Why I hate Intel's attack ads on Apple's M1 MacBooks

Samsung Galaxy Book S
Samsung Galaxy Book S (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Intel recently launched a series of ads starring Justin Long, who famously featured in Apple's "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads back in the day. Long was a Mac back then, but now he's just a... Justin, according to the ads.

The ads have been met with pushback across the web, and I'm among their detractors. Marketing is all about drawing attention to your products, so maybe writing a post breaking down why I hate the new Intel ads is counterproductive, but here we are.

Turncoats are clever

Before I dive into what I hate about the ads, I want to clarify what doesn't bother me about them. I don't have an issue with Intel hiring Long to feature in ads attacking Apple, which he previously advertised for. In fact, I love when companies do that. Sprint hired Paul Marcarelli, known as the "Can you hear me now?" guy for Verizon at one point. Taco Bell also hired several people named Ronald McDonald to say how much they love Taco Bell breakfast, which is brilliant.

My first issue is that Long didn't fully switch sides. He didn't switch from being a Mac to being a PC. He's now Justin for Intel, which isn't a clear third side in the war between Windows and Mac.

Intel vs. Mac or Mac vs. PC?

The new Intel ads feature comparisons between Intel-powered PCs and Apple's MacBooks running the M1 chip. They don't, however, really pit Intel vs. the M1. Instead, they're mostly comparing Windows to macOS.

One ad highlights how a certain Intel-powered PC can flip around between a tablet and a laptop. Of course, there are plenty of Intel-powered devices that do that, but it's not exclusive to Intel. Windows 10 on ARM PCs running Qualcomm chips are often convertibles as well.

Many of the best AMD Ryzen laptops also have touchscreens. Again, no Intel in those. You'll even see devices, like the Galaxy Book S, that have options with Qualcomm chips or Intel chips inside, showing again that most of these features aren't specific to Intel devices.

You'll also notice that Intel doesn't compare Intel-powered PCs to Intel-powered Macs.

You can still get Intel-powered Macs

Intel Macbooks Page

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

While Apple is moving over to its own silicon, you can still purchase Macs powered by Intel chips. Even when Apple stops selling Intel-powered MacBooks, they'll still be around. One of the best things about MacBooks is that they can last for years. It will be a long time before all Macs are running on something other than Intel.

Why doesn't the ad show someone trying to touch the screen of an Intel-powered MacBook? Why not talk about how there aren't any Intel-powered MacBooks that can flip around into different modes? The answer is obvious, but it still just seems weird to be critical of Macs when making chips for Macs.

I understand why Intel is pushing Intel-powered PCs. The bridge between Intel and Apple is on fire. They're throwing gasoline on that fire and moving on rather than waiting for it to burn down. Intel also benefits greatly from people using Windows PCs instead of Macs in the longterm.

While you can get Windows PCs running Qualcomm or AMD chips, hundreds of millions of PCs are powered by Intel. If Intel can convince you to get a PC because it has a touchscreen, you're still fairly likely to get an Intel-powered device, which is the goal of the ads.

Half truths and odd attacks

Before the series of video ads starring Long, Intel shared a series of ads on Twitter. These ads follow the structure, "If you can blank then you're not on a Mac. Go PC." They echo the age-old argument that people who get work done have PCs.

While the ads hold some truth, some of them are only partially accurate. Take this one about rockets, for example.

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While it is true that you can no longer play Rocket League on a Mac, some of the work done to coordinate the Mars Perseverance landing was done using MacBooks. If you watch the stream of the landing, you'll see a mixture of Macbooks and other devices in use. It seems odd to specifically mention powering rockets when NASA uses some MacBooks.

A Mac attack that's not up to scratch

Enjoying ads s subjective, so I'm not claiming to be the authority on how to make an attack ad. I just feel like Intel missed the mark when it comes to these ads. There are some Intel devices powering great things, which I think could be highlighted, but ads mixing up the messaging on Macs is confusing. Even if you prefer attack ads, there are better ways to attack Macs than this.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

