Enough with the ludicrous Surface 3 Pro attack ads, Microsoft

I feel bad for Microsoft. I really do. And their latest Surface Pro 3 attack ad highlights just exactly why.

In the ad, "Winter Wonderland", really does make you wonder. But not in any way Microsoft should hope. It shows a pressure-sensitive stylus being awkwardly used over a keyboard in laptop mode because they can't show it being elegantly used in tablet mode. Their failed series of iPad attack ads has caused Microsoft to switch to attacking the Mac instead.

So, now Microsoft shows a kickstand when the Mac has a hinge, and they show a USB port when — guess what? — the MacBook Air has two of them.

Microsoft does show the touchscreen, but they can't show anyone using Office with it, because, despite shipping almost half-a-year ago on iPad, touch-optimized Office won't come to Windows until sometime next year. They can't show anything beyond a swipe either, because Windows 8 was so poorly received they're skipping Windows 9 and going straight to Windows 10, and probably hoping customers don't skip Windows 10 as well by going straight to OS X.

It's sad because Microsoft has botched the Surface from the beginning, falling for their own no-compromises nonsense that led to nothing but compromises, doubling down on Windows 8 everywhere when consumers increasingly wanted it nowhere and, instead of learning from their ill-fated foray against the iPad, going headlong into the Mac — The only PC that's still enjoying unprecedented growth.

It feels like Microsoft has never let the Surface be its own thing — a laplet, or whatever the tablet/laptop version of a phablet is. Maybe showing some artists sketching away on a park bench, some college kids typing away at a coffee shop, some business people going from editing Excel to watching a movie on a plane, something, anything, that has nary an Apple product in sight, could at least give the Surface Pro 3 a shot.

Because stuff like this, alongside goofy headlines, will just continue to hand Apple all the switchers they can handle.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

