You're a Mac, you're a PC...Now it's our turn, says Linux

The Mac vs. PC viral video and advertising war continues to rage, but now Linux has gotten involved. The nonprofit Linux Foundation began a contest in December challenging users to design a commercial for Linux that would take the "I'm a Mac....I'm a PC" self-branding campaign and spin it to fit the open source community: "WE are Linux."

The contest winners were announced today, just about a week after the latest salvo of Microsoft ads where computer shoppers are followed around as they look for their perfect machine. The first of these viral ads caused an explosion of blogospheric proportions at the end of March, when the cute girl in the commercial said, "I guess I'm just not cool enough for a Mac."

Unlike Microsoft and Apple's advertising campaigns, the winners of the Linux Foundation's contest did not attempt to out-snark or outspend competitors. In reality, how could they? As an admirer of the open source OS community (I use Ubuntu and KDE, but I don't contribute to the development of anything), I believe these videos summed up my idea of the Linux ethos in unspoken ways: They are amateur but not unprofessional, and they each highlight a different aspect that is favorable about Linux.

Besting some 90 other commercials, the grand prize-winning video came from 25-year old Israeli Amitay Tweeto, and is called "What does it mean to be free?" For his contribution, Tweeto won a trip to Japan for the Linux Foundation's Japanese Linux Symposium next October.

Tweeto's work is whimsical without being quixotic, and simple without understating the point that Linux (since that is a blanket term about as vague as "PC") is whatever you need it to be. Would a polished up version of the same commercial ever catch the public's eye when The Yankees and Red Sox of personal computing are busy calling each other names in their own commercials?

Unlikely, at least in the US, but one of the runners-up may be onto something with its Tux-as-the-hero theme. It's lighthearted and yet surprisingly effective, as it targets a tremendously sized portion of the population: users of aging hardware.

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