Microsoft’s new tablet ads -- comparing apples with lemons

This week Microsoft rolled out two new video adverts -- one pitting Surface RT against the iPad, and the other putting the Acer Iconia W3 next to the iPad mini. The adverts follow the same format as previously with a side by side look at the features on offer.

Of course the comparisons aren’t fair. Microsoft picks areas where its tablet/operating system is strongest, and avoids the areas where it’s weakest -- apps and popularity, for example. It’s a lot like comparing apples with oranges (or, yes, lemons in the case of poorly selling Windows devices) and then pointing out that it’s easy to peel an orange, but you need to buy a separate peeler to accomplish the same task on an apple.

The Surface RT vs. iPad ad plays over the top of a music track and starts by comparing thickness, weight and size of the devices before Microsoft rolls out the first of its "trump" cards -- the iPad has no keyboard, but Surface has an integrated kickstand and (optional) keyboard! The integrated kickstand is great on Surface because it’s not the most comfortable tablet in the world to hold, but it’s hardly a big selling point. You can buy stands and keyboards for the iPad, and there’s plenty of choice. But also, and most importantly -- these are tablets not notebooks. It’s the portability of the format that people like.

Next up, why of course it's Microsoft Office. In the video, the iPad user is shown prodding at a document they can’t apparently do anything with, while the Surface RT user is working in PowerPoint. On that keyboard.

The ad then shows how you can multitask on Surface RT, with split screen, before pointing out Surface’s built-in USB port and the fact you need a separate adaptor on the iPad if you want to connect a USB device. Finally, Microsoft reveals the nice new big difference -- price. The iPad is $499 for 16GB, Surface RT now $349 for 32GB. Even though with the latter you in fact only get 15GB of usable space.

The Acer Iconia W3 vs. iPad mini advert goes back to using the voice of Siri to compare the two devices. Apple’s voice assistant suggests they read together, but the Acer device wants to play Halo instead. Siri is amazed the other tablet has that game. Personally I’m amazed Siri didn’t say "You want to play games? Check out my massive selection". Or more to the point that she didn’t ask "what the hell is wrong with your screen?" The Iconia W3 famously has one of the worst displays ever made. In his review of Acer’s device, my colleague Brian Fagioli described it as having "a yellowish, washed-out, pixelated look -- it looks dirty and smudged all the time". Which was being kind.

Siri is then stunned that the Iconia W3 has Office (you think she’d know that by now, seeing as it’s shown in every advert). "Wow you are a real PC" she says, with what sounds to my ears like sarcasm dripping off every word, before ending with "let’s just go back to reading". Presumably because poor Siri is getting a migraine from staring at the Iconia’s screen. The video ends with the price comparison: $429 for the 32GB iPad Mini vs. $299 for the 32GB Iconia W3.

In all seriousness, it’s a smart move for Microsoft to compare Surface RT and Windows 8 tablets with the iPad, especially now the price difference clearly favors the Windows slates. But I feel whoever puts the adverts together could be doing a far better job. There’s much more to the Windows devices than Office, one game, and a bit that juts out of the back of Surface.

What do you think of the ads?

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