I knew something was up as soon as I saw the subway station filled with hundreds of anonymous figures, all dressed in the same hooded white outfits. There, among the hundreds of white-clad commuters was one young man, dressed as you'd find someone at a tech firm today-gray sweater, loosely knotted tie, a day or two behind on shaving.
He's surrounded by gray people all wearing those white suits, and listening to white headphones. The young man is reading George Orwell's "1984" on his tablet device. The train pulls in.
The presentation of the commercial was clearly intended to remind the viewer of Apple's classic 1984 Super Bowl commercial, the year when the company introduced the Macintosh. This was one of the most iconic product introduction videos ever, so it's no surprise that when Motorola decided to take on Apple with its new Xoom tablet, it would bring back Apple's own images. "We're playing homage to what is said to be the greatest Super Bowl ad of all time," said David Polston, corporate vice president of Global Brand Marketing at Motorola.
What's interesting about the ad is that Motorola never really even says much about the Xoom. It shows it being used as an e-reader, it shows the young man finding a florist shop, and it shows him taking a photo of some flowers, which he then sends to a young woman he likes as part of a cartoon drawing. The young woman, in what is clearly a message to Apple users, pulls the ubiquitous white earphones from her ears when she sees the young man approach with the flowers.
We still don't know a lot about the Xoom at this point beyond a price that's rumored to be around $800, the fact that it works with Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" and that it will be available first through Verizon Wireless. It's clear from the commercial that the device will contain a camera, GPS, e-reader software and a version of multitouch that's more flexible than the iPad. It also looks a lot like the iPad, although that "Motorola" logo in the upper left is a pretty strong indication that this isn't your ordinary tablet.
But is this really a slam at Apple as many are suggesting? Polston doesn't think so. While it acknowledges Apple's place in the industry through its echo of the 1984 commercial, it also makes clear that this isn't 1984 and that the Xoom isn't just an iPad clone. Polston said that instead, Motorola thinks there's an emerging concern about whether Apple is listening to the market.