Several analysts called the comparison illegitimate, arguing that the Surface Pro was a poor tablet when stacked against the iPad. "This isn't yet a fair comparison ... but it's a comparison Microsoft would like to make," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, in February 2013. "The challenge for Microsoft is that the Surface Pro doesn't make a very good tablet. Yet."
Today, Moorhead slightly revised his take on Microsoft's compare-and-contrast efforts. "I think it's a fairer comparison than before," he said in an interview. "But if battery life is your most important factor, there is no comparison. The Surface Pro 3's battery life doesn't come close. The [13-in.] MacBook Air has 12 hours of measured battery life [for browsing the Web or watching video.]"
Microsoft rates the Surface Pro 3's battery at 9 hours for each of those two tasks.
"But if you're looking for touch, the Surface Pro 3 is the better one," Moorhead continued.
He doubted many MacBook Air owners would step into a Microsoft store and slap down their laptops. "Most Mac owners are vested in the Apple ecosystem," Moorhead said.
That's not to say the trade-in campaign isn't worthwhile. "Honestly, for the attention, comparing yourself to something viewed as the premium device on the market is a good idea," said Moorhead. "You want to pick on a winner, not a loser."
And Microsoft does see the MacBook Air as the winner in the notebook battle. "This product is a great product, of course, and the MacBook, I totally understand why it's being used," Panay said during the May 20 event where he unveiled the Surface Pro 3. "But it is best-in-class when it comes to thinness and lightness. There is no debate."
Somewhere along the way between the original Surface Pro and this year's third-generation revamp, Microsoft dumped the idea of comparing its hardware with the twofer of a MacBook Air and an iPad. Instead, it's all about the MacBook Air, as is fitting: Microsoft has switched its Surface Pro marketing to trumpeting the 2-in-1 not as a tablet that turns into a notebook, but as a notebook replacement. It's a subtle, but critical, difference.
And the new trade-in offer sticks to that message. If it hadn't, Microsoft would have demanded Apple product owners bring in two things, not just one.
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