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Microsoft wises up, pushes Office in latest Surface TV ad

Mark Hachman | May 23, 2013
Since it launched in late 2012, Microsoft has positioned its Surface tablet as a fun, hip alternative tablet, emphasizing its construction and form factor. That failed. So with its latest commercial, Microsoft has returned to its corporate roots: productivity.

Microsoft's strength: Office, not Windows 8
Sure, the Imagine ad doesn't necessarily show off the apps ecosystem either. In fact, the ad barely shows the Start screen at all, focusing immediately upon the productivity features that the Surface offers: Office. USB. "Imagine a tablet with a USB port. So you can click in, and do more," the ad offers. Plainspoken, basic, utilitarian.

Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said that the new ad tries to get at what makes the Surface unique. "It is significant, because it is the first ad that really shows what Surface can do that the iPad cannot," Miller said. "Rather than 'dancing around' the Surface, I like that this ad actually tries to clarify the unique features of the device."

It's probably premature to suggest that Microsoft is abandoning the consumer PC market, and focusing Surface on business customers instead. But it will be worth watching whether subsequent campaigns head in this direction, suggesting a trend.

"I think it's important," said David Johnson, an analyst with Forrester Research. "[The ad] focuses on what differentiates the Surface as a tablet."

Johnson noted that the early, consumer-focused Surface campaigns were "skewered" by Microsoft's audience. "I think they should stop trying to be something they're not, and go back to being what they are," Johnson said.

If you believe reports from Forrester and others that claim that businesses and their workers prefer Windows 7 to Windows 8, then Microsoft Office is probably worth more as a selling point that Windows 8. Dell KACE, the division of Dell responsible for helping businesses with their OS transitions, reports that its customers are embracing Windows tablets, and doing so as supplementary machines. In the ad, Microsoft positions the Surface as a notebook with the size and form factor of a tablet. Office may not offer the sizzle that Windows 8 does--and Microsoft is probably betting that Office customers will like that just fine.


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