Microsoft Surface RT tablet vs iPad Commercial, Compares “Apples” to Oranges

Microsoft seems to be attacking the iPad heavily these days. It’s a sign of the times: the company recently wrote off $900 million worth of Surface tablets that the public did not purchase from Microsoft, while only netting some $850 million in tablet sales. When you’re writing off tablets you failed to sell, something has to be terribly wrong.

In any case, Microsoft’s newest commercial, “Surface RT vs. iPad,” is meant to show consumers that, once again, they would be foolish to “waste money” on an iPad when the Surface RT tablet is, clearly, the winner and the most affordable to own. Let’s dig into this commercial, shall we?

First, I would be wrong to not inform you about Surface RT and Windows RT (which is the operating system running on the most inexpensive of Microsoft’s Surface tablets, at least at the moment). Windows RT is a partial version of Windows 8 (it doesn’t run full Windows 8) that does not allow you to transfer your RT apps to any other Windows 8 device.

What does Surface RT mean for your future? It means that you cannot transfer any of your apps over to Windows 8 phones, nor can you transfer them to other Windows 8 tablets. If you purchase a Surface RT device, then decide later that you want to buy a Surface Pro device, it’s too bad – you still can’t transfer your apps to the new Surface Pro tablet. This means that all your games and apps you purchased will have to be purchased twice. In other words, you’re losing money behind the Microsoft app ecosystem.

Next, Windows 8 RT has been a buggy OS, so much so that Microsoft will have to usher updates to the OS to improve its performance. Other manufacturers, such as Apple, must issue updates to their OS (iOS 7 Beta 5 being such an example for Apple’s mobile OS). At the same time, however, there have been more negative reports about the bugs within Windows 8 RT than any Apple device I’ve ever owned or read about.

If you want to see a good case in point, check out Matt Burns’s Microsoft Surface RT tablet review at TechCrunch. Burns makes the case in his article that the Surface RT is not meant to be a tablet, but a PC. As a result, the Surface RT and the iPad aren’t even two of the same device, but rather, different devices. Simply put, comparing the two devices are like comparing apples to oranges (how can you compare two different fruits with two different tastes?).

Microsoft Surface RT vs. iPad 4 Photo No. 2

Now, on to the commercial. It starts with a comparison of the thickness of the Surface RT and iPad 4 devices, with both standing at 0.37mm. Next, we are presented with the weight of the devices. What Microsoft doesn’t want you to see is how the Surface RT is slightly heavier than the iPad 4. It’s going to make a difference in your hands, too.

The next screen presents you with the diagonal display size of the devices. The iPad 4 stands with a 9.7-inch display while the Surface RT tablet stands with a 10.6-inch display. Most tablets on the market today don’t surpass 10.1 inches, so holding the Surface RT tablet in your hands (as you would the iPad 4) is out of the question.

The next screen compares the accessories: the iPad 4 comes with no accessories, while Microsoft offers you an integrated kickstand and keyboard. A little further into the comparison video, we see someone kick out the Surface stand while attaching a blue, physical Touch keyboard. Notice that Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet does not have a virtual keyboard. In other words, the Surface RT tablet is not really a tablet – it’s a PC.

Why does Microsoft place an integrated kickstand into the Surface RT? The company did this because the Surface RT tablet is too heavy to hold in your hands, so something has to hold the large tablet up. I think Microsoft would have done a better job by producing a keyboard cover that would provide protection for the tablet as well as a keyboard for users than it did with the kickstand and separate Touch keyboard cover.

Microsoft Surface RT vs. iPad 4 Photo No. 3

At the bottom of the screen, while comparing tablet accessories, Microsoft has placed these words in tiny gray: “keyboard sold separately.” This means that, although the price of the Surface RT may be less than the iPad 4’s, by the time you purchase the $100 physical keyboard, you will only pay $50 more for Apple’s iPad. At that point, other priorities surpass pricing similarity.

Apple sells keyboards in its Apple Store, similar to Microsoft (except Apple didn’t design a keyboard for its iPad 4); since neither sell the keyboard as a free accessory, Microsoft looks no better in this comparison than does Apple. Microsoft has started offering its Touch keyboard covers for free with the purchase of a Surface RT tablet, but I do not know if the company is still continuing its free giveaway; according to the commercial at least, it seems as though the once-generous offer has come to an end (you’ll have to contact Microsoft if you want to know whether or not Microsoft is still giving away free keyboard covers).

One comparison that made me laugh during the time I watched the comparison commercial was when they claimed that the iPad 4 “doesn’t include Microsoft Office” while the Surface RT tablet “comes with Microsoft Office.” This is a no-brainer, and something that, when said explicitly, only makes Microsoft’s commercial look that much more ridiculous.

Microsoft puts the Microsoft in Microsoft Office, so it makes sense that Microsoft’s Surface tablet would have Office while the iPad 4 would not. This is the equivalent of saying “the sky is blue,” “the grass is green,” and “only the winning NFL team at the Super Bowl gets championship rings while the losing team does not.” These are obvious statements that, when repeated, just sound silly.

If you watch the commercial, when Microsoft aims to show how much better Microsoft Office is than the iPad application is, the iPad 4 user is shown as simply zooming in and out of the web page while the Microsoft Surface RT user designs charts and graphs for a presentation of some kind. This is not the case in iOS; there are a number of other apps that help iOS users design charts and graphs and send documents in HTML format. I use an app when sending documents and letters to clients, and my work is always well done. Microsoft wants the average consumer to believe that iOS users simply cannot live without Microsoft Office, but the iPad experience says otherwise.

