Microsoft rolled out a new Windows commercial Thursday that takes the most direct swipe yet at rival Apple.

Microsoft rolled out a new Windows commercial Thursday that takes the most direct swipe yet at rival Apple.

The commercial, tuned to reflect the economy, follows a woman who thought she was participating in a market-research program through the process of shopping for a laptop.

“Lauren,” a recent college graduate, is looking for a computer with “speed, comfortable keyboard and a 17-inch screen” for $1,000 or less.

She heads into an Apple store in Southern California, then walks out and says, “OK, for $1,000 they only have one computer available and that’s a 13-inch screen.

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“I would have to double my budget, which isn’t feasible,” Lauren, driving her Volkswagen, tells the camera reality-TV style. “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person.”

It’s one of the more aggressive digs Microsoft has made at Apple in a commercial. The implication is Apple’s more expensive products won’t fly with ordinary people in this economy.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivered essentially the same message in comments last week that “the tide has really turned back the other direction” on Apple.

“The economy is helpful,” he said at a media conference in New York. “Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment — same piece of hardware — paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that’s a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be.”

The 60-second spot, which debuted during Thursday’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games, is the first of a new chapter in Microsoft’s major campaign to rebrand its most important product, Windows.

The campaign began last fall with the perplexing yet buzz-generating “ice breaker” spots featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. The next chapter sought to reclaim the “PC” brand, which Apple had co-opted with comedian John Hodgman’s geeky, buffoonish character in the long-running “Get a Mac” campaign.

In Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” commercials, a company employee resembling Hodgman’s “PC” character appears on screen and says, “Hello. I’m a PC. And I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

Asked about the more aggressive poke at Apple’s higher prices in the current spot, a Microsoft representative said the ads demonstrate the value of Windows PCs in terms of price, options and flexibility.

“We think Windows … offers a better fit for a customer’s needs, for their lifestyle and for their budget versus the competition that’s out there today,” said Janelle Poole, director of consumer public relations for Windows.

Future spots will feature people with different needs shopping for laptops in different price ranges.

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or