A tale of two announcement press releases: The iPad vs. Surface

The press release below, on the left, accompanied the January 27, 2010 announcement of the Apple iPad. The press release on the right accompanied today’s announcement of Microsoft’s  Surface. While both releases follow in a tradition that seems to dictate that  press releases be among the worst content created by large corporations (right up there with instructions if “some assembly is required” and cease-and-desist letters), reading a few paragraphs of these two releases can help you understand why Apple is Apple, the brilliant marketing company; and Microsoft is, well, a wonderful American company we can all be proud of, bless their heart  (as we say where I live).Here’s what to look for (and again, these are press releases, not actual “writing,” so forgive the “constructed-by-committee” mule-ish style of both):From the get-go, Apple positions the iPad as a “Magical & Revolutionary Device at an Unbelievable Price.” Microsoft, on the other hand, calls Surface, “Microsoft-made hardware to be available starting with release of Windows 8 and Windows RT.” In other words, the Apple press release is talking to consumers while the Microsoft release is talking to the industry.The entire Microsoft release is dedicated to listing features and attributes of the Surface. The Apple release focuses on the magical things a person can do with the iPad.

The essence of Apple is found in this excerpt:

Reading and sending email is fun and easy on iPad’s large screen and almost full-size ‘soft’ keyboard. Import photos from a Mac, PC or digital camera, see them organized as albums, and enjoy and share them using iPad’s elegant slideshows. Watch movies, TV shows and YouTube, all in HD or flip through pages of an e-book you downloaded from Apple’s new iBookstore while listening to your music collection.”

The essence of Microsoft is found in this excerpt:

“Conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware, Surface represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity.”

Readers of this blog know I am a fan of Apple products. However, I’ve also always made it clear that I want products like the Microsoft Surface to succeed (and, too, Android tablets). Competition is good. Competition with the Surface will make the iPad even better. So even if Microsoft reveals its soul in a lousy press release, that has no bearing on whether the Surface is going to be a wonderful device, or the Zune of tablets.

However, I am saying this to you savvy marketing executives out there: If you want to succeed in today’s marketplace, the content your company creates and shares with the world needs to talk about how awesome people can be — and the awesome things they can do — if they own your product.

Talking about how great your product is may sound pleasing to the CEO in a press release co-written by corporate communications and legal — but it’s not going to motivate any customers.

Apple Launches iPad

Magical & Revolutionary Device at an Unbelievable Price

SAN FRANCISCO — January 27, 2010 — Apple today introduced iPad, a revolutionary device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books and much more. iPad’s responsive high-resolution Multi-Touch display lets users physically interact with applications and content. iPad is just 0.5 inches thick and weighs just 1.5 pounds— thinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook. iPad includes 12 new innovative apps designed especially for the iPad, and will run almost all of the over 140,000 apps in the App Store. iPad will be available in late March starting at the breakthrough price of just $499.

“iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before.”

iPad features 12 next-generation Multi-Touch applications. Every app works in both portrait and landscape, automatically animating between views as the user rotates iPad in any direction. The precise Multi-Touch interface makes surfing the web on iPad an entirely new experience, dramatically more interactive and intimate than on a computer. Reading and sending email is fun and easy on iPad’s large screen and almost full-size “soft” keyboard. Import photos from a Mac, PC or digital camera, see them organized as albums, and enjoy and share them using iPad’s elegant slideshows. Watch movies, TV shows and YouTube, all in HD or flip through pages of an e-book you downloaded from Apple’s new iBookstore while listening to your music collection.

iPad runs almost all of the over 140,000 apps on the App Store, including apps already purchased for your iPhone or iPod touch. The iTunes Store gives you access to the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store with a catalog of over 11 million songs, over 50,000 TV episodes and over 8,000 films including over 2,000 in stunning high definition video. Apple also announced the new iBooks app for iPad, which includes Apple’s new iBookstore, the best way to browse, buy and read books on a mobile device. The iBookstore will feature books from major and independent publishers.

Apple also introduced a new version of iWork for iPad, the first desktop-class productivity suite designed specifically for Multi-Touch. With Pages, Keynote and Numbers you can create beautifully formatted documents, stunning presentations with animations and transitions, and spreadsheets with charts, functions and formulas. The three apps will be available separately through the App Store for $9.99 each.

iPad syncs with iTunes just like the iPhone and iPod touch, using the standard Apple 30-pin to USB cable, so you can sync all of your contacts, photos, music, movies, TV shows, applications and more from your Mac or PC. All the apps and content you download on iPad from the App Store, iTunes Store and iBookstore will be automatically synced to your iTunes library the next time you connect with your computer.

iPad’s brilliant 9.7-inch, LED-backlit display features IPS technology to deliver crisp, clear images and consistent color with an ultra-wide 178 degree viewing angle. The highly precise, capacitive Multi-Touch display is amazingly accurate and responsive whether scrolling web pages or playing games. The intelligent soft keyboard pioneered on iPhone takes advantage of iPad’s larger display to offer an almost full-size soft keyboard. iPad also connects to the new iPad Keyboard Dock with a full-size traditional keyboard.

iPad is powered by A4, Apple’s next-generation system-on-a-chip. Designed by Apple, the new A4 chip provides exceptional processor and graphics performance along with long battery life of up to 10 hours.* Apple’s advanced chemistry and Adaptive Charging technology deliver up to 1,000 charge cycles without a significant decrease in battery capacity over a typical five year lifespan.**

iPad comes in two versions—one with Wi-Fi and the other with both Wi-Fi and 3G. iPad includes the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi, and the 3G versions support speeds up to 7.2 Mbps on HSDPA networks. Apple and AT&T announced breakthrough 3G pre-paid data plans for iPad with easy, on-device activation and management.

