This week there’s a report about a new ad campaign from Nokia, comparing their new Lumia 2520 tablet against the iPad. So what did they complain about? Well, it seems that the Lumia has an attachable physical keyboard, but the iPad doesn’t. I’m serious.
Now this approach is nothing new. It’s reminiscent of Microsoft’s ads for the Surface tablet, which made a huge deal about being able use the keyboard that’s embedded in a cover in pictures rather than words. This happened at the same time that one model of the Surface shipped without the keyboard cover. Are you with me so far?
Of course, it’s well known that a number of third-party accessory makers, such as Logitech, do offer iPad keyboards embedded in attachable covers, so where’s the beef? If you need one, you can buy one. If you don’t, you save the money. The real issue is, of course, whether people want or need physical keyboards for tablets as standard issue. That depends on your needs, and I suppose if I wanted to do a lot of writing on an iPad, I’d spring for one of these accessories.
So much for one complaint.
Yet another is about productivity, since the Surface-derived tablets come with Microsoft Office, although the installed version resides in that peculiar universe where it only operates in the desktop layer. It pays lip service to touchscreens in a very awkward fashion. So, yes, you do get productivity apps, but ones that just aren’t suited to the product.
Now I realize Microsoft won’t accept Apple’s free iWork office suite as a genuine collection of productivity apps. Before you get to the features, iWork is optimized for tablets and smartphones, which means they take full advantage of the touchscreen, though nobody stops you from hooking up a regular keyboard. They also read and write Office files, and there’s a decent amount of compatibility. So unless you use the more advanced productivity and formatting features in Microsoft Office, you may be able to get away with using iWork.
And I won’t get into a certain billboard from Microsoft touting Excel on a Surface tablet, which failed to add seven numbers correctly, thus delivering a $500 mistake. Microsoft has, so far, not bothered to correct that error.
So much for the second complaint.
Now the Lumia does have an advantage, which is the promise that 80% of the battery charge process completes in an hour. All right, that’s a good thing, but what about the negatives? What about the fact that there aren’t that many apps for the Windows RT OS yet? What about the fact that the user interface has been roundly criticized as being unintuitive and poorly realized?
Just as important: Does the Lumia offer any material advantage over a Surface 2, aside from the speedier charging feature? Clearly the Surface has gone nowhere in sales, so it’s not at all certain that Nokia, which is closing a deal for Microsoft to take over that division, is going to fare any better.
Yes, I can understand why Nokia wants to convince you that the Lumia tablet is superior to the iPad, but the somewhat misleading ad fails to demonstrate that. It reminds me of those Surface versus iPad TV ads in which Microsoft deliberately reduced the size of Apple’s tablet to make it appear smaller.
The real issue is whether Microsoft can dig in its heels and some day make Windows RT tablets take off. That tact did work with the Xbox gaming console at the expense of billions of dollars of losses over the years. Even though the Xbox is making profits nowadays, those profits will probably never compensate for all the losses. The other question is whether gaming consoles are a via long-term product strategy. Yes, the Xbox One isn’t just a gaming machine; it embeds the sort of entertainment features that you find in an Apple TV, and there’s even a Blu-ray player. But if you’re not into gaming, paying $499.99 for an Xbox One would be overkill.
So where does that leave Apple?
Well, today’s Apple TV is not a gaming machine, but there is a new generation of gaming controllers that mate with an iPhone or a tablet. It would almost seem inevitable that you’ll be able to run the same games on an Apple TV, possibly a feature generation model with more powerful graphics capabilities. Even if Apple upped the price to $149, which is not something I’d expect, plus the cost of the controller, it would still put it way ahead of the Xbox One.
Today, however, you don’t compare the Xbox with an Apple TV. So I don’t expect Microsoft to run ads of that sort. Microsoft also won’t touch the gaming capabilities of an iPhone or an iPad, because it wouldn’t show off the Surface tablet, for which very few games are available. Without high sales, the app universe won’t offer the wealth of titles that Apple offers. That’s yet another inconvenient truth that neither Nokia nor Microsoft will dare mention in their ads.