136 Comments
  • It's wonderful to the point, when the battery dies you cannot replace it! You have the buy another Surface Pro 3....
  • I'm sure they'll replace it at the genius bar at the MS store (200 miles from my house). Not.
  • Really? You're going to try and use this as any kind of argument? Dude... It's not 2007 anymore.
  • How about this then. Apps make or break a platform. And the reason that Surface fails is that no one is really writing serious applications for the Modern UI, which would take advantage of the touchscreen and swipes. So your left with using windows desktop apps on a small touch screen which is inconvenient as hell. Try working with an Excel spreadsheet, it a royal pain in the ass. The only saving grace is that Microsoft will sell you a keyboard cover with a track-pad, so you can work with existing desktop applications. So you might as well buy a laptop.
  • Yeah, cuz you could never like... Plug it in or anything. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • You know, I really want to like the Surface. As an educator and a music teacher, the ability to carry one device that can do most everything and do it with a touchscreen/built-in pen would be great. But Windows 8 is horribad, the Surface is way too bulky to be a true tablet, and I refuse to use Samsung's mess. I love Apple and am eagerly awaiting the fabled iPad Pro, if it turns out to be real. Microsoft and their attack ads smack of political campaigning, causing a reluctance to use the Surface just on general principle.
  • I had to lol this as I type on my SP3.
  • Let's be honest. You don't like the SP3 because you're a fan of Mac and that's ok. Just stop being intellectually dishonest. I was avoiding Win 8 at all costs, until I was forced into using it. Truth be told, after about three days I was wondering why I waited so long. How can you call the SP3 too bulky, when it weighs less and has a smaller foot print than the Mac Air? Let's not even begin the discussion about which more flexible in the way its used. I still think the Surface Pro needs another upgrade before its right for me, but let's be honest, Apple is playing catch-up in all the markets it used to dominate.
  • You're really weak if you think a tablet is heavy. Posted via iMore App
  • Just like the political adds. No one says what, and how they are going to change things. Just how rotten their opponents are. It is easy to bash. Tell me what your product does, and how can it help my life improve. Sent from the iMore App
  • it goes both ways. I never heard anyone in the Apple community scream to Apple to stop its attack ads with the Mac vs PC ad campaign. If you can dish it you should be able to take it. If stuff like this gets you worked up, you have bigger problems.
  • I agree with you to an extent. The Mac vs PC adds did not highlight a product, but the difference in the ecosystem of the products. I think looking back on those ads, they don't meet the current intentions of Apple's messaging. I think a company can spend their advertising dollars however they want; in this case, I don't think it is helping MS sell product. What will help them sell product is showcasing the features of the Surface, not defaming the MacBook. Same went for Samsung when they did the "wall-hugger" ads. To me that just highlighted how many people actually used iOS compared to the ONE person using a Samsung device in the airport. So to Rene's point, (right or wrong) I think he is saying that other manufactures should focus on their strengths, and not compare to other better selling rivals.
  • Sure they did. There was a big highlight of how crappy PCs were and how cool and fluid Macs were. In case you forgot, here are the ads: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eEG5LVXdKo. I really don't see much difference in the messaging: our product is better because of _______.
  • Yes, but it wasn't directed at a specific product...plus like I stated earlier, I don't think Apple would resort to that type of advertising in today's Apple. Since the Mac vs. PC ads, Apple has never mentioned or compared another company's product. MS is free to do this, I'm not saying they can't - I'm just saying that, in my opinion, I don't think ads like that are helping them sell Surfaces.
  • Sure they did. Watch the ads. Windows is a Microsoft product and they blasted Vista in about 10+ ads. They also didn't target one PC but the entire target so "all PCs are crappy" was their messaging. No difference. Whether they work, no clue. Surface is selling quite well though so maybe so. Some of the ads were just as ludicrous as these Surface one's.
  • Surface Pro 3 is definitely selling better than its predecessors so the message is getting out there.
  • Sure they are selling more than the pro 2. What kind of an update would it be if they weren't? Still, MS took a close to billion dollar loss with the pro 2 so outselling something that didn't sell is not saying much at all. I'm sure they are still way off from making a product while their competitors they choose to bash are selling so fast they don't even hit the store shelves before they are sold. MS really needs to think about the products they are selling.
  • The current Surface (3, I think) is selling better than its predecessors, but that's not the same thing as selling well. Last quarter, it generated $908 million. That's less than a fifth of the iPad's $5.3 billion (I would also give MacBook Air numbers, but I don't think Apple breaks it down to specific Mac line). So compared to the competitor they're criticizing, they're still doing really poorly. They also don't have as high customer satisfaction ratings, equally strong reviews, or the same place in the culture. That's why I think that these ads are bad. When Apple made Mac vs. PC ads, people who had Macs already (almost) universally loved them. So they could shit on the competition because people actually liked their product better. When Microsoft throws shade at iPad and Mac, they're fighting a battle they can't win because people who buy Apple products love them so much. Since (presumably) these ads are directed at Apple users, it's a little like walking up to a sandwich shop, seeing someone who's clearly enjoying their sandwich and saying, "Wow that sandwich is so horrible. Mine tastes better. But mine." The obvious response is "I like this one."
  • The funny thing is the surface pro 3 is the best tablet out by far, the i7 will out perform any other tablet by leaps and bounds. Problem here is image microsoft has created and overall design, they have relied on old people running the company that shouldnt have been.