Continuing Apple’s dedication to designing and creating environmentally responsible products, each iPad enclosure is made of highly recyclable aluminum and comes standard with energy-efficient LED-backlit displays that are mercury-free and made with arsenic-free glass. iPad contains no brominated flame retardants and is completely PVC-free.

Apple today released a new Software Development Kit (SDK) for iPad, so developers can create amazing new applications designed to take advantage of iPad’s capabilities. The SDK includes a simulator that lets developers test and debug their iPad apps on a Mac, and also lets developers create Universal Applications that run on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Pricing & Availability

iPad will be available in late March worldwide for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 (US) for the 64GB model. The Wi-Fi + 3G models of iPad will be available in April in the US and selected countries for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad will be sold in the US through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. International pricing and worldwide availability will be announced at a later date. iBookstore will be available in the US at launch.

*Apple tested wireless battery life by browsing web pages and receiving email over an AirPort network, never letting the system go to sleep during the test, and keeping the display at half brightness. This is a typical scenario of use on the go, resulting in a battery performance number that is very relevant to mobile users.

**A properly maintained iPad battery is designed to retain 80 percent or more of its original capacity during a lifespan of up to 1,000 recharge cycles. Battery life and charge cycles vary by use and settings.

Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh. Today, Apple continues to lead the industry in innovation with its award-winning computers, OS X operating system and iLife and professional applications. Apple is also spearheading the digital media revolution with its iPod portable music and video players and iTunes online store, and has entered the mobile phone market with its revolutionary iPhone.

Microsoft Announces Surface: New Family of PCs for Windows

Microsoft-made hardware to be available starting with release of Windows 8 and Windows RT.

LOS ANGELES — June 18, 2012 — Today at an event in Hollywood, Microsoft unveiled Surface: PCs built to be the ultimate stage for Windows. Company executives showed two Windows tablets and accessories that feature significant advances in industrial design and attention to detail. Surface is designed to seamlessly transition between consumption and creation, without compromise. It delivers the power of amazing software with Windows and the feel of premium hardware in one exciting experience.

Advances in Industrial Design

Conceived, designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware, Surface represents a unique vision for the seamless expression of entertainment and creativity. Extensive investment in industrial design and real user experience includes the following highlights:

  • Software takes center stage: Surface sports a full-sized USB port and a 16:9 aspect ratio – the industry standard for HD. It has edges angled at 22 degrees, a natural position for the PC at rest or in active use, letting the hardware fade into the background and the software stand out.
  • VaporMg: The casing of Surface is created using a unique approach called VaporMg (pronounced Vapor-Mag), a combination of material selection and process to mold metal and deposit particles that creates a finish akin to a luxury watch. Starting with magnesium, parts can be molded as thin as .65 mm, thinner than the typical credit card, to create a product that is thin, light and rigid/strong.
  • Integrated Kickstand: The unique VaporMg approach also enables a built-in kickstand that lets you transition Surface from active use to passive consumption – watching a movie or even using the HD front- or rear-facing video cameras. The kickstand is there when needed, and disappears when not in use, with no extra weight or thickness.
  • Touch Cover: The 3 mm Touch Cover represents a step forward in human-computer interface. Using a unique pressure-sensitive technology, Touch Cover senses keystrokes as gestures, enabling you to touch type significantly faster than with an on-screen keyboard. It will be available in a selection of vibrant colors. Touch Cover clicks into Surface via a built-in magnetic connector, forming a natural spine like you find on a book, and works as a protective cover. You can also click in a 5 mm-thin Type Cover that adds moving keys for a more traditional typing feel.

An Amazing Windows  Experience

Two models of Surface will be available: one running an ARM processor featuring Windows RT, and one with a third-generation Intel Core processor featuring Windows 8 Pro. From the fast and fluid interface, to the ease of connecting you to the people, information and apps that users care about most, Surface will be a premium way to experience all that Windows has to offer. Surface for Windows RT will release with the general availability of Windows 8, and the Windows 8 Pro model will be available about 90 days later. Both will be sold in the Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. and available through select online Microsoft Stores.

Contributing to an Expanded Ecosystem

One of the strengths of Windows is its extensive ecosystem of software and hardware partners, delivering selection and choice that makes a customer’s Windows experience uniquely their own. This continues with Surface. Microsoft is delivering a unique contribution to an already strong and growing ecosystem of functional and stylish devices delivered by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to bring the experience of Windows to consumers and businesses around the globe.


