Microsoft Goes After the MacBook Air in New Surface Pro 3 Ad(s)


Microsoft is catching some heat today for their new ad comparing the Surface Pro 3 to the MacBook Air. Of course, Microsoft has been doing so since first announcing the Surface Pro 3, and so this ad isn’t anything new.

Here’s the ad:

Here are two more:

In his Computerworld article titled “Surface Pro 3 ads target the Macbook Air. Bad move, Microsoft — the Macbook wins.,” Preston Gralla says this:

Microsoft has been aiming the Surface Pro 3 at the Macbook Air for quite some time. On the company’s Web page touting the Surface Pro 3’s specs, it devotes an entire section to comparing the two. Starting in June, it launched a campaign to get people to trade in their Macbook Airs and use the credit towards buying a Surface.

As a laptop, though, the Macbook Air wins. It has a larger screen and a much superior keyboard. And the Surface Pro 3 runs Windows 8, which is far inferior to Mac OS X. If it’s a laptop you’re interested in, the Macbook Air is certainly the better choice.

Now, I’m fine with people voicing their opinion, so long as it’s labeled that way. If you find me giving my opinion as if it’s fact, then call me out on it. In this case, I think the line has been blurred.

For example, I find Windows 8.1 in its current incarnation to be far better for me than OS X. I own a MacBook Air running the latest Yosemite beta, and I think Microsoft has taken far bolder steps to create a new category of computing device. I can see people tripping over just how different Windows 8.1 is than its predecessor Windows 7, but I also believe that once you get used to it, Windows 8.1 is a very powerful platform. Stating that “Windows 8… is far inferior to Mac OS X,” as if it’s a mere fact, seems wrong to me.

Furthermore, yes, the MacBook Air has a larger screen, at 13.3″ vs. the Surface Pro 3’s 12″. However, the Surface Pro 3 combines a significantly higher resolution, 2160X1440 vs. 1440X900, with a 3:2 aspect ration vs. the MacBook Air’s 16:10, meaning that it can display as much as or slightly more information at one time and with much higher quality. While Windows 8.1 does have issues with HiDPI screens, I’ve found the Surface Pro 3 to be very comfortable to use at 150% scaling, and I’m a bit more productive editing a spreadsheet on it than I am on my MacBook Air. If I want, I can scale at 100% and display much more information, although it’s a bit too small for my aging eyes.

As far as the MacBook Air’s “much superior keyboard,” I also have to disagree. The keyboard on my MacBook Air is definitely excellent, and I prefer it to any other standard notebook keyboard. At the same time, the keyboard on my Surface Pro 3 Type Cover is also excellent, only different. Personally, I can type just as fast on my Surface Pro 3 as I can on my MacBook Air, with just as much accuracy, but I also (somewhat surprisingly) find the experience less tiring. There’s something about the Type Cover that I love, but I also recognize that this is very much a judgment call. Keyboards are perhaps the most subjective aspect of the personal computer.

I don’t mean to pick on Mr Gralla here. It’s just that he’s done a good job of encapsulating what I think is wrong with some of the coverage that the Surface Pro 3 has received (and with a great deal of technology coverage in general). Certainly, it should be no surprise that Microsoft is marketing it against the MacBook Air, and quite directly as with this ad: they’d be crazy not to do so. The MacBook Air is the logical competition for the Surface Pro 3 (Microsoft doesn’t want to directly challenge Windows ultrabooks), although I believe Microsoft’s machine is just as much a great alternative to high-end tablets, and if Microsoft doesn’t market it this way then what, exactly, are they left with?

Where I disagree with Mr. Gralla is in stating his opinion as if it’s fact, in this case in claiming that Microsoft is making a huge mistake in positioning the Surface Pro 3 against the MacBook Air. Granted, the Surface Pro 3 is a very different machine and represents a great deal of risk–many people simply don’t like change. The MacBook Air is a very well-made and -regarded traditional notebook, and going at it with something so different is a bold move. Toss in the fact that Apple has a very dedicated and vocal following that’s bound to attack Microsoft for insulting their favorite platform, and Microsoft has an uphill battle.

However, if you want to say that Windows 8 is widely perceived as inferior to OS X, then fine, say that. Although, even then, I think Windows 7 is most often mentioned as the superior alternative, not Apple’s niche OS. Even here, the facts are muddled. But stating opinion as fact is a tactic that should be left to the platform evangelists, not the journalists.

Oh, and: I think the ads do a very good job of showing where the Surface Pro 3 is superior to the MacBook Air. In my opinion, of course.


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