Mad, Beautiful Ideas
In a World Without Walls, Who Needs Windows?

A few weeks ago, Microsoft debuted their new Ad Campaign about, well, nothing. But it was okay. The ads stared Bill Gates and jerry Seinfeld as themselves, having Seinfeldian conversations filled with non-Sequiturs and bizarre situations. They were funny. Really, really weird. But funny.

It seems that a company of Microsoft's size, while completely able to make stupid videos, they should avoid sharing them with the world. After two weeks, and four and a half minutes, the company appears to have pulled the plug on the Gates-Seinfeld commercials.

Actually, that last point is still arguable, its entirely possible that Microsoft is merely spacing the video's out. Regardless, they've shifted gears to their new "I'm a PC"/"Windows, not Walls"campaign, which is a very direct (and deep) dig at Apple's widely known ad campaign. And it looks like Microsoft may have completely eliminated Apple's ability to use those ads any longer.

It's no secret that people liked the PC character, played by John Hodgman more than the Mac guy. He was more sincere, more endearing. The Mac guy was exactly the kind of douchebag hipster that the majority of the computer-using world hates Apple for. However, Apple didn't portray the Mac guy as such in anything that seemed to resemble self-deprecating humor.

With the "I'm a PC" ad, show below, Microsoft has managed to take a huge swipe at the ad monolith built by Apple over the last few years. It starts with a Hodgman look-alike acting out the PC role, and saying that he's been made into a stereotype, and then proceeds to go through a laundry list of MS personnel, and regular folks as well, each of them proudly claiming to be a PC. It's a good ad, I really liked it. And for all those people who make the crack about modern Macs essentially being PCs, while that may be true, the majority the population, if they bought Mac, wouldn't likely know that they could install Windows, nor would they be likely to in the first place. Besides, Apple has sought to form that distinction, so the argument is wholly irrelevant.

As a long-time Linux user, I do find it stupid that PC has become synonymous with Windows. PC is a really, really generic term. Hell, Mac's before they had Intel-based processors and could run Windows were still Personal Computers. But I digress.

What I find the really silly part of the entire ad campaign is the new slogan "Windows, not Walls." It's clear what Microsoft is getting at here. With Mac OS X you can only run the OS on Apple's hardware. They ship many products with intrusive DRM (but then, so does Microsoft), and... well to be honest I'm not sure where else the Microsofties are trying to take this argument. Plus, the slogan is silly, because without Walls, who needs Windows?

As much as I detest Apple's restrictions that Mac OS X be run only on Apple hardware, and as much as I hope that the Psystar lawsuit recently filed takes Apple to task for killing the clones (I know it won't, Psystar will settle out of court), in many ways, Mac OS X is far more open than any version of Windows. And I'm not just talking in the sense of the source code being available, though certainly much of it is.

No, I'm talking about the fact that Mac OS X lacks the same level of intrusive copy protection (how many times have I had to install the Windows Genuine Advantage tool?). While Apple software often has DRM built it, it's not a core part of the OS. Apple bundles developer tools with every copy of Mac OS X, including Python, so you don't have to download the tools, and the same tools that professionals use are freely available to the hobbyist.

Apple is by no means without guilt. I've written about this before. But when it comes to living in an Open World, Microsoft comes out ahead on only a single issue, that of the hardware restriction Apple has. On every other front on the issue of 'walls' risen against users, I have to give the award for Openness to Apple when looking at this two-horse race.

But it doesn't have to be a two-horse race. As I said, I'm a long-time Linux user. Lately, I've been starting to do some work to help make Linux more attractive to the mainstream, but if you want to talk about Openness.... If Mac is the Wall, and Windows is the....Window. Linux is space outside. A Window is almost worse than a wall when you put bars across it. Giving that tantalizing taste of freedom is more cruel than not.

If you truly want a world without walls, don't look to Windows. Find something truly free. If you're not ready to head outside yet, that's fine. Sometimes life is hard outside, sometimes war breaks out between the tribes. We're working on it. That land without barriers is getting better every day, however, and if you're not ready to step outside just yet, wait, I'm sure we'll coax you out soon.