  • You think they're targeting Apple users, and they could be, but I think they're targeting would-be Apple users. Mac vs PC ads targeted Windows users for sure by shaming them into feeling their chosen tech was inadequate. This, while definitely doing some of that, feels more like "don't leave us" type ads. It could go either way though for sure and it could be I'm seeing it this way based on Mac sales increasing (they're coming from somewhere).
  • Well Vista was kind of horrible, not sure why anyone wouldn't blast it.
  • Or... you could be a realist and say that without the failures of Vista, there probably wouldn't have been a Windows 7. Technology progresses on the back of its failures, not its successes. Case in point... virtually every Apple product. Its all evolutionary, not revolutionary. Jobs would be disappointed.
  • It's not a moral issue, then or now. Apple would not call out MS today because Apple is clearly on top - just like MS did not take shots back in the day when they were the top dog. Challengers take shots; incumbents stay above the fray. Sent from the iMore App
  • The fact is, a good marketing campaign should never be about what is nice or fair (within reason). The Mac vs. PC commercials WERE attack ads. They were cute, but attacking nonetheless. What's more important Though is that they worked. And they worked because Microsoft was a good and easy target. Apple is not! At least not right now. Microsoft Is foolish to try and treat them as such. Even if ms is right, you can be dead right.
  • These two companies are no threat to one another. Apple hasn't been a threat to MS since it failed in its "A Mac on every desk" campaign. Schools used to be filled with Macs in hopes of building that future market. Big mistake. These days Macs have become more like PCs instead of PCs becoming more like Macs.
  • I still think they're funny but in no way moved me to get a Mac.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci2D1ig4df4
  • I agree entirely. I don't take issue with MS doing Mac-bashing ads, but it's not doing them any good. The Apple Mac vs PC ads from a few years ago were from a time when the brand was much less prevalent than it is now, and it was about changing consumer preconceptions of the whole Mac vs. PC debate. In the case of the Surface Pro 3 there's really no need to bash the Mac to make sales. It's already a good product so just show people why they need one, not why they need one instead of their Mac. The Pro 3 is thin as hell for an i5 computer, has a beautiful screen, serves two functions very well, and Windows 8 is actually a benefit not a negative in that form factor (vs. Windows 7 on a touch screen). There are plenty of scenario-based ads they could do showing off how useful the thing can be that would hit home a lot more than a tired Mac vs. PC ad.
  • Why is it Mac Bashing to point out very fundamental differences? The two systems are far more similar than they are different. I'll call it bashing when MS airs the commercial that says "Of course you don't need the SP3, when for just $300.00 more you can get a bit less computer with an aluminum case".
  • Mac vs PC ads were nowhere near like the MS ads (go watch a few of them on Youtube and see for yourself). PC guy was never a "bad guy" or a "vilain" or made fun of directly... Arguably, he was even more preferable and likeable than Mac guy.
    And also, Apple used allegories and general concepts in it's ads, to put principles and ideas forward.
  • The PC guy may not have been a "bad guy" but they were still attack ads.
  • And did I say that MACvsPC weren’t attack ads? They were attack ads... but done right in my opinion and not in the same league as these ones from Microsoft. (mind you I don't really mind Microsoft doing these ads personally - or Samsung for that matter -)
  • Sure he was made fun of. Mac may not have poked fun at him and was sincere in his friendship with PC but PC was aloof and self-deprecating in nearly every one. He went to counseling over feeling inadequate. So Mac, the character, didn't make fun of him but Apple did since the commercials were all about making fun of PC.
  • You obviously weren't around when the Mac vs PC ads were out. Your MS fanboys were up in arms. Even though the Apple ads were funny and tasteful, whereas the Surface ads are just plain misleading.
  • I was definitely around when they were out and personally I never had anything against those ads just like I don't have anything against MS Surface Pro 3 ads.
  • Yeah, ofcouse everything Apple does is funny and tasteful. Why am I not surprised?
  • These are no more ridiculous than the MAC vs PC commercials back during the Vista days.
  • Sorry - Vista NEEDED to be made fun of.
  • Amazing how Vista was "horrible" and Windows 7 was "awesome" when there was very little difference in them.
  • THANK YOU... Had Vista Ultimate and can say with complete honesty that it outlasted the hardware it was installed on (2005 Dell Inspiron E521) that died last year. Magically they added service pack 3 to Vista and you get W7. No thanks... Still rocking Vista Ultimate on the new hardware.
  • So, hello, the Vista days called and want their marketing strategies back...?
  • Justin Long needs some work. iPad Pro might be calling soon:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci2D1ig4df4
  • Here we go again, with Rene getting his feelings hurt when companies other than Apple have brilliant advertising.
  • Agreed. Not that I care for the Surface 3 perse, but hey advertising is advertising. That's the way the ball bounces
  • Brilliant would be an ad as he describes. "Maybe showing some artists sketching away on a park bench, some college kids typing away at a coffee shop, some business people going from editing Excel to watching a movie on a plane, something, anything, that has nary an Apple product in sight, could at least give the Surface Pro 3 a shot." That would sell the SurfacePro. Not just state that it isn't the #1 tablet and the biggest growing laptop line. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yes no great advertising here. If they did windows products would be selling alloy more then they already are, and that's towards Windows Phones Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • "going headlong into the Mac — The only PC that's still enjoying unprecedented growth." - your knowledge of the PC market is a bit lacking. It's also worth mentioning the Surface 3 has a been a surprising hit for Microsoft.
  • Surprise hit only when compared to the dismal failure of the previous Surface tablets and the past 10 years of failed Windows convertible laptops.
