If you’d been listening very carefully over the past few days, you’d have likely heard a few Intel marketing folks snickering away as they got ready to drop a clutch of ads mocking Apple MacBooks with none other than Justin Long, the “I’m a Mac” guy seen in Apple versus PC ads in the 2000s.
“Hehehehe, let’s take Justin and have him look excited about laptops with Intel processors,” we can imagine one exec saying to another. “Oh and let's have him poke fun at the latest MacBooks,” another could have added. “That’ll show Tim Cook….tehehehe.” Only it didn’t.
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Rather, the videos are a bit embarrassing. They deliver a heady mix of cringe-worthy 'jokes' tinged with a smugness that’s inexplicably insecure at the same time, in the only way such corporate commercials can do when the company doesn't actually have an eye-catching product to show off.
The ads all start off with Justin Long standing in a white space declaring “Hello, I’m a...Justin” and how he’s “just a real person,” yet coming across like Pinocchio trying to pass for a real boy.
“Oh yeah, Intel. Nice!” says Justin as he picks up a nondescript Windows 10 laptop. Words that I feel no real person has uttered, outside of a gaming PC convention.
Our Intel hero then wanders over to a pair of MacBooks: “So these are the new Macs?” he asks trying to not sound scripted. “Ok so grey and greyer....”
It’s a poor dig at Cupertino's laptops, give they’ve soundly been praised for their consistently clean industrial aesthetic, which can't be said for many Windows machines outside of the Dell XPS line and Microsoft Surface Laptops.
And the rest of the videos play out this way, with stilted and obvious fun pointed at MacBooks. The lack of ports, or face unlock, or choice in models all came up. As does the inability to properly game on MacBooks, seemingly glossing over the idea that a lot of thin-and-light Windows 10 laptops are about as effective at gaming as golf is at being exciting.
The whole suite of ads is rote, joyless and just….basic. What might have worked in the 2000s, doesn't in the 2020s. Tech ads are now expertly animated shorts showcasing stand-out features and design backed by whatever musician or musical style is en vogue at the time. Check out the slick Samsung Galaxy S21 series ads as an example.
To me, Intel seems to be poking fun at Apple because it simply has nothing exciting to show off. The latest Intel Tiger Lake chips are decent, but they’ve not captivated headlines like the Apple M1 chip and its stellar blend of performance and energy-efficiency. I know Intel is working on interesting things. But rather than concentrating on that side of things, these adverts come across as sour grapes that Intel chips have been ditched in the latest MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
But, and it’s a big but: a brace of ads, one addressing the 2-in-1 nature of some Intel-powered laptops and the other touting touchscreens on Windows 10 machines, do have a point.
MacBook Air with a touchscreen please Apple!
With Apple supporting iOS apps on macOS, I see no reason why there shouldn't be a touchscreen MacBook Air or Pro. It’s not essential, but it would just make things that little bit easier. And that’s long been a line Apple has touted for its tech with the immortal “just works” tagline.
“To be honest I was hoping we would have seen a touchscreen when the Macbook on M1 came out,” Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Creative Strategies told me. “While I do not think people necessarily move to Windows because of the lack of touch, I do think it creates an unnecessary friction for the users.”
I would agree with this. I appreciate that MacBooks have an appeal that transcends features and specs. But I held fire on buying an M1 MacBook Air because it lacked a touchscreen, and I feel Apple will eventually relent there.
A touchscreen would also pave the way for a 2-in-1 MacBook. Sure, Apple has the iPad range for people who want a tablet experience; and what a tablet experience it is. But I see no reason why a 360-degree display couldn’t be added to the fanless MacBook Air M1.
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A touchscreen MacBook Air would boost the flexibility of the laptop, yet still leave the Pro line for people who want a more rigid, work-only machine.
That’s not to say I’d expect a 2-in-1 MacBook to deliver that same experience as an iPad. But I see no reason why such a machine couldn't be used in tandem with an Apple Pencil for people who want to add a hand-written annotation to photos or presentations. That would provide another use for the Apple Pencil beyond the iPad Pro and iPad Air.
Google's PixelBook did this to great effect; when I put it to the test, I mostly used it as a standard laptop, but having the option to then sit back with it folded back into a 12.3-inch tablet for web browsing was a joy. Given Apple’s ability to refine software and user interfaces, I see no reason why it couldn’t do an excellent job with a 2-in-1 MacBook.
Apple has previously said that people aren’t really looking for touchscreen MacBooks. But I’m not sure people weren't looking for iPads before Apple brought them to the market. So I’d like to see Cupertino go back to its previous attitude of “build it and they will come.”
Somewhat ironically then, Intel’s ads haven't got me thinking about choosing a new Windows 10 laptop over a MacBook Pro, but rather what I’d like to see from the MacBook Air 2021. Instead of going out and getting a new laptop with Intel inside, I will simply wait and see what Apple does next.
And instead of making embarrassing commercials, Intel should focus on developing new Core chips that hit back at the M1. Or deliver a Xe gaming-grade graphics card that offers a tangible alternative to Nvidia and AMD; now that would be worth getting Justin to look at.
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