While Microsoft shows you that its Surface RT tablet alone has pre-installed Microsoft Office, it does not focus on the one area where Microsoft fails miserably – its App Store. Microsoft’s apps, even running over 100,000 now, still are only a fraction of the apps in Apple’s App Store (over 800,000 and counting).

Last but not least, Microsoft returns to its multitasking claim that the Surface RT can do so many more things at once, to the chagrin of the iPad 4 customer. At the same time, however, how many people really want to talk to their friend, look up recipes, and read their favorite news section simultaneously? This is a neat feature, but this one might be placed in the realm of Samsung’s new GS4 features (Smart Pause, Smart Scroll, Air View, Air Gesture).

Microsoft Surface RT vs. iPad 4 Photo No. 4

Two other comparisons must be noted. The first one concerns the in-built USB port on the Surface RT versus no USB port on the iPad 4. Apple has placed two USB ports into its MacBook series, thus showing how much the Surface RT has in common with Apple’s notebook/laptop, instead of its mobile tablet. Next, concerns the price. Microsoft has cut its Surface RT tablet price down to $349, saving consumers $150 more than the iPad 4.

At the same time, Microsoft just started doing this at the end of May 2013, a move that comes as a result of Microsoft’s failure to sell out its Surface RTs. Also, when the iPad 5 arrives, the cost of the iPad 4 will drop by $100, making the iPad 4 only $50 more expensive than the Surface RT. Again, people will still pay the extra $50 for the iPad, and this is attested by way of the millions of iPads Apple sold in Q2 2013 alone.

Microsoft Surface RT vs. iPad 4 Photo No. 1

Also, keep in mind that the iPad 4 does not need USB ports. Microsoft’s USB port is designed to get consumers to rely on local memory storage heavily, but iPad users today have iCloud, Dropbox, SugarSync, Google Drive, Amazon’s Cloud Drive, and other cloud storage services that allow you to log in with your username and password and access your documents and photos anywhere. Cloud storage denies the need for USB ports and sticks, so Microsoft’s USB port doesn’t really help itself here.

Another thing to remember about Microsoft’s USB port is that buying a USB stick costs extra, while many iPad users have free cloud storage accounts. Google Drive, for example, offers 15GB of free storage, while other services such as Dropbox and SugarSync provide free storage for users who refer numerous friends to their cloud storage services. Dropbox will give you up to 20GB of free cloud storage for friend referrals, and even Microsoft offers its own SkyDrive cloud storage for Windows users (provides 15GB of free storage). If you don’t want to go the cloud storage route with a new account, you can always log in to your Google account via Gmail and access Google’s unlimited photo storage.

Looking at the USB port comparison, then, we can see that Microsoft is claiming that Apple’s iPad 4 “lacks” a USB port; since the iPad is a tablet, however, and not a PC, the absence of a USB port is expected. Is this a valid comparison, then? I think not. Cloud storage has become the USB substitute on tablets, something that Microsoft doesn’t want you to know.

I’ve mentioned the inability to port apps from Windows 7 PCs and the Windows 8 RT system to other full Windows 8 tablets and devices. What does Microsoft’s 32GB of storage on its Surface RT matter, if you can’t transfer apps from the Surface RT to other Surface tablets and Windows 8 PCs? In this regard, then, the Surface RT doesn’t even help current Windows customers – since they can’t take their apps from Windows 7, XP, or other Windows OSes, and transfer them to the Surface RT tablet.

Microsoft, thus, is asking its current customers to lose the money it paid on prior apps in order to invest another few hundred dollars into Windows OS. If Microsoft intends to retain customers, the Surface RT tablet was not the smart way (or the right way) to plan its strategy.

I think Microsoft’s Surface RT has the potential to compete in the tech space, but I think Microsoft needs to step back and market it for what it is: the Surface RT and Surface Pro are not tablets, but laptop PCs that should compete head-to-head with Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro collections. The company’s financial state as of late, however, can’t afford to compete with Apple in the small PC space where Apple is clearly leading over other companies (while the PC market is experiencing large financial decline).

One thing that Microsoft must do with its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets is market them in the correct space. Instead of marketing these as “tablets,” Microsoft needs to market them as “more portable laptops.” Think about it: the Surface tablets, having 10.6-inch diagonal screens, are lighter laptops than Apple and Samsung’s 11 and 13-inch laptops. In this space, unfortunately, Apple’s MacBook Pro would still crush the Surface RT tablet. While Microsoft boasts of its one USB port on the Surface RT tablet, Apple’s MacBook Pro has two USB ports, a Thunderbolt port, not to mention other ports, on its side. In this space, Apple would still beat Microsoft, but at least it would be more of a fair fight.

Not only would the MacBook Pro crush the Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets in terms of USB ports and cables, it would also crush the Surface tablets because of iOS’s in-built app transfer capability. If you download an item on to your iPad, you can download it onto your iPhone for free. Windows 8 and Surface RT devices cannot work together in this manner – simply because Surface RT is a terminal Windows 8 operating system that is cut off from the rest of Windows 8 devices.

In the end, the commercial is another attempt by Microsoft to encourage consumers to invest in the Surface RT, but the purchase is simply not worth it. Even if you’re a Windows user who has multiple Windows devices around the house, the Surface RT is still not a device you should invest in. The iPad 4 may not be such a device, either, but chances are you’ll find everything you need and more in Apple’s App Store for your iPad. Windows 7 users can choose to stay in Windows 7, or experience life on Mac OS and iOS for iPad. I think that Windows 7 users can keep their PCs, while finding new adventures in Apple’s iPad – without either one discrediting the other.

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