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Mac vs. PC Gets Petty as “Mac” Appears in Intel Commercials

Mac or PC?

Justin Long
Justin “I’m a Mac” Long gets real?

It’s a tale as old as time. Or, at least, a tale as old as thirty-five years ago, which can feel like the same thing in a world gone digital. Speaking of Justin Long… the Dodgeball actor and Connecticut native is best known for his Mac spokesperson’s role in the Mac ads from the early aughts.

But Long recently infused his career with a much needed, headline-grabbing touch of controversy ­­­­– “switching sides” by appearing in a batch of pro-Intel PC ads called “Justin Gets Real.” 

As an actor who hasn’t been in anything for a while, Long obviously needs to go where the money is. I can’t fault him for that. But what an odd choice from Intel. It’s one thing to be petty at the moment on Twitter—hey, many famous politicians have made a name for themselves this way—but it’s quite another to stew for 20 plus years and then hire the same guy. 

In the ads, Long says he’s “just a real person making a real comparison between Mac and PC.” Ok, honey. This statement is fooling just about no one. Instead of making an honest comparison about Intel’s upgraded features vs. Mac’s quality assurance and ease of use, the ads take it back to high school insults – trolling Mac for its lack of color options and that Mac doesn’t offer Face ID login. 

Intel M1?

Intel’s new CEO, Pat Gelsinger, says that the Long ads are just a bit of “competitive fun.” Maybe. Or maybe they’re a very real response to Apple foregoing Intel chips for the first time since 2005. 

Rumor on the street is that Intel is scrambling to make M1 Silicon chips that Apple will pick up for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. This leads me to believe that the Long ads are more of a flex – sort of a statement to say “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” to the powers that be at Apple headquarters. 

The train of thought behind the ads seems to be that if Intel can prove they pose a threat to Apple when Apple isn’t using their chips, maybe the corporate team at Apple will be more enthusiastic about stocking Intel again. More ready to replace their current Silicon chips made by TSMC with Intel’s M1 Silicon iteration. 

The verdict is still out on whether Apple would really drop their long-term partnership with TSMC to go back to chips made by Intel. But Intel’s substantial manufacturing investment makes it pretty clear that this is what they think is going to happen. Or, maybe Intel would use the M1 chips to create more quality and security standards for Windows to rival Apple’s. 

Getting Real

Let’s be real. No tech company blindly invests in a series of ads starring a minor celebrity that was once a spokesperson for their main rival for a bit of “competitive fun.” The only time I’ve ever encountered a company that was willing to fork over that kind of cash was when the manufacturers of Cards Against Humanity crowdfunded $100,000 to dig a giant hole in the earth in 2016. 

Regardless, who is going to believe Long’s endorsement of Intel when he doesn’t even address the fact that he was once the spokesperson for Mac? Were the ads just an attempt to continue to be known as Apple’s main competitor? Only time will tell. The only thing we know for sure is that no new companies will be hiring Long to do ad-work anytime soon.

What’s your take on the new PC ads? Did Long’s presence in them convince you to switch sides?

Jasmine Glasheen
the authorJasmine Glasheen
Contributing Writer
Jasmine Glasheen is Senior Copywriter. She's a writer, speaker, and retail and technology thought leader. Glasheen is a leading voice on what comes next, sharing her insights in retail magazines, news sites, tech blogs, and eBooks.
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  • They’ll have to take my intel Mac from my cooling, moderately numbing hands…

    Article reminds me to leave newly purchased external drives in PC format if Apple is going to monkey with the OS again for the new chip.

    I have so much lost work from Power PC Days.

    Please don’t stop selling Mac stuff, you’re my only hope!

  • Intel’s gotta be running scared – the have AMD hot on their heels on the x86 side, and Apple Silicon eating their lunch on the power efficiency/processor speed side.

    M1 has 4 high performance Firestorm and 4 high efficiency Icestorm cores – it was designed for the low-end MacBook Air (fanless) and 13″ MacBook Pro models as part of their annual spec bump.

    Rumor has it the M1x slated for later this year will have 8 Firestorm cores and will be targeted at machines like the 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pros and possibly the low end iMac (and maybe a high end Mac Mini).

    In 2008, Apple acquired PA Semi and worked with cash strapped Intrinsity and Samsung to produce a FastCore Cortex-A8; the frenemies famously split and Apple used their IP and Imagination’s PowerVR to create the A4 and Samsung took their tech to produce the Exynos 3. Apple acquired Intrinsity and continued to hire engineering talent from IBM’s Cell and XCPU design teams, and hired Johny Srouji from IBM who worked on the POWER7 line to direct the effort.

    This divergence from standard ARM designs was continued by Apple who continued to nurture and build their Silicon Design Team (capitalized out of respect) for a decade, ignoring standard ARM designs building their own architecture, improving and optimizing it year by year for the last decade.

