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‘Microsoft spreads the spirit of the season on 5th Ave’

It’s hard to maintain a spirited rivalry when your teams don’t really compete.

Microsoft’s holiday-themed commercial:

Cute idea, but I completely missed the point on first watch. It wasn’t clear to me exactly where the Microsoft crew was caroling. The ad offers only fleeting glimpses of the Apple logo outside the flagship 5th Avenue store. Maybe Microsoft was reluctant to showcase its rival—and celebrate an Apple Store pilgrimage?

Microsoft repurposes and recontextualizes the song (“Let There Be Peace on Earth”) here. On the one hand, the commercial excises the piece’s overtly religious lyrics (“With God as our Father / Brothers all are we”). That’s appropriate—and not unusual; marketers secularize Christmas carols every year. There’s a more troubling change, though: should a childrens’ peacemaking anthem be deployed as a calculated gesture of corporate solidarity?

Leaving aside religion and politics, the commercial demonstrates just how much the companies’ once-fierce animosity has cooled in recent years. The ‘Mac vs. PC’ war didn’t end, exactly. But mobile and cloud computing makes the desktop market somewhat of a sideshow. In fact, these days, the core businesses of Apple and Microsoft barely even overlap. Stated simply, Apple builds mobile hardware, mostly for consumers. Microsoft builds productivity software, mostly for businesses. It’s hard to maintain a spirited rivalry when your teams don’t really compete.

Another reason for these technology giants to reconcile? They’re so alike—in that they both have questionable fashion sense. Which uniform is uglier: Apple’s Christmas-red mock turtlenecks or Microsoft’s pastel fleece caps?