“Comparison: iPad vs. Windows 8 Tablet”

My recent article, “A Tale of Two Adverts”, received a bit of attention online. Since publication, I’ve been keeping a closer eye on certain tech adverts because I think how a company advertises their product speaks volumes about how they view the product in the world. Microsoft has a new advert, so now’s a great time to analyse it.

I find most of the points raised in this ad to be questionable. Here’s a chronological list of them, along with my thoughts.

Thickness

The iPad is a staggering 0.05” thicker than the Asus VivoTab RT. This seems like a weak first point to make to potential customers? That’s 1mm.

Weight

The iPad weighs 0.28 lb. more than the specific Windows 8 tablet Microsoft has chosen to compare it to. How convenient! (Microsoft’s own tablet, the Surface RT, actually weighs more than an iPad, but who’s keeping track, anyway?)

Microsoft’s poor software support for iPad

Yes, really! Microsoft criticises its own software in an advert — specifically, the lack of Office on iOS. This is an especially weak argument which is only getting weaker with time. Who actually enjoys using Microsoft Office? For me, the lack of Office support is actually a plus — the (hundreds of) alternatives available on iOS are much more enjoyable to use. (I appreciate I’m in a fortunate position not having to use Office, but how many people do actually enjoy using the suite? My guess? Not many.)

Multitasking

Support for multitasking in iOS exists, but Windows RT can display multiple apps at once — side by side. This is the first real point I feel is worthy of being presented in an advert, even though I question whether the tradeoffs made by this UI decision are actually worth it — every Windows Store app should be made to work full size, 1/3 size and 2/3 size. I imagine this isn’t trivial for developers to code. Considering Microsoft is struggling to gain marketshare in the smartphone and tablet world, adding complexities for developers to deal with may not be the best idea.

MicroSD support

The Windows device shown in this advert has a microSD card slot for extra storage — just like the Surface RT. Whilst I appreciate the conveniences a microSD card can provide, it’s solving the wrong problem. The future is ubiquitous online connectivity, cloud storage and streaming — not memory cards. These portable storage cards require careful file management, something Apple wants users to avoid.

AirPrint

Criticising the iPad for not supporting as many printers as Windows RT devices is quite rich, considering what Microsoft considers “support”. Many Windows RT devices include support for cable-based USB printing — but wireless printing is a completely different story.

On iOS, the only way to print is wirelessly. Who wants a cable? Nobody, right?

In order for devices to qualify as AirPrint-enabled by Apple, they must meet some quite tough standards, such as not requiring any drivers. (Perhaps Microsoft is so okay with filling their devices up with crap that a bunch of printer drivers crammed onto the device seems fine?)

Say I own a Windows RT device and want to print wirelessly. Surely it must be much easier than on an iPad — after all, this advert shows wireless printing working perfectly, with the iPad dubbed as “Needing a special Apple printer”. The official Microsoft Surface support page answers my question:

Surface RT is compatible with printers that are certified for Windows RT. Some printers might not work with Windows RT or might not support all of the features of your printer. To find out what's compatible, find your printer in the Windows Compatibility Centre.

(Emphasis mine.)

I checked my printer (which isn’t AirPrint-enabled), but it isn’t supported for Windows RT. Looks like you “Need a special Microsoft printer” in order to print wirelessly from Windows RT. Huh.

Considering AirPrint has been around longer than Windows RT, I imagine the wireless printing ecosystem is actually stronger on iOS than Windows RT — and that there are more AirPrint-enabled printers than Windows RT Wireless Printing(™)-enabled printers. I call foul.

Better luck next time

There are certainly some problems with Microsoft’s branding and advertising, but this article exaggerates them for comedic effect. I hope to see future Microsoft adverts showing products in use, being loved by people who feel real. Apple’s new ad, “Music Every Day”, just like their previous effort, focuses on exactly this. It’s compelling, touching and feels real. What more could you ask for?

A Tale of Two Adverts

I’ve touched on the differences between Apple and Microsoft before, but here’s a more visual example of the two companies; namely, their adverts for smartphones.

Update: I felt I’d been lazy and not fully explained my thoughts about these two ads. I’ve updated this article with some thoughts below the videos.

Microsoft’s “Switch to the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone” Ad

Apple’s “Photos Every Day” iPhone Ad

I think these two adverts speak volumes about the companies behind them.

Microsoft’s ad lets us know they’re not even remotely afraid to acknowledge competition: Windows Phone’s two biggest rivals are mentioned by name: “Galaxy” and “iPhone”.

It feels to me as if this advert is far too focused on bringing up competition. There’s no mention of any Windows Phone features which might be a reason to switch: the only reason given is the dogmatic and weak motto “Don’t fight. Switch” — which doesn’t even make sense.

50 seconds into Microsoft’s advert shows a man with a large Apple logo tattooed on his chest. This logo is (amusingly) pictured larger than any other logo in the ad, including the Windows Phone logo.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think bringing up competition is always a mistake: Apple has done similar things in the past, with the “Get a Mac” campaign back in 2006. However, these adverts were always carefully written to show the advantage of a Mac in different situations. Further, actors were used to represent the two camps, as opposed to Microsoft’s approach: using real iPhone and Android handsets in their own marketing materials. (And big Apple logos.)

If your biggest competitor’s logo appears larger than your own in an advert commissioned by you, that’s a pretty good sign that something is wrong.

Apple, with its advert, is focusing on how the iPhone fits into people’s lives. Their ad is exactly 60 seconds long — not a word from a commentator (about the iPhone) is spoken until 54 seconds in. Even then, it’s one simple and true statement: “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.”

The iPhone is being shown fitting into lives, being used by real people. Real people who don’t fight about the device they’re using; real people who care more about what they’re doing than the device they’re using to do it.

Shouting and Trust

Kontra discusses the issues facing online publishers, writers, and the questionable quality of technology writing today:

Nobody likes advertising, and yet we seem to be stuck with its corrupting effects on public discourse online. It corrupts news delivery, Facebook privacy, Twitter flow, Google search, Kindle reading and so on. There doesn’t seem to be any way to make profits online, or often just survive, without pageviews and clicks, and all the shouting that entails.

Shouting sells newspapers. Shouting creates headlines. Shouting grabs attention. And, after all, if writers are paid by advertisers who want their ads seen by as many people as possible, there is a direct incentive for writers to shout, no matter how crazy what they're shouting is.

Making crazy, outlandish predictions and bold statements gets headlines—and on the web, people tend to not remember what was even said after a few days. Especially not by who.

This creates a problem for writers. I don't want to shout. I want to be called out if I make a mistake or say something truly wrong. I'll correct my errors. I enjoy criticism, if it's fair. If I "shouted", I wouldn't care the same way: I'd likely make a lot of bold predictions which would be wrong in the long run. This would be a disservice to my readers.

My most valuable assets are trust, thoughtfulness and taste. Traditional advertising doesn't cater to those. I need something different.