Microsoft is the new Apple
Apple has not been having a great week. On Tuesday, the company released its Q3 results, posting a year-on-year revenue drop, its first yearly sales drop in 15 years, a massive fall in Apple watch sales, and a scary 30 percent decline in its China revenue. All this from a quarter when Apple’s chief smartphone competitor was literally blowing itself up.
Then on Wednesday came the news that Apple’s futuristic (but much derided) AirPod headphones have had to be delayed. The earbud headphones had previously been expected to launch in November, but now it’s not clear when they’ll be available. “We need a little more time,” Apple told TechCrunch.
On Thursday, Apple must have been hoping to turn the tide with its hardware event, at which the company announced updates to its MacBook Pro line of laptops. But that event, which aside from the new Touch Bar was fairly underwhelming, ended up being overshadowed by the Wednesday announcement of this:
You’ve almost certainly already seen that video, because it set the global tech world on fire. It’s not hard to see why. In almost every way, Microsoft’s Surface Studio is the kind of thing we expect from Apple.
A better Apple than Apple
First, there’s the video itself, which is incredibly well done. It manages to convey a lot about what makes the Surface Studio special without a single word of spoken or written text. Over gorgeous images of the product in closeups, a haunting cover of “Pure Imagination” adds a level of emotional depth to the ad. It’s an ad so good that it makes you want the product even though you don’t need it. It’s the kind of ad we’re used to seeing from Apple. And to be frank, it’s pretty shocking to see an ad this good coming from Microsoft, who just a few years ago were running atrocities like this to promote their products.
It’s not just about the presentation, of course (although presentation and marketing is how Apple makes a lot of its magic). The Surface Studio also feels like an Apple product from the Steve Jobs era, when the company was making the absolute best computing tools for creative professionals, and when it was regularly producing innovative surprises. The Surface Dial, for example, looks like Apple through-and-through: surprisingly powerful, absurdly easy to use, and so simple and intuitive that you can hardly believe it hasn’t been done already.
The Surface Studio is even classic Apple in the wrong ways: pricey as hell, unabashedly unupgradable, and weirdly under-powered (even the highest-end model only comes with a Nvidia GTX 980M GPU, a model that’s already thoroughly outclassed by the 1060, 1070, and 1080 mobile chips Nvidia released this summer).
I honestly think that if you took the Surface Studio ad and stripped it of all Microsoft branding, people would assume it was an Apple product. And while you can look at Microsoft’s marketing approach or the Surface Studio’s aesthetics and say Microsoft is just copying Apple, does it matter? Right now, Microsoft’s version of Apple feels more like Apple than the real Apple does.