Microsoft marketing working as consumers see Surface as the only laptop brand able to compete with Apple

Microsoft has always been careful to position their Surface range against Apple’s Macbooks, likely for a number of reasons including not to compete directly against their OEMs and also to tap into Apple’s higher margin consumers.

It seems their strategy is working if the results of a survey of 1300 US consumers by Creative Strategies is anything to go by.

Completed in October 2017, the news generally reads as very good for Microsoft.

While consumers still saw Apple as the leading notebook/laptop brand, as can be seen by the graph above Microsoft’s Surface range is a close second, and well ahead of any of their OEMs.

32% of Early Tech Adopters and 28% of Millennials (18-35 y olds) thought Surface was the leading Notebook /Laptop brand with 22% of those responders saying it was because it is the only brand able to compete with Apple and another 21% simply said they are leaders because they are their preferred brand. Nineteen percent also believes that Microsoft Surface products offer the best implementation of Office on Windows 10.

Early Tech Adopters self-identified to the following description: “I’m pretty tech savvy. Friends and family usually come to me for tech related questions/issues” and “I tend to be the first person in my peer group to buy new tech/gadgets. I consider myself an early adopter.”

Forty-six percent of American consumers chose Apple as the leading brand in notebooks, with the most common reason being  “everybody seems to have one of their notebooks” (21%) and because “they have always been the most aspirational brand” (20%). Another 21% were split between an OS preference and that their products “just work.” Interestingly, only 17% of people of picked Apple because of the iPhone.

Despite the heavy usage of smartphones most of the surveyed turned to notebooks for productivity. 81% of Americans interviewed said they use a notebook/desktop as their primary device. Apple’s narrative has always been about creativity however and interestingly Microsoft has been able to capture some of that magic also.

The good news for Surface is that early adopters see Microsoft Surface as the brand that empowers them to be both productive (49%) and creative (48%), while Millennials see Apple as the brand that empowers them to be creative (45%).

Once again in this area Microsoft is the only OEM that competes, showing the power of marketing. In fact, despite Surface’s low market share 90% of consumers were familiar with the brand and think that Microsoft Surface products are the best products with Windows software on them (21%) and this is precisely because hardware and software are optimized for each other (18%).  Only 16% of consumers feel that although they are good products they are too expensive.

Consumers felt compared to other Windows 10 devices Surfaces had better hardware quality (36%). For some consumers (18%), the fact that Microsoft makes Surface products is a key differentiator, and for current Apple owners (36%) Surface products run the best implementation of Windows 10.

For many (43%) the key differentiator between Microsoft Surface and Apple products was the operating system, while current Surface owners  (both personal and enterprise) felt touch and pen support was the key differentiator (27%).

In fact, when it comes to choosing which laptop to get if the company was paying for it, Microsoft’s Surface range actually beat out Apple, and also all other Windows OEMs.

In particular, Early Tech Adopters had a strong preference for Microsoft Surface (52%) over everybody else, including Apple (38%) while Millennials and mainstream consumers saw these two brands being equal.

Even at home the Surface Pro and 2in1 form factor were gaining acceptance.  Twenty-one percent of American consumers have already replaced their laptop with a Surface Pro or an iPad Pro. Another 17% is interested in making the switch to a Surface Pro and 14% to an iPad Pro. This seems to be mainly about the form factor rather than the ability to use a pen, as input tool does not play a role in the purchasing decision process for 31% of consumers.

Overall the survey strongly suggests Microsoft should keep on doing what they are doing, but it is notable that while Apple has a large segment of the profits on the PC market, they still have only a small market share, suggesting this is not the way to address the mass market, but then that is what Microsoft’s OEMs are for.


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