Mac Scope

Think Smarter?

Just the Advice Gateway Needs

Stephen Van Esch - 2002.08.28

Gateway is not exactly a PC company that anyone envies. Right off the bat, the company seemed to have a really unusual (to put it gently) way of selling computers. After all, how many retail outlets would let you try something on - and then make you wait while it came in the mail?

And this is the company telling potential customers to "Think Smarter"?

The irony is not subtle here. Gateway, once reasonably respectable in the consumer market, has fallen far in the last two years. Hit hard by the slowdown in computer purchases, Gateway has had to revamp its image and system of selling computers quickly or Dell would have rolled it over and picked its pockets. That could still happen.

On the other side of the coin, Apple has had something of a renaissance over the same period. Earnings have remained on the plus side (except for one niggling quarterly loss) in the last few years. Apple's marketing has been extremely successful. New products have been rolling off the line pretty consistently. And the Apple stores appear to be doing well.

It's pretty clear that Apple is continuing to build a strong company while Gateway is floundering about trying to get out of the red. So who's smarter?

Ironic as well that Gateway exhorts the consumer to "Think Smarter" while showing very little creative ability. Surely thinking smarter would mean coming up with your own, unique ads rather than parroting the G4 iMacGateway Profile 4competition? Building a bit of marketing muscle without riding the competitions coattails through mimicry might also be a "smarter" approach.

But on to the meat; is the Profile 4 a real threat to Apple's iMac?

No, not really.

The Profile 4 is a nice enough machine on the outside, I suppose. The problem is that it's pretty mundane - not mundane according to PC standards, mind you, just mundane my Apple standards.

Isn't this something like the 20th Anniversary Mac? And isn't the "upright design with everything crammed behind Twentieth Anniverary Macthe monitor" the same design rejected by Jonathan Ive when he created the new iMac design? On the design front, there's not much new and exciting.

Everything else in the campaign has a certain amount of spin about it as well. Simplistic tests, misleading comparisons, and skewed pricing information all point to the fact that, quite simply, pound for pound, the iMac is a better deal.

I suspect that Gateway is banking on that great marketing wisdom that works so well in North America: "Consumers don't read past the headline."

That fact is really the only thing that Apple should be worrying about when it comes to Gateway.

"Think Smarter" indeed.

Further Reading

  • Today, Accelerate Your Mac! has a reader reporting that "(eTestingLabs) ran Quake III on the Mac in Classic, that's why they got the low scores. Talk about cheating...."
  • Gateway Publishes Report that Shows Its PC Outperforming the iMac, Bryan Chaffin, Mac Observer, 08.26. "...if these are the best three things Gateway cam come up with, the company must be hoping that few consumers read past the headline."
  • Gateway: Think Smarter, Not Different, Paul Thurrott, WinInfo, 08.26. "With a projected loss of $200 million to $250 million this year on revenues of $5 billion, the company needs a bit of a sales spark to turn things around."

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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