Unless you miraculously found a way to live under a rock on the moon for the past 25 years, you’ve had a pretty good chance of seeing the Apple Macintosh 1984 commercial [below], the one directed by Ridley Scott, the one with the woman running through hallways of automatons ultimately to toss a hammer through a screen, smashing an image of Big Brother. This commercial was made to announce the release of the Macintosh personal computer. Today we’ve been treated to an ad spot made by Motorola to promote their upcoming tablet computer XOOM, featuring the new Google Android mobile operating system Android 3.0 Honeycomb, made specifically for tablets – this commercial directly targets the 1984 commercial for Apple Macintosh. Yesterday a massive article by creative director Steve Hayden detailed his work on and knowledge of the 1984 commercial, celebrating its excellence.

There are a bunch of fun facts inside the article by Hayden, and I have no qualms with saying that I too think it’s the best TV commercial ever. In Hayden’s notes he writes that the brief for the commercial was simply a message from Jobs: “I want to stop the world in its tracks.” The commercial was originally a 60 second ad that ran during 1984 Superbowl, then running in 10 US markets as well as Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters for IBM’s PC division. This 30 second spot was also run in movie theaters across the US via ScreenVision advertising, one theater owner running the ad for a month after the buy was over because he loved it so much.

Copywriter Gary Gussick penned the line “Why 1984 won’t be like 1984,” Ridley Scott was brought on board to direct, Hayden and his brother wrote a speech for Big Brother using every dictator from Mussolini to Mao, and the ad spot told the world that owning and using a personal computer meant you were free of the oppression that held you. This was against more than just an operating system, it was against the then-modern fear of technology, the looming “Communist threat,” and the status quo in so very many ways.

What does Motorola do here in 2011? They make an ad spot with the globe floating in space with a couple of earbuds in, visually identifying it as what some people call a “Podling,” essentially someone who has their iPod plugged into their ears 24 hours a day. This commercial blasts

2011 LOOKS A LOT LIKE 1984





Meanwhile the commercial has slowly faded to black and white, now BLASTING into color, jamming into your face






Then switching back from the giant red planet that’s appeared (making us think we’re now on Mars, perhaps,) to the “Life. M Powered” Motorola logo, then also revealing Motorola XOOM, Super Bowl XLV, and facebook.com/motorola logos below.

Will Apple fear this ad? Not as much as they’ll be scraping their fingernails into their kneecaps over it. Surely this is a spit in their face, and also a spit in the faces of the original commercial, but then again it’s also a compliment that they’d target Apple only in such a direct way.

What do you think?


  1. Burnsy, not sure if I agree with you that “Apple fears Honeycomb” they most definitely will be taking a hard and serious look at how Honeycomb will affect iPad sales for sure. The market is BIG enough for both platforms to co-exist and do well. I love that between iOS and Honeycomb (perhaps even Playbook) provide choices to consumers.

    • I don’t think they technically “fear” them either, I doubt Apple fears anyone or anything really, but I do think, yes, they should be paying attention to Honeycomb and see how they can improve in the face of their first potentially real competition

  2. I think Android and Apple will battle it out in what’s basically a very limited market for tablets. It’s a niche market and it’s going to stay that way.

    Apple might get a lots of its profits on a relatively small number of expensive devices and it might be hurt by financially by this.

    But Android doesn’t have much to gain. Android makes it’s money off of a large user base and tablets are a niche.

    • In general I think this is true unless Android can move into the netbook/laptop space–there are some hints in Honeycomb that suggest they might be making the UI ready for netbooks. I know Google wants Chrome to take that space but I think hardware vendors and customers will decide not Google otherwise we wouldn’t have seen Android on a tablet in the first place. That and Chrome is taking forever and if the cripple it with “cloud only” it will never take off the way Android has.

  3. Nice homage to the Apple 1984 ad, but weak.

    The 1984 ad is an advertising icon, copying it more overtly would have been much more powerful, rather than just referencing it. You sort of have to be an advertising geek to really make the connection.

    • my thoughts exactly, a company talking about freedom and choices, whose biggest news over the last few devices is that they won’t let you have EITHER

    • my thoughts exactly, a company talking about freedom and choices, whose biggest news over the last few devices is that they won’t let you have EITHER

    • From what I’ve read Motorola said they would find a way for the tech community to unlock the bootloader yet still keep it secure for the average user. While I don’t consider moto a “open” company you certainly would never get a statement like that form Apple.

  4. Awesome article, I agree that Apple metaphorically fears Honeycomb. Up until now Android doesn’t perform well on tablets and Honeycomb will change that. And just like in the phone market, Android will quickly overtake the tablet market.

