Why Apple has not advertised Mac OS X

“Many writers and readers have wondered why Apple has not advertised Mac OS X on television or in print. They argue that the inherent superiority of Mac OS X compared to other operating systems is so obvious that Apple is crazy not to advertise it. Typically, a long laundry list of failed technologies in Windows is compared to successful technologies in Mac OS X. Its Unix roots and better resistance to malware and viruses is touted. Candidate ideas for 30 second TV spots are outlined. And when all is said and done, many end up suspecting that Steve Jobs must have struck a secret deal with Bill Gates to keep this far superior OS under wraps and a secret from the world in exchange for some concession,” John Martellaro writes for The Mac Observer. “From my perspective, things are quite different. Here’s why.”

“A computer operating system, an OS, is a very abstract concept for most modern users. Especially those not-so technical users who are new to computers,” Martellaro writes. “Even with an elegant GUI, such as Mac OS X’s Finder, (or better, CocoaTech’s PathFinder) there is a huge gap between what the OS does — here’s the key — and seducing a non-technical customer into making a purchase decision. After all, Mac OS X, Windows and Linux all have the WIMP interface: windows, icons, menus and a pointing device. To the untrained customer’s eye, they all pretty much look alike… As a result of this understanding of the product profile of an OS, it’s very, very difficult to create — in a 30 second TV ad or a print ad — a compelling and appealing set of images that create appreciation and then demand for a particular OS… The situation could change in the future, but that’s why I believe Apple has not yet advertised Mac OS X.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A very interesting article, with which we do not agree, however, it is well worth the read and highly recommended. We believe that Apple could create compelling TV commercials that show the world, if nothing else, what Mac OS X looks like and the basics of how it operates, so that when the Windows Vista marketing appears the masses will at least recognize that Microsoft’s clone came from Apple, as usual. Even just showing MS Word and Excel running on a Mac in a TV commercial would open a lot of eyes and be very effective.

Related articles:
Apple in secret deal with Microsoft to hide Macintosh from world? – January 19, 2006
Why in Jobs’ name doesn’t Apple advertise the Macintosh? – October 27, 2005
More would switch from Windows to Mac if Apple advertised more effectively – September 04, 2005
Forrester analysts: Apple should advertise Mac OS X Tiger on television and in movie theaters – April 29, 2005
Mac fans line up for new operating system as passberby asks ‘what is a tiger?’ – April 29, 2005
Apple posts QuickTime movies of Mac OS X Tiger features in action – April 13, 2005
Why doesn’t Apple advertise Mac OS X on TV? – April 12, 2005
Why doesn’t Apple show its patented Mac OS X ‘Genie Effect’ in TV ads? – October 07, 2004
Top Ten things Apple needs to show the world about Macintosh – July 30, 2003


  1. What sets Macs apart to the “untrained” eye of the typical consumers (not us Mac-geeks-who-read-MDN-everyday-types)? Stuff like iLife. Over and over again my “average” computer using friends comment on my ability to print beautiful photo books, easily construct elegant slideshows, assemble cleverly designed DVD’s, and provide music at almost any function via my iTunes music library and AirPort Express. Over and over again, I remind these people that I am able to do all of this so easily on a Mac. I remind them that yes, it’s possible to do much of what I do with a Windoze box, but it’s harder, less intuitive, and less likely to be fun. I don’t blame Apple for shying away from the “no viruses, no malware” claims. That just seems to be inviting trouble and argument, but the positive stuff is just too overwhelmingly perfect–why aren’t they advertising it?

    I’m mystified.

  2. Uh, hasn’t this same question been asked about a MILLION TIMES ALREADY?

    The answer is simple.

    You only advertise enough to meet what you can supply.

    Apple has serious supply issues, they can’t provide the entire world’s need for computers, that’s why they are expensive and that’s why they don’t advertise as much as Dell.

    Apple’s market share will increase with the abundance of Intel processors, but still other factors will limit their market growth.

    So here’s the same tired answer.

    You only create enough demand to meet your supply.

  3. The campaign is running no, we all know the ‘dull things that the PC does on Intel’ – so Apple, why not spill the beans to the world about all the interesting things you CAN do on a Mac?

    It doesn’t have to be just the OS.

  4. “what Mac OS X looks like and the basics of how it operates”

    In 30 seconds… yeah, right. I’ve said it before and I’ll sait it again, there is NOTHING in a 30 second commercial that you could show anyone that will lead to a purchase of OSX, much less dropping Windows for OSX.

    “Even just showing MS Word and Excel running on a Mac in a TV commercial would open a lot of eyes and be very effective.”

    MS Word and Excel already runs on (and probably came free with) their Windows box. No one has (and I argue that no one will) create any kind of 30 second video that will show OSX’s superiority over Windows.

    MW: then
    If you think it’s possible to do, then do it and post it!

  5. For as savvy as Apple is, their commercials basically suck – high glitter, little content. The Intel Switch commercial is a good example. A 30 second spot showing the ease of burning a CD in iTunes, or managing Photos in iPhoto would get productive attention. Otherwise, people will look at Vista as innovative, when as everyone in this forum knows, it’s a crude clone of OS X.

  6. I agree with MDN’s take. Whatever reason Apple has for not advertising its OS, it’s not a good one.

    Microsoft advertises the heck out of their digital snake oil like it is the best thing ever and people buy into it.

    Once again…effective advertising drives sales. It’s that simple.

  7. Apple storyboard for the masses:

    Modern technology is confusing, complex and problematic…Apple offers completely integrate software and hardware solutions making your computing experience powerful, fun and easy.

  8. Goldfishy,

    You’ve got 30 seconds (and I’ll even let give you someone IN PERSON) to explain everything that you’ve just said in such a way that the person will go out and get a Mac.

    “the positive stuff is just too overwhelmingly perfect–why aren’t they advertising it?”

    Yes, but over what span of time have they seen this work you’ve turned out? Can you even burn a DVD in 30 seconds? Edit photos into a book in 30 seconds? The commercials Apple does gets people interested, then they come to you (or go to an Apple Store) and ask questions, so I think Apple’s doing pretty good ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  9. The article is right that it’s hard to advertise an OS in a TV spot (you’ll notice that MS doesn’t do it either, except for one-per-decade launch campaigns)

    BUT you don’t need to advertise the OS. You need to advertise the Mac. The whole widget, right? iLife, Spotlight, pop-up blocking, Expose’, etc. etc. etc. All things that don’t exist on the competitor’s platform without spending past the Mac’s price point. And even then, not as elegant. Simple and effective.

    You don’t need to tell anyone what an OS is or what it does. Just show them what the computer does.

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