Monday, February 7, 2011

Motorola XOOM Tablet Superbowl Ad - Is Android the new Apple and Apple the new IBM?

Motorola had one of the best Superbowl commercials with a new take on "1984" that put Apple in the Big Brother spot and introduced the Xoom Tablet running Google's new Android 3 (formerly known as Honeycomb).

Referencing Apple's classic "1984" Superbowl ad by Ridley Scott which introduced the Mac with a rebellious hammer-thrower shattering the monotony of the IBM PC's stranglehold on personal computing, the Motorola ad sets the sites a little lower, with the triumph of the regular guy getting the girl. Of course, the "girl" is a corporate drone, wearing her white earbuds like all of the other corporate drones, until his tablet creativeness opens her mind to romance.

Here's the classic Apple commercial if anyone needs a refresher:

So, what's going on here in the subtext? First off, its clear that Motorola doesn't have much faith in the audience to appreciate subtlety - they hit us over the head with our protagonist actually reading "1984" - luckily he's still on the title page, so we can see it is "1984" by "GEORGE ORWELL". We quickly see that Motorola is putting Apple in the Big Brother heavy role as the corporate giant killing fun and innovation. It's a new place for media-darling Apple, which has reveled in its creative "Think Different" image for years. It is, however, not off the mark, especially in terms of Apple's opaque and closely-controlled iPad-iPod-iTunes-AppStore development and marketing ecosystem. Xoom's Android is certainly a more open platform. Note that the commercial also emphasizes the Xoom tablet's ability to create, while the iPad has very much turned out to be a device which excels at consumption. Whether the Xoom can deliver on this remains to be seen, but it is interesting that the ad makes this point. This creativity - a little romantic doodle - causes the scales to fall from her eyes (or at least the earbuds from her ears) and we are left to assume that she has broken out of the corporate monoculture and the couple will have a long and creative counter-culture life together. Sweet.

I am sure Apple's 1984 commercial seemed like a lot of hyperbole when it aired, but looking back, the introduction of the Mac did mark a legitimate sea-change in technology, just as dramatic in reality as the commercial that launched it. Maybe the Xoom and Honeycomb will offer a new option in the mobile market and bring some color and creativity, and that's ok. Motorola's spot didn't quite promise to smash Big Brother the way "1984" did - maybe it just takes a little bit of the shine off the Apple.

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