    • Actually if you look at Apple in 1984 they were trying to do what IBM was doing. Apple never had the mindset that they advertised (Woz did), that’s just their hypocritical nature that spawned from S. Jobs–tell the customer anything to get them to buy your product regardless of the facts or truth of the matter and lock them into your ecosystem. That’s always been Apple with Jobs at the helm.

  5. I’m a rabid Android fan and I don’t see anything in that ad that would make me look at a xoom let a lone buy one, let’s hope they figure that out before Sunday. People want to see the actual product not hyperbole. If I was Apple I’d be laughing at it, not fearing it…

    • Cus tablets are for casuals and the uneducated. If you make informed, rational decisions when making purchases then of course you “don’t get” the xoom, iPos, or any useless tablet. They all cost sup-$200 to make and most of the money made of them goes into marketing and advertising intended to convince more suckers into thinking they actually want one off these useless devices.

      Give me a notebook with a 7 inch screen.

      • In general I agree with you. I do think that Asus’ transformer (I think that’s the name of the 10″ netbook which the screen/top detaches and runs Android) might bridge the gap between tablets and netbooks as far as functionality. Of course Android needs a killer office suite, but gDocs works for many.

        At least with a product like that you can have a netbook that is functional and a tablet when you want though it’s slightly over prices at ~$500.

        The other tablets they demonstrated at CES look very useful as well–the ones with the slide-out-keyboards for the Win7 tablets but windows needs a better touch UI. I could see that design working well with Android, though. Nonetheless, I do agree that just a tablet is more a toy than a useful all purpose computing device–they need to have a keyboard and mouse with good software to be truly useful and they had better get there soon, as MS is now moving windows to run on phone, tablet, and pc with modular UI for each type of device. . . . and with that software ecosystem it will be hard to stop them.

  6. I hope they are not spending the money to actually put this on during the superbowl – it is a terrible ad. I thought it might be the teaser for a real ad.

    Also – In the book 1984 there was an oppressive government that monitored the activities and thoughts of the subjects and was their source for all information (which they changed at will to the message they wanted to send). I think Google is FAR closer to this than Apple.

    In the 1984 Apple ad the target was green-screen computers that had little appeal to consumers (yes, even the Apple 2) which now had a competitor that was totally different in almost every way in the Mac.

    • I’ll admit that I haven’t read “1984” in a while. I thought the most interesting thing about the book was how the government was controlling the populace through the vocabulary. People said “double plus good” because that was the most expressive they knew how to be. People who couldn’t form radical thoughts couldn’t perform radical actions and people who couldn’t perform radical actions weren’t a threat to the status quo. Brilliant.

      The reason I have resisted being an Apple person is that I perceive Apple to be very strict about what I can use – hardware and software. The previous version of the iPod Shuffle required Apple earbuds (a design that has been corrected, admittedly). I can’t transfer music or anything else to an Apple device unless I go through Apple software. I don’t spend much time with Apple products so I’m sure I’m missing some valid additional points along with some valid counter-arguments.

      Having said that, this ad speaks directly to me. Maybe I’m an idiot and this ad is aimed at idiots. I see a parallel between the controlling government in “1984” and the controlling corporation that has sold everyone on the ‘i’ lifestyle. Plus, I hate people who walk around with those stupid white iPod earbuds. Nobody talks to anyone anymore. I think it’s a fine commercial.

      • I have to say you wrote my sentiments exactly. I think I read 1984 in 1984 and I’ve always taken issue with Apple appointing themselves as the savior of freedom. Steve Jobs always wanted Apple as locked down as it could be. He wanted to supplant IBM & Sony with the same proprietary locked down all encompassing “one company” monopoly. Fortunately for us they never became that big monolith company; however, they have obtained that type of religious/occult/blind faith with their consumers that we read about in 1984–religions would give anything to have the type of blind faith that Apple has with its core consumers.

        Who ever thought people would be so “religious” about a tech company? It’s actually very scary! Their just phones, mp3 players, etc. . . they will not give you happiness, enlightenment, wisdom, etc. . . they just suck up your time and money.

    • colorrrrr! yes i think it’s just a trailer for a trailer as well. it’s in that in-between state where it’s not extremely huge and it’s not super minimal. it’d totally fail if they released it in the state its in now

  7. This would match the theme that seems to be prevalent in about 75% of the Android Tablet producers. VaporWare. it’s tough to compete with a product that actually exists Motorola. And as far as “upgradeable” goes, as a husband to a Motorola Cliq owner, I know how that can pan out at Motorola. Advertise a product as it is with the promise of the ability to upgrade then Fail miserably at actually providing the upgrade. Pretty much the last company I’m going to buy the first version of for sure, and likely not at all, regardless of version.

  8. Really like it but I can’t upgrade my android in motorola Defy yet. I would like to see this video from google or other better company… For me freedom and motorola don’t blend.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.