The idea in life, unless you're Brett Favre or Kate Gosselin, is to quit while you're ahead. So Justin Long's revelation that the "Get a Mac" campaign might be done suggests that Apple might think it's sufficiently far ahead of Microsoft for arms to be laid down and fingers to be wrapped around a peace bong. Well, almost.
Now the real battle, the one for hearts and minds, is supposedly between Google and Apple. It's a battle in which Apple, naturally, goes for hearts, while Google tries to impress minds. It's a battle in which Apple begins to squeeze Google by its mobile ads, while Google attempts to choke Apple's control issues with its yet-to-be-touched-in-stores, terribly open smartphones.
While Google has walked a very ginger line in its encroachment onto Apple's ground, Steve Jobs, rarely a man to waste 200 words when just two (or none) will do, has offered more than a few in gritty disparagement of Google's allegedly saintly qualities.
"We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them," was one of the kinder sets of words the Apple CEO reportedly used at a town hall meeting.
But Google doesn't merely want to kill the iPhone; it wants to participate in a dominant fashion in every market possible. So please come with me for a short walk into the near future. What if Apple created a campaign that brought some of Jobs' heartfelt criticism of Google to a dramatic realization? What if the object of Apple's derisive TV moved on from dowdy dough boys of Redmond to the skinny idealists of Larry and Sergey's Big Adventure?
Perhaps Google makes for a more difficult target. It has at least attempted to project a sort of cuteness with its name, its logo, and its various quirky home page celebrations of dead scientists' birthdays.
To some, this might be the cuteness of a young lad who's good at math, bad at girls, and a little indifferent at social skills. But Google has been relatively successful in avoiding the perception that it is a vast organization that takes your information, keeps it beyond all reasonable amounts of time, sacrifices your privacy (whether naively or not), and wants to be the one-stop-shop for every single motion of your innards and outards.
If Apple wanted to bring some of Google's evident negatives into stronger relief, the time might not be long in coming. Let's say that Apple found a funny advertising vehicle to tweak Google's chin fluff. Let's say that Apple decided to tease the Googleplex about its touching inhumanity, its obsession with data, its inability to create rather than copy, its contemporary, dare one say it, Big Brother potential. How might Google react?
Would Google be stunned, hurt, and promise retribution? Would it retaliate in some way? Or would it do nothing at all?
Google doesn't have the experience nor the corporate instincts that would prepare it for that kind of people-savvy humor. Moreover, Google, a business that drives demand rather than creates it, is, in terms of creating advertising, veritable chopped liver.
Apple picked on Microsoft in ads, calculating that Redmond wasn't capable of creating a persuasive, emotionally engaging retort. Might it, at some point in the future, think the same about Google? The "Get a Mac" campaign (I've embedded a favorite, just for nostalgia's sake) was funny, consistent, and relentless. If Google became the target of Apple's humor, wouldn't it be fun? And mightn't it be very good business indeed? For Apple, that is.