Over the holiday, my dad wanted to visit the Microsoft Store. As usual, there were about the same number of customers and salespeople in the store. As Dad poked curiously at a Surface, I took a look at the signage around the room. One sign offered a gift card when you traded in your iPad. Another slammed the iPad for some other perceived offense.
Of course, when I walked down the hall to the Apple Store, it was crammed full. You couldn’t even get near the place.
Microsoft isn’t just taking this antagonistic tone with Apple. It ran an entire “Don’t Get Scroogled” campaign against Google and its Chromebook. And it’s not pulling any punches here. Just look at this page on “Document Incompatibility”:
Chromebook can’t install Office and that’s where the problems begin. Many of your documents (like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) will often appear with wacky formatting because Chromebook uses cheap imitations of Office. So the user gets poor substitutes for the real thing. Which describes Chromebook in a nutshell.
Yikes, right? That’s not messing around. The problem? It sounds like the rhetoric of a losing team. It sounds like a company more focused on tearing down the opposition than building itself up. To be fair, Microsoft does make sure to point out how its products magically solve the shortcomings of these other tech giants, but it all sounds quite convenient.
Okay, so I don’t personally like the Microsoft marketing. Who cares? They generate tens of billions of dollars of revenue every year and I’m just a writer from Indiana. Yeah, well, Microsoft may be a multi-billion dollar company, but billions aren’t coming from the Surface: In Q3 of 2013, the iPad sold fourteen times more units than the Surface. Two of the three bestselling laptops on Amazon were ChromeBooks this past holiday season. Microsoft is running scared.
Some might argue that the only way Microsoft can struggle to remain relevant in the consumer hardware market is to fight back, and to fight back hard against its competitors. I disagree. The best way for Microsoft to stay relevant is to tell us who they are. What do you stand for? Who should use your product, not why people shouldn’t use your competitor’s. The company has made some strides in this direction with its Surface commercials touting the product as a great work hard/play hard compromise, but it needs to do more. It needs to stop snipping at its competitors and either make better products and/or really understand who its customer is and what it wants. Now that would really be a brave move.