Negative advertising works

Al over the place, there was news of Obama and McCain moving into a dead heat in the polls. Earlier in the summer, Obama had more than 320 electoral votes according to the polls (270 are required to win). Now, Obama and McCain both have less than 270. If you check out the graphs at electoral-vote.com, you can see that 2008 looks suspiciously like 2004, with the Democrat leading and then losing ground after the negative ads kicked in. (Not coincidentally, McCain has placed a Karl Rove protégé in power in his campaign, so we can expect more Rovian behavior from that camp.)

Of course, Obama is a very different candidate from Kerry, and I think there’s still plenty of time in the election for the trends to shift back.

I was struck by an interesting parallel in the software world:

The new ad effort is expected to use some variation of the slogan “Windows, Not Walls,” according to several people familiar with the matter. Those people say the point is to stress breaking down barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting.

[From Microsoft Hiring Seinfeld for Major Ad Campaign – Mac Rumors]

Apple’s “Get A Mac” ads were basically negative advertising, playing up the strength of Macs relative to the annoyance of Windows. (Contrast with the iPhone ads, which just show the overall goodness of the iPhone.)

As noted in the MacRumors article, Microsoft sees the Get A Mac ads as having been effective (and how could they not, with Apple’s market share, revenue, unit sales and profits all surging?). Microsoft is taking the “high road” in their response. I tend to think that stressing the “openness” of Windows is not a good approach. For one, Windows is hardly the king of openness. Secondly, Microsoft tried a similar approach with their various media playing attempts, but people still preferred the experience of the iPod. And finally, it seems that the negative, yet still entertaining, spin of the Get A Mac ads is likely to resonate much better.

As with anything, time will tell. But how many people really think this kind of campaign with stop the Mac’s rising tide?

(Update: I should note that the MacRumors article is really about Seinfeld starring in the new Microsoft ads. I presume that they’re going for a humorous slant to the ads, which I do think is a good move. I just still think that the “openness” theme is one that won’t resonate as well.)

Apple didn’t ship anything!

I’m an Apple fanboy. Not for any religious reasons, mind you. I’m a fanboy because they’ve been doing an amazing job of design these past few years.

Yesterday was the latest of Steve Jobs’ signature keynote addresses. I didn’t watch it, but I saw the play-by-play from MacRumors. I need not go into the details of what was announced, given that Apple gets millions in cheap publicity whenever Steve does one of these keynotes. As usual, the products look great, more revenue, profit and marketshare coming, yadda yadda.

I was disappointed, though, that Apple didn’t ship anything yesterday. It’s very hard to get your product plan to line up with a specific event like WWDC, and I’d be surprised if early product roadmaps pointed to a release at WWDC. In this case, there was the added complexity of the iPhone 3G requiring the iPhone 2.0 software and that it didn’t make sense to launch MobileMe without the iPhone 2.0 software. And the iPhone 2.0 software can’t launch until the AppStore is ready. That’s a lot of dependencies.

As a user of their products, I still would like to have had the iPhone 2.0 software now, though. The Apple of a couple years ago more often than not seemed to ship products on the day they were announced.

I love my new Apple keyboard

“Apple Keyboard Kit” (Apple Computer)

I’m fixing up my home office a bit, and I was using a dirt cheap eMachines keyboard with my MacBook Pro. That keyboard had a PS/2 connector which I ran to a KVM switch (I did have two computers hooked up at one point). So, the first problem was that that keyboard was contributing the my overall cabling mess because of the KVM switch. The other problem was that my current desk, which I bought a few months back, has a much smaller keyboard tray and I’d have to peer under the edge of the desk to see the function keys. It’s also kind of annoying having the wrong meta key arrangement… I’ve been a Mac user for years now, and it would be nice to use a keyboard with Mac keys.

So, I went out and bought an Apple keyboard. It obviously fits much better on my desk. I have no problem seeing all of the keys on this little guy. Additionally, I’ve got to say that I really like the feel. I wasn’t sure that I would, but the keys of this keyboard have a nice tactile response while still requiring very little key pressure or finger travel.

Of course, the Apple keyboard is still a conventional layout keyboard, rather than an ergonomic one. I might be better off with an ergonomic keyboard layout, but for a standard layout keyboard I’m much happier with the feel of this one.

Stupid lawsuit of the day: alleging monopoly practices for the iPod

Macworld | Apple music monopoly lawsuit seeks class-action status

It alleges that Apple has constricted the market by not enabling iPods to play content in the Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, Microsoft’s copy-protection technology. Further, Apple sells songs on the iTunes store with its own copy-protection technology, FairPlay, which is incompatible with music players other than the iPod.

The suit contends iPod-owning consumers can only buy music from iTunes, an unlawful tie-in that violates U.S. antitrust laws. Apple could license the WMA format for as little as US$0.03 per iPod, or for a total of $800,000 based on Apple’s 2005 iPod sales, the suit reads.

This lawsuit was filed on December 31 and seems like an attention getting maneuver to me. I like the “for as little as US$0.03” figure. I wonder how high the figure can go.

That said, it’s just plain false that iPod users can only buy music from iTunes. Just yesterday, I bought some music from Amazon. There’s also eMusic. Oh yeah, and I hear that you can still buy those antiquated shiny plastic disks.

The RIAA seems to be having some big strategy problems. They’re allowing Amazon to sell DRM free tracks, but not allowing Apple to do the same… hoping that this will break Apple’s stranglehold on the player and distribution markets. It’s like they fundamentally don’t understand DRM. If they let Apple sell DRM free tracks, that will only hasten the ability for people to choose other music players. Apple sells millions of songs a day, most of which are currently locked to iPods only because that’s the way the RIAA is requiring them to do it.

In fact, the lawsuit from Stacie Somers of San Diego seems so silly that it makes me wonder if the RIAA put her up to it.

Update: The same day that I read about this lawsuit, we see the news that Sony BMG is dropping DRM for Amazon. That means that Amazon will have all four major labels (plus large numbers of indies, I’m sure) doing DRM free music.

Update 2: In a I-can’t-believe-they’re-that-dumb move, Sony BMG has apparently announced that you have to go to a store to buy their DRM free tracks. WTF?

Not fair! Apple releases Final Cut Express 4

On Tuesday, I ordered Final Cut Express 3.5 with overnight shipping because I had some screencast work to do. I got it yesterday and installed it. Today, Apple released Final Cut Express 4. They’ve lowered the list price to $199 from $299 (luckily, I paid about $230). I don’t so much care about that part… what I do care about is that I don’t want to have to pay $100 to upgrade to FCE4, when I just yesterday paid more than the new price for the product.

Yes, yes, new products come out, technology changes, yadda yadda. Remember the iPhone price drop that people were complaining about? If you bought an iPhone within 14 days of that price drop, you got that money back. If you bought a computer within a few weeks of Leopard’s release, you could get Leopard for $10.

I have no problem with paying $10 to cover the media cost for FCE4. Unfortunately, the Apple customer service rep said there was no such deal, and that my only recourse was to try to return FCE 3.5 to the reseller I bought it from. I called them, but what could they do? They can’t take opened software back! I’m going to try the time-tested technique of calling Apple again and talking to a different rep.

Dear lazyweb: if you happen to know of an Apple policy about this, please post a comment here. Thanks.