  • Exactly. The Surface 1 and 2 were epic bombs. The Surface 3 is doing much, much better. Microsoft never made a convertible laptop, so it's difficult to say how it failed.
  • Ben Thompson from a recent Stratechery daily update (you should subscribe, they're great):
    It's almost impossible to get a good comparison to previous years since Microsoft reorganized their financial statements last fall. What is all but certain though is that this segment, once you include advertising and channel, was still quite unprofitable, and likely unprofitable by a lot. As an aside, it's clever/understandable/frustrating/shady the way Microsoft presents their results; breaking out gross margin by segment, but not any of the other associated costs (those are all lumped together with every other segment on the top-line income statement) seems explicitly designed to shield hardware from scrutiny. Still, I guess it worked; it's a lot easier to write a positive Surface story than it is to spend several hours, as I just did, with little more to show for it than "I'm pretty sure this is still a big loss-maker from a financial standpoint." The truth is, though, even if the Surface were profitable, I would still think it's a bad idea. Good products - and I know a lot of people like the Surface 3 - do not necessarily make good strategy, and the fact remains the Surface is orthogonal to the direction Microsoft is moving.
  • Analysts guesses with no way to verify the data are usually bad bets. When that rare occurrence happens where data does present itself, the analysts primarily show themselves to be very wrong. (Apple TV sales was the last great exposure of these clowns). But it's all about clicks and page views.
  • Pay someone who has practically no work experience 10 a month to read their personal blog? LOL That's retarded. It's bad enough you keep referencing this idiot as if he's some tech or business expert.
  • I have to jump in and stick up for Renee here because I think that some are reading his article wrong. He is not attacking the Surface at all in, but is rather saying that Microsoft should spend more time highlighting the strengths of its own products instead of constantly comparing them to others. People who discover the Surface should do just that, discover the Surface as the Surface not as a Mac or iPad killer.
  • Exactly this. Yay, a stylus, what can I do with it? What makes it compelling? Circling a website image? How does that help me?
  • it helps you in the same way multi-touch helps you. It helps make certain interactions and apps feel more natural and more intuitive vs using keyboard / mouse. A tablet that uses a stylus in combination with multi-touch gets turned into a very powerful "clipboard." Ben Bajarin over at Techpinions wrote an excellent piece about how, for many mobile workers that don't need a tradtional PC, the tablet was replacing the clipboard.
  • Exactly how I feel. Apple products just work for what I do with them but Usually when I see a commercial about another product that has a feature I like I wish apple would put it in their product. Like the bigger screen. But from just these commercials there is not a single feature I'd like in my Mac. I don't need windows 8 I don't need a tablet. I don't need a stylus (at least not for what Ms says I need one like circling stuff) And I already have usb ports. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hi Rene, I hope this helps. There are a lot of compelling uses for the stylus. I noticed at my college, a lot of students use the stylus with OneNote to take notes. The buttons on the stylus let you instantly open OneNote. You can also use the buttons to erase and take a screenshot (and then automatically insert into OneNote). This is really helpful if you are reading a PDF textbook or website. Just double click the top button on the stylus and it automatically inserts the screenshot. Then you can crop the screenshot by drawing a diagonal line over the picture, creating a rectangle of what you want to crop. It's really simple, fast and easy. It's great for when you want to insert equations from textbooks/the internet into your notes. Adobe has also announced the new Surface enabled version of Photoshop. Check it out on YouTube and the article. It seems like they combine the stylus and touch pretty seamlessly:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlLR9ANGsOo
    http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/6/6921769/photoshop-illustrator-touch-fe... Your mileage may vary, but for some use cases, the stylus can be pretty compelling. Hope this helps.
  • Your explanation "does" help... Also the stylus serves as a way to allow you to see where you are going to hit the screen when it gets closer to the display, with a sort of shadow/highlight. The problem is that these features are mostly there to make the stylus "desired", because frankly on the Surface the stylus is "needed" for the UX to be above mediocre with legacy software (which, turns out, is the vast majority of software that I see people running on Surfaces).
  • Now that I read this I changed my mind. You are right. Posted via iMore App
  • I think my 12 year old daughter pretty much summed it up. She recently switched from using PC laptops to a 2012 MacBook Air hand-me-down that she loves. After seeing the Surface in the ad her only comment was - ughh, gross. I'm certainly not a MS hater. In fact I got Office 365 for the family - and it runs great on an iPad and MacBook. The Surface just tries too hard and does too little.
  • Attack Ad??? I don't see where the attack is, simply pointing out features the Surface Pro 3 has and the Mac doesn't. My God Rene every ad you try to make it some kind of a personal attack. I thought it was a very light weight ad that did no harm.
    PS I also think the Surface Pro 3 is a great machine. Great hardware, well built, strong specs and very portable. I like it. Just My Opinion.
  • It pointed out a USB port. The MacBook Air has two of those. How is that missing?
  • The commercial you are referring to was the surface 3 vs iPAD...the iPad does not have a USB port. Take two midol, drink some water, and put down the crack pipe for fuck sake. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • How is that attacking? Reaching for nothing.
  • Did you watch the video, in its entirety? Then did you read the article, in its entirety? There are four things which MS touts as an advantage, two, of which, are completely errant and misleading. A) touch screen - Apple reserves for iOS, B) stylus-inpu