Most of the technorati elite are hailing Microsoft’s latest Surface incarnation as hefty competition for Apple; both MacBook Pro and iPad Pro. Indeed, Microsoft’s commercials for various and sundry Surface products rake Apple across the coals of public scrutiny by showing that both MacBook Pro and iPad cannot do all that a Surface can do.
The TV commercials are rubbish, but do a good job of comparing Apple to oranges.
‘How so, Kate?‘ you may ask. Simple. A Surface anything is merely a notebook without a keyboard, a notebook with a touchscreen that seldom gets used, an ugly truth that Microsoft has ignored to date. Why? Because the commercials are so compelling.
The latest Surface device to pounce on an unsuspecting public is the Surface Book. That name has a familiar ring to it, no? It’s called a 2-in-1; a hybrid device that is both notebook and tablet. As a notebook, it’s got great specifications, including what previous Surface models did not have– a keyboard. And a touch screen. It’s the touch screen that makes it a hybrid device.
Microsoft is betting that the clever and compelling TV commercials will get people to buy Surface hybrids, and, indeed they are. Supposedly. Microsoft won’t say how many have been sold to date, but analysts have their guesses, and most guess that the total number and revenue are less than guesstimates of Apple’s Watch sales during the same period.
Isn’t it funny how the Watch is considered a flop but it makes more money for Apple than Surface makes for Microsoft, but it’s considered a hit?
What’s Microsoft’s latest fail?
It’s really two-fold. Microsoft is doubling down on the hybrid device angle so the Surface Book looks much like a MacBook Pro running Windows (which the Mac can do, of course). A Surface Book with Intel Core i7 inside, fitted with 16GB of RAM, and 1TB of flash storage is priced at $3,199.
Compare that to a fully equipped MacBook Pro, i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD for $500 less; $2,699.
Anybody else see a problem there?
Microsoft has decided to compete with Apple at the premium end of the product spectrum. What happened to the last company that tried that approach? Samsung went into a two year decline in profits.
Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone and tablets are considered worthy hardware competitors to Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The problem is that Samsung’s products are shackled to Android and the very same Android and applications can be purchased at less than half the price of a Samsung Galaxy.
Microsoft has a similar problem, even if the Surface Pro competes well on specifications against a fully loaded, high end MacBook Pro. Surface Book is shackled to Windows, and PC notebooks can be bought for $500, and good ones for less than half what Microsoft wants for theirs.
I preach this often. In product marketing, differentiation is key. A key component to non-Apple smartphones and tablets is Android, so the incentive to pay more money for a smartphone running Android is minimal. Likewise, a key component to cheap PC notebooks and tablets is Windows, so the incentive to pay more money for a notebook running Windows is minimal.
A Mac is clearly differentiated from standard Windows PC riffraff thanks to premium hardware components and OS X El Capitan. Samsung is trying to extricate itself from the Android albatross by pushing new phones with Tizen instead of Android. Microsoft simply cannot escape Windows.