Microsoft this week published two ads in which it compares Windows 10 PCs to Chromebooks. The interesting bit? One targets education, as you might expect. But the other targets businesses.
And that is rather telling, I think. Microsoft is in the midst of losing the US education market to Chromebooks, and the popularity of these simple and inexpensive devices is starting to spread internationally. But less well known is that Chromebooks are starting to make headway with businesses as well. And that, of course, is Microsoft’s core customer base.
I mentioned that latter phenomenon back in April in The PC Market Just (Barely) Bounced Off the Bottom (Premium). “IDC noted that ‘the commercial PC market [in the US only] came out strong mostly backed by the growth of Chromebooks’,” I wrote. “Chromebook penetration in business is an interesting story—and I’d love to see more data there—but remember that big growth is easy when you’re small. And Chromebook sales are very small.”
But a threat is a threat. And these ads show that Microsoft finally taking it seriously, at least publicly. The timing of these ads has a lot to do with the release this week of the Surface Laptop, which you may recall is the first computer to include Windows 10 S. It’s also the only decent computer to include this system: The others we’ve seen so far are education-bound stripper PCs. So the ads focus instead on Windows 10 Pro, which is kind of interesting. Perhaps because the Windows 10 S to Pro upgrade is free during 2017.
So let’s start with the ad for education. Here, Microsoft says that Windows 10 Pro better meets the needs of today’s students and teachers because it is supported on a more diverse array of device types. The ad also highlights new Microsoft Office apps, like Sway, with which many users are probably still unfamiliar, and that Windows and Office support touch, pen and desktop modes. Windows 10 features like Ink, Sticky Notes, and Cortana are also highlighted. Finally, the ad touches on security; “Windows 10 is a virtual fortress,” it claims. I know. Ugh.
“When it comes to your OS, you have a choice,” the ad concludes. “Consider this: Windows 10 Pro offers better security, manageability, innovation, and value than Chrome.”
The business ad is perhaps more interesting, if only for the spectacle of watching Microsoft defend Windows 10 against the Chrome upstart. And it gets weird right away in describing the “years of research” that Microsoft has done into the device power-on experience, which it described as “superior.” But it then moves into familiar areas, touting Windows 10 features like Windows Ink, Sticky Notes, and Cortana, just like in the other video. But tailored for business use cases.
The security argument here is interesting as well. Compared to Chrome, the ad says, Windows 10 is “the most secure Windows ever” (well, sure), with Windows Hello, two-factor authentication support, and a more secure browser in Edge.
Then we get to value, an area where most might think that Chrome has the advantage. Nope. “You want a greater number of devices at a lower cost,” the ad intones. “No problem. Devices with the full Windows experience are available at affordable prices, all running full Windows, unlike Chrome, which allows only a select few devices to run all their apps.” That last bit is interesting, and is an allusion to Android apps on Chrome. Which is indeed a mess.
“Better value, security, and innovation” is the theme for this one. “There’s simply no comparison.”
It kind of makes me wonder why anyone would consider Chrome OS. Cough.