Microsoft’s Psychological Warfare Against Apple

Ewan Spence ,  

Contributor

Once more Microsoft is heavily promoting the success of the Surface lineup.

Fourth quarter sales are reported as reaching $1.3 billion, showing a year on year increase of over forty percent and full-year revenue for the Surface team to $4.3 billion (The Motley Fool via Nasdaq); OEM sales in the premium devices market are up; and Microsoft has noted a growth in consumers switching from MacBook machines to Surface machines.

Of course the Surface sales are not rivalling that of the MacBook… when the latest MacBook Pro can outsell a year of Windows-10 device sales in less than a week you’re not going to rely on unit sales to promote your hardware. But that’s not the game that Microsoft is playing… at least not yet.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (image: Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (image: Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Instead, Microsoft’s focus is about increasing the power of the Surface brand. It means finding areas where it has a winning position and using these to best advantage. Build up enough of these positions and you have a groundswell of love for the Surface hardware, and with that you cast a little more doubt into those who are considering a new computer.

Even if Microsoft loses out to a sale to a MacBook, it has changed the mindset of a consumer from an automatic purchase to a considered purchase. The Surface range was in play, even for a short time. These tiny moments of mind share will add up over weeks, months, and perhaps years, and the thinking will be that these tiny drips will wear down one of Apple’s weakest areas in its portfolio to Microsoft’s advantage.

Apple’s new hardware and tweaked prices focus on the premium end of the market. The bottom rung on the Mac ladder holds the 12-inch MacBook or the 13-inch MacBook Air. Apple’s assumption is that those looking at something lower in price will move towards the iPad range (and if you want a tablet with more power you should consider the iPad Pro and the smart keyboard cover).

That leaves a space to exploit and arguably this is where the Surface devices target. The entry-level devices such as the older Surface 3 and the lower specced Surface Pro 3 and Pro 4 machines all come in below the price of the lower specced portable Macs and Windows 10 has matured into a very nice modern operating system. With so much data in the cloud and accessed through the browser the OS question is no longer the only question that matters when buying a device, the question of which cloud can be used is also important. Windows 10 naturally makes use of Microsoft’s Cloud services but it can happily sync with other services, notably Google.

Microsoft Surface Book (image: Ewan Spence)

Microsoft Surface Book (image: Ewan Spence)

That’s why we’re seeing lots of small wins being pushed heavily by Microsoft. Every one of them promotes the Surface range directly and Windows 10 by extension. Not everyone will pay attention, others may scoff and point to surges and sales figures from Apple to critique what they see as the aspirational nature behind some of Microsoft’s statements to position the brand for the years ahead.

It’s not fear, it is confidence. It is not uncertainty, it is highlighting choice. And it is not doubt, it is confidence that the Surface hardware (and the Windows 10 platform) can deliver results. Microsoft has a lot of baggage to carry in the eyes of many, but it has faith that this path is the correct one to be on.

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