  • The critical question is whether or not you're the target market for those ads. People who know what's wrong with them won't really be swayed either way. They will be making their decisions based on other factors. Advertising doesn't really have to make actual sense, which is just as well because much of it doesn't.
  • A loooooong time ago Apple went the "Pepsi Ad" route and stopped talking about their product's capabilities in their ads and started selling "The Apple Lifestyle". If you use Apple products you are just "cooler" than the "unwashed masses" slaving away on WinTel products. They bolstered this by instituting HUGE product placement campaigns to get Apple products into the hands of "cultural influencers", seen on TV shows, and in the hands of every Pop-star, TV Personality, and Scientist in existence (most for free.)
    They do what every single advertisement you have ever seen does: Lie by omission and draw false equivalencies. That's called MARKETING.
    At least Intel is mildly successful at it, unlike Microsoft who can't Market their way out of wet paper bag.
    Apple is the absolute MASTER of this kind of ad, so take it for what it is; ADVERTISING.
    Apple's Macs are useful products, and popular in the STEM markets because that is what they used all throughout Grade School, College, and Grad School. They are also excellent for STEM work because of the excellent software available for them in those fields.
    Are Intel products NOT useful in those fields? No. Nobody ever said that. My Engineers won't let you pry their CAD/Visual Studio workstations from their cold-dead hands and replace them with Macs of any kind. The only people in my company who use MACS are a few senior VPs who can't figure out a Windows PC (or a cellphone for that matter) anyway and are just desperate to "look cool" in the Executive Lounge at the Airport. Apple has worked really hard to create the impression that "creatives" only ever use Apple products when that is not anywhere true. More Linux workstations exist in my company than Macs and always will. Anyway, Apple is vertically integrated and that is why the M1 is being introduced and Intel dropped, to solidify their supply-chain and replace one of the only critical items they still have to outsource. Everything else in their systems are commodity items they can obtain at will from multiple vendors. That's the real reason for them doing it. Intel is trying to make up the business losses they will have from it.
    With AMD nipping at their heels, Apple dropping their products, and HUGE problems in their semiconductor manufacturing processes, they need some kind of ads to prop up their sales.
  • I mostly agree, but as a guy in technology marketing, I wouldn't say we set out to lie by omission, though we certainly don't promote facts that are opposite of our message, so maybe that's the same thing. :-)
  • Either way, it sounds deceitful.
  • If you are a Mac user, ask yourself these questions.
    Q: Assuming your Edge / Chrome is the 2nd app on the taskbar, how do you go to Edge / Chrome window 2 tab 4, where your GitHub is?
    On Windows, it's win+2, 2, ctrl+4. 1) win+2, ctrl+n, alt+d, type, enter.
    2) Click on Safari, open a new window, move your cursor up, hit address bar, move your hands towards keyboard, type, enter.
    Which method is more efficient? Q: Do you have win+up/dn/lft/rgt on Mac?
    Q: Do you have menu key on Mac?
    Q: A popup! Can you hit a radio button with key on Mac? To me, these are time saving features, especially when you have 3 huge monitors.
    Mac is just not the toy for me.
  • But this are all Points for Windows - not for Intel. The reason i'm still on my surface book is - Touch and Windows. When Microsoft or Parallels brings Windows to M1 Macs, this argument is gone. And then there is AMD obviously working on ARM chips and Qualcom hopefully also woke up with M1 and start pushing ARM.
  • There are keyboard shortcuts on Mac that could easily accomplish what you describe. You’re just not familiar with them because you don’t use a Mac, which is fine, but don’t make claims from a position of ignorance just because you want something to be true.
    I’ve used OS X (or MacOS now) for 15 years for both personal and business use and I’ve used Windows for even longer (I currently use Windows 10 for work 10+ hours a day). I can tell you unequivocally that MacOS is more polished, reliable, intuitive and powerful than Windows in every conceivable way. I am a power user and manage the IT for my company so I’d like to think I have a pretty good understanding of Windows 10 at this point. The only exception is the lack of third party business/enterprise class software and games on MacOS, the former being the only reason I have to use Windows for work. If I had a choice, I would (as I have in the past) use MacOS for everything.
  • -For window/tab management on macOS, it's cmd+tab, cmd+`, cmd+4. Practically the same.
    -After jumping to Safari in the app switcher with ctrl+tab or ctrl+2, opening a new window with cmd+n or a new window with cmd+t in Safari puts the cursor automatically in the search box. (I have my hotkeys set to launch/open Safari with cmd-shift-i, throwing me into a new tab where I can instantly start typing and enter.) Only requires me one or two at most keyboard shortcuts to do the same thing on macOS. Correct me if I'm wrong, but alt-d is not needed anywhere, is it?
    -I do have cmd+up//rgt, actually. It came set up through Magnet, one of the many popular window management apps on the Mac App Store. By default, window management on macOS is definitely very different from Windows, but the UI makes it easy and discoverable for even my little niece to fullscreen two windows(one on each half) during a zoom call. Keyboard shortcuts are left open to be customized by power users and professionals.
    -Any third-party full-sized keyboard can be programmed easily through the manufacturer's app(such as Logi Options) when you set up the keyboard, or through System Preferences itself to replicate the functionality of the menu key.