  • Great analysis – clearly demonstrates the difference in cultural DNA and how the two companies differ in their approach to customers. I remain long on AAPL and short of MSFT although I believe the release of the Surface products will be highly disruptive. The Microsoft PC partners of the past are screwed and this product line will put pressurize the Android platform – it’s very unlikely to have much impact – other than positive on iPad sales. HP, Lenovo etc have a lot of difficult decisions ahead.

  • sizzle-selling is becoming old-paradigm in the media-savvy western world …

    why? because energy follows intention … watch it play out in just the next few years …

  • Thanks, Colin. Your knowledge of the PC marketplace is vast, so I’ll defer to you on how this might play out. I imagine MSFT had no choice but to offer its enterprise customers an alternative to iPad. I know our corporate clients are purchasing hundreds of iPads for sales people — our challenge has been to find ways to develop full-featured presentations they can use on their Windows laptops and Apple iPads. With new apps and experience, it gets easier every month to do this, but I’m sure a lot of corporate IT people wish they didn’t have to support two platforms.

  • Jon Cutright

    An interesting comparison and analysis. Clearly each company is addressing a different audience. My first thought after this announcement was to wonder what the discussion is in the offices of Lenovo, HP and Dell this morning.

  • SP

    Here is another differentiation that maybe you have observed as well. Apple product launches are generally accompanied by release of the product to the consumer, where as Microsoft product launches (Lumia, Surface) were first to journalists/media/industry, with the consumer release a few months away. I think this puts the respective press releases more into context.

  • If consumers were the audience for press releases, they’d be called something else, wouldn’t they?

    Even now, looking at the examples, I just saw “blah blah blah-blah, blah.”

  • Tim

    Great contrast there. And side by side with the pictures, the Surface ends up looking like a sad blue laptop that needs an extra piece of metal to hold up its screen…or a tablet designed by a committee. Will have to see how it will sell when it finally comes out and has a price tag.

  • Excellent
    article, textbook worthy. I wonder if Microsoft truly believes that
    customers care about “…conceived,
    designed and engineered entirely by Microsoft employees, and building
    on the company’s 30-year history manufacturing hardware.” All
    we care about are outstanding products, tech support and
    customer service. Can Microsoft deliver just that?

  • RandyCunningham

    I’m a cool kid, ’cause I like Apple stuff! You and me, Rexie! Plus, the Microsofties don’t have that jazzy coo-coo-ca-choo re-bop-ba-be-bop that they bounce out of Cupertino!

  • Krystal Cummings

    Well. When apple released the ipad it was new and revolutionary; people did need to be told what they’d be able to do with it. People now know what a tablet is and what it’s for and how it should work, I don’t think they need to be told those types of things in a press release. Had Microsoft done that, they would have looked stupid. What they did was tell people how much thought and design work has gone into it and subtly implied they’d like it as well, if not better than the ipad. I think it was a totally satisfactory press release for a two years post ipad world.

  • Krystal, I respect your opinion, but people ALWAYs need to be told what something can do for them. I have used an iPad since the day it came out and I learn something new every day. Here’s an example: YESTERDAY, Apple started running this ad for iPad

    It is 100% exactly the same message as their message the day the device was announced. This is why they dominate the category. This is why no one else comes close. When another approach works, I’ll be happy to believe your theory.
    By the way, here’s the Microsoft video announcing the Surface. Just like the press release, it FAILs also, for the same reason:

    Again, I’ll be happy to adjust my thinking if you can provide me with any example of how any one competitor (a specific branded product) has used a feature message rather than a “what you can do with it” message and challenged Apple in a category.(I can think of some products in the Apple eco-system where a 3rd party has beaten Apple’s version of a product.)

  • I can’t agree with you more. And said so in the post.

    Press releases do serve a few purposes, however:

    1. They provide context for what the company is thinking when they release a product.

    2. They serve regulatory purpose if the company is publicly traded as they set an exact time stamp on when information was released to the public (defense against insider trading claims later)

    3. The provide historians (and bloggers) an archive of what a company did at some precise point in the past.

    4. Apparently, They provide SEO people with lots of free content to use as filler

    5. Once in a while, actual “press” people use them to write a story.

  • jbattisti

    Great article – I was in a MS meeting reviewing the new tablet and I was surprised how out of touch the MS people were with how people actually use iPads. They think they are a toy and not a productivity tool…which isn’t correct. MS will certainly take a share of the corporate market as IT folks push this as a misguided replacement for an iPad or a laptop. On another note – every additional tablet computer in the market will dilute the market share of the vendors that don’t have economies of scale. This is a net positive for Apple as it will drive more players out of the market as it makes the existing niche players less profitable.

  • Hi Rex!

    Thanks for post! Indeed, these two big technology companies have a big difference when it comes to marketing strategies, the design of the products a whole, etc but they have a common goal which is to satisfy the consumers.