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Microsoft Surface Can’t Outdo iPad, Whatever the Ads Claim

Microsoft (MSFT) continues to push its Surface RT tablet hard, and this time it’s going head-to-head with Apple (AAPL) and its iPad with a a new ad campaign.

The ideas behind the new Microsoft Surface campaign are, on the whole, pretty good. The Surface RT has an integrated keyboard and kickstand, is souped up with Microsoft Office software, boasts twice the storage and has a full-sized USB port… all for a lower cost of $349 after price cuts recently vs. $499 for the entry-level iPad.

Compelling, right?

The only problem is that Microsoft is misinterpreting what the Apple iPad does. The ad focuses on multitasking and productivity via Office, rather business-like tasks that many consumers aren’t interested in. Most of us (myself included) just surf the web, play some games, maybe watch Netflix (NFLX) or check Twitter… but aren’t tappity-tapping away at an important work project.

Some do, of course, but not most. About 2,200 people voted in a rather unscientific CNET poll earlier this year and a mere 8% mentioned business use. That was across all tablets, of course, including the iPad and Surface as well as Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire and Google (GOOG) Nexus tablets.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the Type keyboard cover, which provides a more tactile feel and (for me) fast typing speed akin to a laptop, adds another $120 to the price tag — bumping Surface up to the same range as an iPad when you bake that in.

MSFT recorded a $900 million writedown because it overestimated demand for Surface — essentially confirming that the company didn’t understand what consumers want, or underestimated Apple and its iPad dominance … or both.

It will be interesting to see how (or if) Microsoft can recover from this Surface letdown later this year. The recent ad campaign is below if you want to take a gander.

Related reading

Jeff Reeves is the editor of and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

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  • Ed Alexander

    Why would consumers not want a better tablet for less money? By your own account, you get the type cover and Microsoft Office, plus the tablet for the same money as an ipad…

    • slayer_russ

      Yeah this is my question. He says “but a lot of people don’t need Office and just surf web… Netflix.. etc.” You can do that on Surface too. So why not spend less money and get a tablet that can do more?

  • Lukas Safranek

    I won’t deny, I am a huge apple fan, but not for no reason. Apple delivers great innovative, smart and well build products which are very appealing to an eye. And I believe first impressions are critical and even we( people) don’t like to admit it we judge other by cover including the accessories – sad ? Maybe, but very true and it is something what pushes each other forward. And that’s why I believe when choosing plastic- looking tablet over gem looking ipad you either have to be careless about what others may think of you or you just like cheap looking stuff as you believe it will break one day anyway. Further more I think whoever was counting in Microsoft that kick stand and plastic keyboard will wow us should get fired, because if there is demand for these type of features people would stick to notebooks and tablets would never gained such popularity and share in the market! I really didn’t get it, but with Microsoft dull looking hardware and software in past decates I am not that shocked to see another ugly “notetab”. Message for Microsoft, hire me and I will design tablet which will blows your mind away for half of the salary you pay now to your designer team and by saving on cost you could bring the price of the tablet even lower – just saying ;)

    • Michael Hill

      I am sure they will get right on that. just saying – if you want to go back into past decades, remember apple nearly went under. Microsoft bailed them out. My question is, have you tried windows 8.1? it beats any os apple has ever had. They have “pushed” their customers from computers and laptops (that weren’t selling for decades) and exchanged them with trinkets compared. They really have offered little choice. isn’t OS X as old as world of warcraft? lol

    • jayinatlanta

      Microsoft’s problem is not design (or not hiring you). I own an iPad and a Surface, and the packaging of the Surface was every bit as gorgeous as the iPad; plus I like the Surface’s sleek design, built-in kickstand, and aspect ratio.
      Here’s some more proof: Steve Wozniak thinks Windows Phone has such a spectacular design that it could have been created by Apple’s in-house designers.
      And look at iOS 7 – it incorporated some Windows Phone design aspects AND BING.

  • srk_0321

    Those are not claims those are facts iPad is over glorified costly hardware which is going to have same fate as iPhone soon with low teens to single digit market share.

  • judy612

    I wish writers would stop repeating that the Surface “boasts twice the storage” of an iPad. The 32GB Surface RT has only 16GB of useable storage space. My 16GB iPad has 13.4GB useable. That’s only 19% more space, not even close to 100% more, as claimed.

  • jayinatlanta

    The author is wrong: the Surface and other Microsoft W8/8.1 tablets have ALREADY outdone the iPad.

