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This Marketing Campaign Shows How Desperate PC Makers Are Getting

This is what disruption looks like.

Microsoft, Intel, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are desperate not to be forgotten this holiday season.

Amid a backdrop of steadily declining sales, the companies on Thursday announced a new campaign called "PC Does Whaaat?!" that will run in the US and China over the next six weeks (the site launches on October 19). The goal of the campaign, which consists of a series of TV spots and online ads, is clear: to convince consumers who are already busy tweeting, Instagramming, and summoning cars on demand with their phones that PCs still have a role in their lives that can't be filled by smartphones and tablets.

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It's a hard sell, not least of which because companies like Apple have gone out of their way to demonstrate over the past few years just how much can be done with mobile devices: why lug around a laptop when an iPad will do the trick?

"Convertibles, two-in-ones, and [Siri-like digital assistant] Cortana" are likely to be among PC makers' emphasis heading into the holiday season, said Jackdaw Research Chief Analyst Jan Dawson. "Those are still relatively new," and could prove to be attractive to consumers.

Microsoft already knows this full well. That's why the company earlier this month announced Surface Book, a high-end laptop with a detachable display that immediately impressed critics (myself included). "Wait, Microsoft made this?" was the prevailing attitude in the afterglow of the event. And Windows 10, which was released in July, does enable new experiences like being able to sign into a PC by having a webcam take your photo, potentially giving the company a bit of stardust heading into the holidays.

Whether this high-profile, tragically hip marketing campaign actually works is another matter entirely. Steve Kleynhans, VP of Garnter's Mobile and Client Computing Group, told Motherboard that it's "unlikely to have much impact in the short term" for a number of reasons, including his belief that PCs "aren't really thought of as a Christmas gift any longer." Instead, they're something you grudgingly replace after your old one dies; you certainly don't wait in line for one like you might have 20 years ago.

But hey, the campaign's got a snazzy name at least.