    Whereas other ARM processor makers like Qualcomm and Samsung pretty much now use standard ARM designed cores – Apple has their own designs and architecture and has greatly expanded their own processor acumen to the point where the Firestorm cores in the A14 and M1 are the most sophisticated processors in the world with an eight wide processor design with a 690 instruction execution queue with a massive reorder buffer and the arithmetic units to back it up – which means its out-of-order execution unit can execute up to eight instructions simultaneously.

    x86 processor makers are hampered by the CISC design and a variable instruction length. This means that at most they can produce a three wide design and even for that the decoder would have to be fiendishly clever, as it would have to guess where one instruction ended and the next began.

    There’s a problem shared with x86-64 processor makers and Windows – they never met an instruction or feature they didn’t like. What happens then is you get a build-up of crud that no one uses, but it still consumes energy and engineering time to keep working.

    AMD can get better single core speed by pushing up clocks (and dealing with the exponentially increased heat though chiplets are probably much harder to cool), and Intel by reducing the number of cores (the top of the 10 core 20 thread 10900K actually had to be shaved to achieve enough surface area to cool the chip so it at 14nm had reached the limits of physics). Both run so hot they are soon in danger of running into Moore’s Wall.

    Apple OTOH ruthlessly pares underused or unoptimizable features.

    When Apple determined that ARMv7 (32 bit ARM) was unoptimizable, they wrote it out of iOS, and removed those logic blocks from their CPUs in two years, repurposing the silicon real estate for more productive things. Intel, AMD, and yes even Qualcomm couldn’t do that in a decade.

    Apple continues that with everything – not enough people using Force Touch – deprecate it, remove it from the hardware, and replace it with Haptic Touch. Gone.

    Here’s another secret of efficiency – make it a goal. Last year on the A13 Bionic used in the iPhone 11s, the Apple Silicon Team introduced hundreds of voltage domains so they could turn off parts of the chip not in use. Following their annual cadence, they increased the speed of the Lightning high performance and the Thunder high efficiency cores by 20% despite no change in the 7nm mask size. As an aside, they increased the speed of matrix multiplication and division by six times (used in machine learning).

    This year they increased the speed of the Firestorm high performance and Icestorm high efficiency cores by another 20% while dropping the mask size from 7nm to 5nm. That’s a hell of a compounding rate and explains how they got to where they are. Rumor has it they’ve bought all the 3nm capacity from TSMC for the A16 (and probably M2) next year.

    Wintel fans would deny the efficacy of the A series processors and say they were mobile chips, as if they used slower silicon with wheels on the bottom or more sluggish electrons.

    What they were were high efficiency chips which were passively cooled and living in a glass sandwich. Remove them from that environment where they could breathe more easily and boost the clocks a tad and they became a raging beast.

    People say that the other processor makers will catch up in a couple of years, but that’s really tough to see. Apple Silicon is the culmination of a decade of intense processor design financed by a company with very deep pockets – who is fully cognizant of the competitive advantage Apple Silicon affords. Here’s an article in Anandtech comparing the Firestorm cores to the competing ARM and x86 cores. It’s very readable for an article of its ilk:

    Of course these are the Firestorm cores used in the A14, and are not as performant as the cores in the M1 due to the M1’s higher 3.2 ghz clock speed.

  • I wonder if this ad is an unconscious admission by Intel that they are going to make M1 clones?

  • What was funny about the original “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads is the fact that John Hodgman is a long time Mac user.

  • Not something I’d pay attention to. I didn’t pay attention to the Justin Long commercials when Apple broadcast them either — not that I have anything against Justin Long, I just don’t let TV commercials or magazine ads affect my technology purchases, especially ones featuring celebrities unless that celebrity clearly knows what s/he is talking about from long experience.
    Then again, I’m not your average consumer: I favor MacBook Pros (until the touch bar) and Android phones. I’d be all over an Android tablet if there was one that really compared to the iPad Pro 12.9. I found Barnes & Noble’s Nook to be far superior to Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad mini until they reverted to selling downscaled Galaxy Tabs.
    I’m happy to see Intel poke some fun at Apple just as Apple poked fun at IBM over 35 years ago — we could all use some light-hearted comedy in any venue after 2020 and the start to 2021.

    • Justin Long did almost single-handedly save the crew of the NSEA Protector.

    • I suppose that one can never be too cynical in the cut throat computer biz; but I like “competitive fun” explanation. The ads draw attention away from the dismal reality that the M1 chip blows Intel away. And probably irritates the billionaires at Apple HQ.

    • I showed the original ads to my granddaughter who was a happy pc user. She laughed and said “So true!” She thought the ads pointed out unfortunate truths.
      She is now has a BS (Harvey Mudd) and is a grad student at Stanford. And a Mac user.