    I’m an iPad owner and a Surface owner, and the Surface is the superior tablet in every way, from aspect ratio for movies/gaming, to being able to browse Flash sites, to being able to use business productivity tools. Sure, the iPad has more apps. However, that doesn’t make it superior, since I mentioned that even the cheapest Windows 8 tablet can use any web tools and make full use of the cloud.

    I never touch my iPad anymore for anything. There was a time I used it a couple times a week to play one game, but that time has passed.
    So, the commercials are correct. And although Microsoft’s marketing is lousy compared to Apple’s ability to create buzz, it’s good to see them at least trying to explain what I’ve seen first hand as an iPad / Surface owner.

    I also want to point out that Investorplace erroneously reported that Microsoft stock was “dead,” and implied that Apple stock would see a Holiday bounce but $MSFT wouldn’t. That’s also an insane perspective, given that the Xbox One will be a big hit at the Holidays, so both companies will see a nice bounce from sales in November and December.

  • me

    Another apple fan boy dismissing obvious limitations

  • Johnny Roquet

    The thing I learn most from this article is that I can’t trust this site for unbiased and in-depth analysis.

  • CJaying

    I don’t need my iPad anymore when I can just use my Surface. By your own account, the iPad is a toy; however, I can play AND do work while I’m sitting in the coffee shop. If I need to do something for the office, I can put it out on Skydrive and finish it at work. While my friends are scrolling through their ridiculous amount of loaded Apps and making me sea sick, with a few clicks I can get to the same place. All those Apps are beyond me. As for design, the iPad looks very cheap in comparison to the Surface. The Surface is a solid built, sleek design that is fun to use. I added a real touch keyboard and never use the on-screen keyboard. That’s just not my thing; but I love that Microsoft gave us choices. Hmmmm choices is a foreign concept to Apple when it comes to hardware. Also, while I’m at it, I’ve loved using my Windows 8….it’s fun to use and works great with or without touch.

  • MCTronix

    iPad = Toy, Surface = Toy+Workstation. I don’t have a Surface but I wish I did. My iPad is really great for consuming web content, looking at pictures and it does offer some functionality with apps that are available but it won’t run any of my Windows apps and clients at work. I can’t transfer files, can’t print and can’t plug anything into is unless I get some sort of special lightning adaptors. I’m holding out for the new Surface to come out later this year and then I’ll give my wife the iPad to play with. Surface has a winning combination of fun and work.

  • Denver EndUser

    The point of the ads is that a lot of people wanted the iPad to be more “laptop like”, which Apple has really refused to go there. If you want the features and portability of a tablet but want something more for productivity, spreadsheet design, word doc design, and power point design then Surface is your candidate.
    I also find that fast app switching, is much more fluid on the Suface and gestures are much more natural. Apple’s one button to rule them all is confusing and non intuitive. When do I single click the button, when do I double click it, when do I press and hold? The layout of the Windows 8 interface is naturally intuitive for touch devices, although it is admittedly not as intuitive for a traditional mouse and keyboard.
    The iPad definitely has the upperhand when it comes to the market place, and I’ve been disappointed that Microsoft hasn’t improved the Windows 8 market place. The Windows 8 phone market has done a much better job than the Windows 8 market. The one big problem is the lack of a single pay method. The Xbox live cards that you can find at any retail store, doesn’t work for Windows 8, that is ridiculous. Microsoft needs to go to one pay system that works for Xbox, Windows Phone, and Windows 8.
    Yes there have been mistakes, but this is a first generation product. Remember the first Android tablets? They were terrible. Remember the first generation iPad? No one wants it, because it’s slow and bulky and doesn’t have the cover.

  • Apple Poisoning

    I think Microsoft has it exactly right. Search any tech forum and you don’t have to search long to find the massive frustration people are having with their beloved i-products. Every time Apple updates their IOS, it gets worse. My iPad gets slower and the battery drains faster. They always give us what they think we want and take away the things we wanted to keep without any ability to “go back”.
    How about the fact that Apple refuses to give, what most people want, the ability to transfer files, photos and movies from a USB device or an SD Card? Is that too much to ask? And don’t even get me started with flash video! Thankfully other formats have finally taking hold but we had to suffer for years because Steve Jobs, (God rest his soul), decided it was unnecessary. Unnecessary? Putting my tablet down and booting up my laptop to watch a video that was only available in Flash was unnecessary.
    So to say, Microsoft doesn’t know what people want based on your uses for your iPad is a bit short sided. Don’t you think? The whole point of the Surface is to give people the full experience of both a tablet and a laptop.
    I think it’s brilliant and Apple is in for a shock if they think they are not going to lose market share.