Microsoft needs to make one more ad for Surface Pro 3

The new ad campaign for the Surface Pro 3 does a good job of demonstrating features but not of justifying the price.

Surface Pro 3
 Image: Brooke Crothers/CNET

Microsoft stumbled out of the gate with catchy-but-irrelevant ads that show people dancing around with their flashy-colored keyboard covers on their Surface Pros, but the latest marketing campaign gets down to business and does a much better job of demonstrating what makes a Surface Pro 3 unique. It makes me wonder if Microsoft switched ad agencies.

The series of ads Microsoft created to pit the Surface Pro 3 against the MacBook are brilliant. Microsoft followed on the heels of ads comparing the Surface Pro against an iPad, demonstrating tricks Cortana can do on Windows Phone that Siri can't do on iOS, with this new campaign. The common theme compares Microsoft products against Apple, and Microsoft seems to have taken the proverbial gloves off.

The new ads still miss one important point, though: Price -- or, more accurately, value.

The hard reality is that Microsoft's message isn't "The tablet that can replace your MacBook," it's "The tablet that can replace your laptop." So, why focus solely on the MacBook in the marketing campaign?

There are two reasons for this. First, Apple is a competitor -- an iconic rival to all things Microsoft. I'm sure there are many employees at Microsoft taking more than a little pride in the new marketing campaign as revenge for the wildly popular "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" campaign that Apple used a few years ago. They should. Recent campaigns from Microsoft have been both effective and clever -- two things Microsoft marketing campaigns aren't exactly known for -- in drawing the contrasts between the two companies' platforms and devices.

The underlying message, though, is that many of the points Microsoft makes to establish the Surface Pro 3 as uniquely superior to a MacBook are also examples of how a Surface Pro 3 is superior to many Windows-based laptops as well. However, overtly slamming OEM partners in a marketing campaign is taboo, so Apple makes a convenient foil for the commercials.

The other reason is price. Even though many of the same points Microsoft makes against the MacBook would be true against most laptops, many of the Windows-based laptops offer equivalent power and capabilities for significantly less money. Comparing against a MacBook Air makes sense, because the pricing is in the same ballpark as the Surface Pro 3, so it seems like an even comparison. It also has a psychological effect of raising the value of the Surface Pro 3 in the minds of customers because the MacBook is considered to be somewhat elitist.

To be fair, the perception that the Apple MacBook is elitist or expensive is just that -- a perception. This is part of the aura Apple crafted for itself. However, the reality is that Windows-based PCs with roughly the same specifications also cost about the same. In fact, in some ways it might help Microsoft to point that out instead to assuage the idea that the Surface Pro 3 is too expensive. Realistically, it costs roughly the same as similarly equipped laptops from Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, and others -- but it's also a tablet and has other tricks up its sleeve.

Sure, this would create some conflict with OEM partners, but Microsoft really needs to develop one more ad for the Surface Pro 3 campaign. That ad should still show the Surface Pro 3 and an equivalent MacBook, but it should also include similarly equipped laptops from Dell, Lenovo, and others -- along with the price of each. Most importantly, it should demonstrate the features and use cases that the other devices don't have, which is what makes the Surface Pro 3 a unique value proposition for the money.

There's no getting around the fact that the Surface Pro 3 isn't cheap. There are plenty of Windows laptops, and even a few Windows tablets that are significantly less expensive. Consumers in the market for those devices are not the target market for the Surface Pro 3. But for consumers who understand that you get what you pay for -- and look beyond the price tag to find the best value -- the Surface Pro 3 is well worth the cost.

The takeaway from the marketing message should be, if you're in the market to buy a laptop for $1,000 to $1,500, you owe it to yourself to experience the Surface Pro 3.

Does the Surface Pro 3 have a place in your tech arsenal? Why or why not? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

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Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He...


For me, the Surface 3 is the perfect device. It replaced my Dell all in one, and my 10" Android tablet. It's light and portable. I got the it, which is fast enough for my computing needs. From my view, Microsoft nailed this one. I now have a device that I can take everywhere. And One Note, paired with the pen. Priceless.


It has one fatal flaw. Windows 8. All the other hoopla about replacing my laptop, or the price (admittedly too high) is just minor quibbles by comparison.

For whatever odd reason, Microsoft has fallen for the "I shall  have  one device, and one device only" fallacy. So they build an "El Camino" computer, which doesn't do either job well aside form empty your wallet.

People who want laptops will buy laptops, and people who want laptops will buy laptops. Some times they buy one of each.


@Froogal Stoodent Not the exact same specs... comparing the i5 version of both. The t300 is heavier and has much lower screen resolution than the SP3. And the list price for both is the same (though Amazon has the asus a bit cheaper at the moment).

Froogal Stoodent
Froogal Stoodent

Microsoft won't use this idea, for two reasons. 

One, as you correctly pointed out, Microsoft doesn't want to alienate or cause conflict with its partners. That's a big no-no. The second reason is the ASUS TransformerBook T300, which has two versions, each with exactly the same specs as the Surface Pro 3, but for less money--particularly when you count the included keyboard! An Amazon link to the TransformerBook T300 is here:


@Froogal Stoodent have the solved the "Top heavy" problem of their solution? I have the Android Asus Transformer Prim and the Asus T100 Atom Based solution. Both are decent machines (other than the Prime's wireless flaws) but BOTH are top heavy and unstable when attached to the keyboard. using the touch screen is often enough to push them over. Microsoft seems to have a solution that solves this. I hope to get one sometime when my laptop needs replacement in the next year of so.

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