What the Microsoft Surface ‘Hat for Your Cat’ takedown ad really means

There's an ad that reveals Microsoft already knows they are losing the 2-in-1 race and that no combined device is as good as the individual devices.

microsoft surface pro 4

“It’s slower, heavier, and a bit square…”

These words are packed with meaning for anyone trying to decide between an Apple Macbook and a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet these days. The specs don’t lie, but the person speaking in a new ad while playing a piano that’s meant as an Apple takedown might be a little suspect.

First off, I should tell you I’m a fan of both the Surface line and any Macbook. They have their target markets. Anyone heading to college right now is probably thinking seriously about the Mac because it matches up nicely with the iPhone in their pocket. Anyone who has to rely on an old CRM app that runs on Windows only is probably thinking about the Surface.

A previous ad for Microsoft compared the Surface Pro 4 to an iPad Pro, and that’s a more logical comparison. After all, both models are tablets first and laptops second. They both use a cover keyboard that tends to sag a bit when you type documents. It’s worth noting the iPad Pro weighs 1.57 pounds, though, and the Surface Pro 4 weighs 1.733 pounds for the i3 or i5 version. In case you missed it, Microsoft doesn’t mention weight in the comparison to the iPad.

Meanwhile, the Macbook weighs 2.03 pounds. The Macbook Pro weighs 3.75 pounds. The Surface weighs less than a Macbook and is more of a computer than the iPad Pro will ever be (or any iPad). Both ads take a swipe at Apple but they are radically different swipes meant for different users. On the one hand, Microsoft is luring “real” productivity users away from the Macbook. On the other, they are luring “lean back” users away from the iPad -- people who are drawn to the fact that it’s lighter and a better fit for Netflix, games, and even browsing on an airplane. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist -- or a cat -- to figure out what’s going on here. When they suddenly switch gears and call the Macbook out as too artsy, slow, and heavy, it’s a bait and switch.

What does it all mean? Why is Microsoft taking aim at Apple in the first place? Macbook market share actually dropped recently from 13.8% to 12.3% according to Gartner.

Why the fuss?

Well, it’s buying season right now for anyone heading to school and leading up to the holidays. When you walk in a Best Buy store and take a hard right toward the computers, you’ll see a massive Apple display. I have two nephews who recently bought their first Macs. Apple recently sold their one billionth iPhone, and next week they’ll announce the next model.

Microsoft wants to stay relevant. It seems the Surface is caught in the middle. The iPad Pro is a better tablet, the Macbook is a better laptop, but those are two different devices. The Surface has attracted attention because it’s a tablet that runs real desktop apps.

How do you decide if it is a right fit for you? That’s a question about how much you will use one as both a tablet and a laptop. I’ve found that, when I have a Macbook in to test and an iPad Pro, that I switch between them. When I have a Surface Pro 4, I tend to keep switching. The truth is, no one has made a device that beats both the iPad and the Macbook at the same time. The two ads reveal that Microsoft knows this; you can’t make a 2-in-1 that’s as good as the individual devices.

When someone finally does, I plan to buy one.

Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
Shop Tech Products at Amazon