ago we got a call from the Apple legal department saying, hey -- this is a true story -- saying, "Hey, you need to stop running those ads, we lowered our prices." They took like $100 off or something. It was the greatest single phone call in the history that I've ever taken in business. (Applause.)

I did cartwheels down the hallway. At first I said, "Is this a joke? Who are you?" Not understanding what an opportunity. And so we're just going to keep running them and running them and running them.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it may have good reason to be upset. Since Microsoft launched the ads, which are a response to Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads, there is evidence that the campaign may be radically altering value perceptions of PCs. According to a report in AdAge, BrandIndex says Microsoft's so-called value perception has risen steadily since the campaign began in March, while Apple's has fallen.