  • Very, very nice piece on M1 vis-a-vis Intel. I am curious about one thing, that I couldn’t find a good reference to online: how do Apple sales compare with Windows-running machines? Are they increasing, decreasing, or no change; in the past few years?
    Slightly personal comment—You are a copywriter? If so, I’m sure you know about Ms. Mary Norris, the “Comma Queen”. Am enjoying reading two of her most recent books.

    • Mac market share has grown steadily in the U.S. and world since Jobs returned and launched the iMac, iPod, iPhone and really cleaned things up. If you add iOS to macOS, the numbers are significantly larger, but it’s not quite a fair comparison if more than iPads are thrown in there. I think you can make the argument that some use their iPad as their primary “computer,” but even though the lines can get blurry, I don’t like throwing phones in there.

      I’m sure someone can come up with better data than I can right now (racing out the door) but while Windows OS is still the large majority of computers, macOS alone is clocked at around 10%. [I couldn’t get clarity if that was a global or national figure]

      iOS is around 50% of all devices, but again, my first 3 web searches were not clear on exactly which market those numbers refer to.

      Bottom line is that with Apple’s high margin business, one Mac user is probably netting Apple 5-6 times the profit coming from a Windows user. Thus, Apple Inc. has become the first trillion-dollar company ever, often number 1 on the Dow. It is also the first TWO Trillion dollar company and could become the first THREE trillion-dollar company as well.

      Market share is important, to be sure, but Apple pretty much owns most of the consumers in the world who are will to pay top dollar for their digital devices.

      Perhaps someone else can contribute more specific data than I was able to grab in a hurry?

    • Hi, Tim. I do copywriting, editing, and article writing for OWC. I also write about retail and generational purchasing behavior for numerous publications and, when the world isn’t shut down, I speak about the same topics.

      I’m a big fan of Grammar Girl, myself.

  • @Jasmine, you had me at: “Ok, honey.”

    You lost me at the notion that Intel was seriously considering making the M-series for Apple. I honestly thought it must have been a typo and went off on a research binge, finally finding the MacRumors to which you were referring. Wow.

    It’s a complex and cloudy crystal ball to gaze into, but I think Intel’s move is multifaceted.

    The ads are clearly a competitive shot across Apple’s bow. They won’t change too many consumer minds, but will piss Timo & Co. off because they’re a supermarket parking lot scratch on Apple’s paint job and branding. On the surface, some “competitive fun.” Dig deeper and there’s some finger to the chest stabbing going on as well.

    Intel has known for ages that Apple wanted to make its own chips and has certainly watched closely (spied?) the success with Apple’s A-series. They’ve known the writing was on the wall for a long time and did next to nothing to innovate their chips. So why the sudden rush to build a new foundry in the U.S?

    Well, there’s a global chip shortage for one. But by the time this factory is actually shipping chips? That shortage would likely be over.

    Wilder theories are that China may one day invade Taiwan. That would make it difficult for U.S. companies to get their chips from an ally (Taiwan) if an adversary (mainland China) took over. I think that’s highly unlikely given our military alliances with Taiwan. [We never had those with Hong Kong, a territory that was officially “on loan” from the Chinese to the British with a 1997 due date.]

    The more apropos relevance is likely what’s happened with Huawei.

    Is allowing an adversary to build our high-tech hardware and networks a wise thing when cyberwar is the likely type of engagement moving forward? Deciding who you want to manufacture your sensitive, digital stuff is a conversation happening in governments (and corporations) throughout the world.

    Knowing all of that, it does make sense to bring some of this manufacturing back on U.S. soil. Intel’s CEO is stating a convenient truth. It’s not a terrible idea to have some redundancy in Apple’s supply chain. Taiwan Semiconductor (the sole supplier of Apple’s A and M-series) could get hit by an earthquake, cyber-attack, infectious disease, or a long list of issues that would impact their ability to produce what Apple needs to thrive.

    Apple has been justifiably annoyed with Intel’s pace of “innovation” in the Core iSeries chips. They’re smoking hot beasts you can BBQ on. Intel has done next to nothing over the past few years in terms of designing chips that run faster, cooler, and longer on the same battery charge. If you’ll recall, Apple dumped the PPC for the exact same reason. Lack of innovation. Intel promised it would be different. It has become complacent and lazy in this relationship, so Apple has decided to move on. If you want something done right?…

    Apple’s SoC, the M1, is a radical, exciting shift in exactly that direction.

    I sold my 6 month old, top-o’-the-line, still-in-the-AppleStore mid-2020 MacBook Pro and bought the M1 MacBook Air, my very first consumer laptop ever. As a MacTech, I’d always gone high-end before this, but the M1 MacBook Air runs faster, cooler, longer than the one I sold to finance it. Truth. AND THERE IS NO FAN INSIDE! In fact, the only downside of the laptop in Winter (mine arrived in early January) is that the M1 MacBook does not keep my lap warm in cold weather.

