By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
August 25, 2009

After a hiatus of three and a half months without a new TV ad, Apple (AAPL) broke out a pair of fresh “Get a Mac” spots Monday night to soften the ground for the next operating system war with Microsoft (MSFT).

Earlier that day, Apple had announced that it was shipping the newest version of its flagship Macintosh OS — Snow Leopard — on Friday, nearly two months before the scheduled release of Windows 7.

“Top of the Line” and “Surprise” zero in on one of the main differences between the two systems — the profusion of viruses and other malware in Windows and the lack thereof in Mac OS X.

Both Apple spots feature women vaguely reminiscent of Lauren, the red-headed star of Microsoft’s Laptop Hunters advertising campaign. That series was notable for never actually mentioning Windows, focusing instead on low-prices and hardware specs.

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Like Lauren, Apple’s everywomen are shopping for a new computer. Rather than starting out with set price point, however, these shoppers are looking for a computer that “just works,” without “thousands of viruses and tons of headaches.”

Apple’s answer to Lauren’s punchline — “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person” — is delivered in “Top of the Line” by the journeyman comic actor Patrick Warburton, best known for his portrayal of David Puddy, Elaine Benes’ faux-suave boyfriend in 10 episodes of Seinfeld.

After charming the shopper but failing to persuade her that any PC she gets is going to have those problems, he hands her his card. “When you’re ready to compromise,” he says, “you call me.”

The ad is getting mixed reviews from the tech press. The Chicago Sun Times‘ Andy Ihnatko loved it, in part because it featured what he claims is his usual pickup line.

Cult of Mac‘s Leader Kahney declared the ad an unfunny dud and a waste of Warburton’s comic talents. “This joke has definitely run its course,” he writes. “Like Seinfield itself, it’s time for Apple to pull the plug.”

You can watch the ads and decide for yourself. Both are available in high res and HD at Apple’s website. The YouTube versions are pasted below.

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