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At a virtual product launch in November for Apple’s Mac reboot, actor John Hodgman appeared in a nerdy, ill-fitting suit before a white backdrop. "Stop, hang on, wait, one more thing, hi, I’m a PC,” he said, reprising the popular Mac vs. PC television commercials of a decade ago that not so subtly telegraphed the idea that Apple was cool and Microsoft wasn’t.

The event was held to let Mac fans know the new machines were getting a processor with more sizzle. But the subtext was unmistakable: Apple Inc.’s old rivalry with Microsoft Corp. was back.

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