Dec 16, 2016 — by: Mark Reschke

Macbook_pro_2016Earlier in the week, Microsoft managed to deliver a pretty big fish story. The software giant made some rather large claims about Surface sales versus Apple's newly launched MacBook Pro. Unsurprisingly, most of Microsoft's boasting appears to be pure marketing bluster and sleight of hand.

Microsoft is desperate to push the Surface against MacBook Pro's, but in reality, the Surface design should be compared to the often superior iPad Pro (Microsoft's sleight of hand in full view). Of course Microsoft would rather not compete against a very compelling iPad Pro with its much lower price points than the MacBook Pro. Let's take a look at the games Microsoft plays with the media and see what's really going on.

Brian Hall, CVP, Microsoft Marketing Devices, stated "... we're having their best holiday season ever." Immediately, Hall makes sure actual Surface sales figures are obscured. And what, exactly, does "best holiday season ever" mean? Does it mean record Surface sales? Does it mean that channel distribution finally ironed out its kinks? Or does it mean that the Surface team is having their best holiday office parties ever? "Best holiday season ever" means nothing, but it is wordsmithed to make you believe sales are at a record level. But note, Brian does not say that, and if he could he would. He doesn't. I'm chalking this one up Bill hosting his best-ever White Elephant party.

Hall Continues, "November was our best month ever for consumer Surface sales." This provides the first sales fact to work with, but keep in mind he is not talking about 2-in-1 Surface Pro products only. Rather, Hall is speaking generically to every Surface product sold, which includes the Surface, Surface Pro, new desktop Surface Studio and Surface Hub. Considering Surface products have often struggled to sell even 1 million units in a single quarter, having their best consumer month ever, with more products with the name Surface than ever before, doesn't seem so great. Can Microsoft claim record sales of any one product or just the bulk of everything? Answer: The latter, or odds are they'd be boasting of Surface Pro or Surface Studio sales figures. Again, Hall avoids specific product sales figures of any kind.

Hall's spin gets worse, as he could only claim Microsoft's best November of consumer-only sales. Business sales must be incredibly weak for Microsoft needing to parse and boast about a particular market segment. This speaks volumes considering their are more Surface products to choose from than ever before, yet Microsoft still cannot deliver their best overall November...

Hall continues, "It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily." And if I look in the mirror just right, with most of the lights off, it looks like I have more hair than last year. I don't, and they aren't. What Hall wants to "feel" is one thing, reality is quite another. So here is a fact versus a feeling. Great reviews are hitting almost every day about the new MacBook Pro. I don't need to qualify that with "seems like" because it's actually happening. But credit Bill with actually living in his own reality-distortion field, even if no one else is. 

And the hits keep on coming. "More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before," claims Hall. This is the heart of his marketing spin, but examining his wording carefully, what exactly does "more people" mean? It does not specifically mean record number of people trading in Macs for Surface, nor does is specify how many new Surface buyers were former Mac users. It's a claim with zero facts behind it. Hall then attempts to provide a reason for the claim. "Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever." This seems impressive, but what does "best ever" mean? Who knows?!... After all, Hall is stating the trade-in program was their best ever... It could also be stated that Microsoft's trade-in program was – in their estimation – really neat! It does not mean more Macs were traded in for Surface than ever before. If that were the case, Hall would have boasted about that loud and clear. He didn't. Hall wants you to assume Mac's are being traded in for Surface products at a record pace, but that is not what his statement says.

All of Hall's wording is very clever, but in reality it's pretty vapid. The boasting about Surface is more of the same, self-proclaimed momentum. Call it what you want. Fake news, empty hype or a desperate marketing guy doing his best, but the reality is simple. This is muchado about nothing.

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