    So what IS happening here with Intel and Apple?

    Clearly, this is Intel getting Apple’s attention on some level, but even in the world of superpower, global corporate competition, is this the best way to win over a customer? Or is this just jilted lover talk?

    Apple will likely be wise and ignore it completely in public. However, if they were to respond? I’m sure John Hodgman’s available. He was always 90% of the reason those iconic commercials worked so well. Word is that Apple pay for creative projects is lucrative enough to buy just about anyone.

    The world of advertising was irreparably turned upside down when the Verizon “Can-you-hear-me-now” guy was hired by Sprint. This is exactly the same move. I can only speculate that every spokesperson’s contract today has got to have a do-not-compete clause. They must not have thought to include those in Justin’s contract.

    Meanwhile, it’s only a matter of time before State Farm makes deep-pocket promises to Flo and the Geico Gekko.

    You heard it here first….


    • OH! I didn’t realize Justin Long had also shilled for Huawei in 2017! Ha! Apparently, he has sold his Apple anthropomorphism before!

      We may be witnessing the death of the spokesperson in advertising.

      • We can only hope. I’m all for spokesperson advertising when it’s a brand advocate who actually knows about the products and speaks from personal experience. After all, authenticity marketing is the way of the future. But Long’s surreal little switcheroo shows us exactly why millennials and gen z don’t go for products endorsed by celebrities –– i.e., that the endorsement means nothing besides a boost to the endorser’s bank balance.

        • Solid points, for sure, but Flo and the Gekko seem to be well-loved. I just thought it was hilarious that Justin has now shilled for two different Mac and iPhone competitors. I’d never seen the Hauwei ad, which is oddly embarrassing because he begging for a job!

      • Funny part is that this Huawei ad is currently UNLISTED, so cannot find it any other way than by direct link. :-\

        • I suppose we can only speculate on the reason for that. Could also simply be that he’s Intel’s boy now. Who knows?

          I tried to send you my direct email address via my Larry (and other) connections there, but never heard back from you. How can I send you a PM?

    • Knowing Apple, I’d be willing to bet that Justin did have a non-compete clause, but their mistake was that it was probably only valid for 20 years. :-)

      • HaHa! With all of the NDA and body cavity search stuff that Apple forces everyone to do, it’s amazing this fell through the cracks.

        The anthropomorphized “I’m a Mac” ads ran from 2006-2010. But how could Apple’s lavishly paid (and quite vicious) lawyers have missed this? If nothing else, they could have ApplePaid Justin to keep his pie hole shut and sign one long after the fact. Justin wouldn’t care. He just seems to like the ad money. And, in all fairness to him, it’s also possible that like Leonard Nimoy, no one wants to hire him for anything else. He’s too iconic. Will shilling for Intel break that and help him get some romcom action? It would be fascinating to know the inside story of this one day when Timo writes his memoir.

        I learned that Apple actually DID bring John Hodgman back last Fall to tout the M1, but he still appeared at PC. It’s likely this is the barb that Gelsinger (who only just became CEO in February) is either responding to, or had to watch leave the harbor.

        In addition to all of that, there seems to be a fairly reliable rumor that the new M-series iMacs about to launch may arrive in flavors again.

        But a touchscreen laptop? Yuck! Jobs was right about that.

  • Isn’t this a rehash of the ad scheme where Paul, the AT&T guy (or was it Verizon?) with the “can you her me now?” ads switched over to T-Mobile or something?

    Perhaps next will come ‘Doug’ (from the Liberty Mutual ads) switching sides to Progressive or the like…

  • I haven’t seen any of these ads yet and probably won’t bother even if I come across one.
    You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head with your comments.
    This is truly a playground boasting fiasco. I don’t recall Intel being too worried about Motorola when Apple moved to Intel.
    Regarding Apple’s decision to move to their own chip technology, I applaud that move. They have removed a supply chain that they had only some control of and had to compete with the PC demand for Intel chips. They also had to accept whatever QA the Intel manufacturing has, whereas they now are in complete control of QA.
    I imagine that they’ve sealed their fate and Apple will now, for sure, never consider going back to Intel again……that is unless Apple slides downhill and can’t afford their own chip development any longer. Hmmm….does anybody see that happening any time soon or ever?
    As far as Mr. Long goes–pretty cheap mister, but I’m sure you didn’t let your services go for a pittance. The other guy in the old ads, Mr. PC, John Hodgman, continues to be a class act. I hope he steers clear of this fiasco and I hope Apple turns a deaf ear to Intel’s game.
    I selected Mac instead of PC when I left the corporate world and didn’t need the PC platform any longer. My decision analysis made the choice clear and I never want to go back.