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Tuesday, July 21, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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User Friendly

Apple's New Ads Fire Both Barrels At Microsoft

Apple Computer has taken off the gloves in its grab for market share at the expense of IBM-compatible computers running Microsoft Windows.

With the possible exception of Microsoft, no company is better at PC marketing than the folks in Cupertino, Calif. Apple ads in the early 1980s convinced many people that Apple invented the PC, when even Steve Jobs has acknowledged that the Apple I was built because Jobs and Steve Wozniak could not afford a MITS Altair.

But Apple's latest ad campaign, which unloads both barrels at Windows, has everybody talking.

"All I really wanted to do was simplify my job," big, bold letters announce at the head of huge spreads in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and PC/Computing magazine.

The ads lambaste Windows for forcing users to continue to upgrade their systems - more RAM, bigger hard disks, new video card and monitor, extra software, a mouse, a sound board - all at considerable expense and hassle.

"I feel like I'm being pecked to death by ducks," one ad concludes.

The ad campaign, and the fact that Apple has adjusted its pricing of the Macintosh and spread its availability to outlets such as Silo and Office Depot, all are having a salutary effect on the company. Market share has more than doubled over the past year and a half. Profits are up. Most important, the Macintosh has recaptured some of the excitement and momentum it held among a certain segment of the computing public before Windows 3.0 arrived on the scene more than two years ago.

Microsoft has been uncharacteristically quiet in response to Apple's aggressiveness, although its own marketing mavens undoubtedly are at work on a return salvo.

Microsoft has never been shy about taking on the competition. Vendors recently criticized it in a recent Computer Reseller News article for "below the belt" ad campaigns.

Apple itself went so far as to draw up a memo pointing out fallacies in Microsoft's ads. The memo was titled, "Redmond: Home of the Whopper."

Microsoft has reasons for standing silent under Apple's onslaught. Because Microsoft Excel and Word dominate the Macintosh, Microsoft actually makes more money on each sale of a Macintosh than it does on an IBM-compatible. And Microsoft can take what it dishes out.

Is the ad campaign fair?

The Macintosh is a better integrated and more mature system, but Windows makes using an IBM-compatible computer easier. Menus, icons and visual equivalency to output are simply better ways to compute when multiple tasks are required.

Does it cost extra to enhance a PC for Windows? Yes. But a Macintosh costs more - albeit marginally so - than an IBM-compatible computer. And many of the enhancements that optimize Windows also are required for full benefit of a Macintosh.

Apple's new System 7 operating system, for instance, needs 4 megabytes of RAM to be practical. So does Windows. Both systems work best with 8 or more megabytes.

Mac users run out of hard-disk space just as fast as Windows users. DiskDoubler, a leading file-compression utility, was popular on the Mac before comparable DOS programs gained favor among Windows users. The minimum configuration on both platforms is the 80-megabyte range for hard drives.

In terms of video performance, a slight nod goes to the Mac. To get comparable visual appearance on a PC, you need to go to a 1 megabyte, 1024-by-768 video configuration, which usually requires a new card.

As for sound, the Mac has it built-in. That's an advantage over retrofitting with a card. The same goes for adding a CD-ROM drive or other peripherals. It's easier to do on a Macintosh.

A mouse? It used to be true that you'd have to think about installing a board on a PC to add a mouse, but mice have been well established in the IBM-compatible community for some time.

Apple also makes hay at the PC's expense by invoking its new PowerBook portable series. The PowerBook does have a temporary advantage of built-in trackball and greater usability. Right now Windows isn't much fun on a notebook computer.

But things are changing fast. The new color notebooks from Zenith, Compaq and Toshiba not only look as sharp as anything in a PowerBook but do Windows fine. And more are coming with built-in trackballs - Compaq's uses a clever "roll and pinch" design that may be the best pointer solution yet devised.

Apple promises a color PowerBook by the end of the year.

Are Apple's ads accurate? Not entirely. Just about every point they make can be debated.

Are they fair? Generally, yes. The Mac is still easier to use than a DOS-plus-Windows computer.

But the differences are narrowing - which is probably why Apple is being so aggressive in the first place.

NEWS BYTES

Windows on the Macintosh? The rumor mill is abuzz with suggestions that Microsoft is working on a program that will take software written for the Windows 32s API (programming interface) and convert it for the Mac. Code name is Alar, an apt choice because it's unclear whether Alar helped or hurt the "Apple" industry. . . . From Kirkland, Colonnade Technologies has introduced In His Time, including more than 28 features for integrating the Bible into daily activities organized by the software. "In this fast-paced world it can be difficult to nurture your Christian walk," said Jerry Taylor, Colonnade's CEO. Call 869-8838.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Thinking about adding memory to your Macintosh? The Macintosh downtown Business Users Group (624-9329) offers a free pamphlet, "The Macintosh Memory Guide" from Connectix. Or check with Westwind Computing in the University District (632-8141). Contact this column in care of The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle 98111. Paul Andrews can be reached at CompuServe 76050,161 or via fax at 382-8879.

User Friendly appears Tuesdays in The Seattle Times. Paul Andrews is a member of The Times staff.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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