    -For radio buttons, this one does frustrate me- they seemingly randomly changed it from tabbing between buttons to using the spacebar to move down the list and I haven't taken the time to program a shortcut to switch it back to the much more natural tabbing. These are indeed incredibly valuable time-saving features that I love and need, even on just my 15" work MacBook Pro screen when I'm working from home and don't have the two 27" thunderbolt monitors at my office. All of this aside, I completely understand and respect that macOS is just not to your tastes. However, you need to respect that both are mature platforms with plenty of customizability, especially in user operability preferences. Apps like Alfred, Butler, Bartender, LaunchBar, Magnet, and Quicksilver are all incredibly popular for a reason, but you can do almost everything that you mentioned without ANY of them installed.
  • "unlike Microsoft who can't Market their way out of wet paper bag." hahaha First I laugh at the truth of this and then I weep a bit.
    A company with a gazillion dollars and they can't afford a decent marketing department?
  • Like you, I just don't get the point of the ads. It's not like Apple is going to realize their mistake and go back to Intel. The supposed deficiencies of Macs were exactly the same when they all had Intel Inside, so clearly the Mac target market didn't care. Presumably still doesn't. Only caveat to that is the single monitor pitch. True, in the first iteration of M1 Macs, but I find it hard to believe Apple would commit to Apple Silicon and let that remain. In fact this may light a little fire under Apple to fix that sooner than later. Only thing I can imagine is they are hoping to offset their loss of processor sales to Apple by pushing people to Windows. All I see it doing is reminding folks that there are alternatives.
  • "It's not like Apple is going to realize their mistake and go back to Intel" -- I laughed when I read this because that is exactly what Apple did way back from the IBM/Motorola Power PC RISC chips.
  • Sean, there's nothing untrue in the ads and they send the message Intel is trying to send: PCs are better than Macs. I don't love the ads just because I don't think they're all that compelling (the older "I'm a Mac" ads were better), but they are appropriate. As you rightly point out, in Intel's interest to push Windows/PC sales over Mac sales, even though not all PCs are powered by Intel. Obviously, Intel is not going to show an Intel-powered Mac (because those are all going away) nor an AMD- or ARM-powered Windows device. Those would all be against Intel's interests. They should certainly not pay to promote products that don't help their sales.
  • Why applebots hate Intel's attack ads on Apple's macboocks 🤦‍♂️
  • "Intel's ads are effective at getting attention" Lol isn't that the whole point?! :p I think the ads have the right idea but focus on the wrong products. First off, there's no point in doing an Intel vs M1 ad. The M1 beats some of Intel's chips in certain areas. Unless Intel was purposely trying to get sued, they would have to make a very convoluted ad about how the "Intel chip is faster than than M1 at X task." It's a waste of money to advertise that your chip is 15% faster at CAD, or something (unless you're only looking to sell to that audience). Better to go the safe route and focus on the general public. The general public generally doesn't care about the chip inside the computer. They want to know if it's fast, looks good, price, and in the US, is it a cool brand. Which is why I think Intel should have not advertised the Asus ZenBook. It's cool, for sure, but the price is a no-go for the generally public. I think Intel should have focused on more widely available tablets, gaming laptops, and 2-in-1s. So show a Surface Go, a pretty 2-in-1, and an Alienware laptop. Yes, I know gaming laptops are expensive, but (at least in the US), people are accustomed to gaming laptops costing a pretty penny. So my TL;DR is that Intel should have focused exclusively on laptops people are likely to buy.
  • So did you equally hate the ads that Apple made too?
  • I thought the same thing.
  • I'd have to see the Apple ads that you're talking about, but maybe, ya.
  • I'm pretty sure they're referring to "I'm a Mac" commercials
  • I'm pretty sure Apple was putting out the Ads first when the M1 came out. I dont care too much for the Ads myself but they do point out some flaws in Apples well overpriced products. The Mars perseverance statement is kind of lame I can't imagine the software being used was made by Apple specifically for NASA and probably could be ran on any computer. Apple dosent have the government contracts and cloud services like Microsoft does. This article is just a failed attempt to make Microsoft/Intel to look bad.
  • The M1 is fine, but it's completely irrelevant to me as the industry does seem a bit slow at moving to port the software over. By the time an M1 machine is usable for me, I'd have had it collecting dust for 6+ months and there will be stronger Apple Silicon machines being released. Waste of money. IMO, Intel has far bigger issues with AMD, than Apple.
  • These adds are pointless. Clearly Intel doesn't understand why people buy a Mac. A Mac user isn't going to change to a PC over any of these suggested points. Most of them are stretches of the truth, which I suppose is marketing.
  • I didn’t think that I’d ever be here commenting on Windows Central, but “hear, hear!” I was entertained by Intel’s marketing, watched all of the ads, because they reinforced my decision to have recently bought two MacBook Air M1s. The main problem I have today is determining when I get the M2, not whether I want to play Rocket League.
  • One thing is for certain the ads are doing their job. If it didn't work you and many other tech journos wouldn't have wrote an article. The messaging and perception don't matter. It is the attention be it good or bad.
  • It is proverbial preaching it to the choir. Are the ads really effective for the general public? Techies and Tech Bloggers aside do everyday consumer care what chip is in their laptop?
  • Rocket lake is the code name of their CPU had nothing to do with nasa.
    Intel macs are being phased out so they want people on PC.
    They don't make the mac just the CPU, Apple designs the mac, foxconn assembles. So of course intel has no control over whether it is a convertible or not.
    Intel has partners so they showed off popular partner skus.
    The ad was cringe, but your points are trash.
  • I thought they were funny. But I was thinking about this the other day, how many people today really watch commercials. So many people use DVR systems and streaming services. Not to mention if there is an ad you leave to get a snack/drink or use the restroom, check your messages... I would have never of seen these commercials had it not been for this article. Thanks for the fun watch.