microsoft corporation msft surface pro 3 vs ipad
Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) wants consumers to look at the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop replacement, instead of competition for the iPad. Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) didn't have much luck taking market share away from Apple Inc.'s iPad (NASDQ:AAPL) with its Surface Pro 3 tablet. So now Redmond is picking on a new target that seems more vulnerable: Apple's MacBook Air laptops.

The company unveiled new TV spots today, side-by-side comparisons meant to show the Surface Pro 3 can replace a MacBook Air and by extension, an iPad as well. The spots, touting the tablet's superior features like a touch screen and a detachable keyboard, are an attempt to compete on specs which is something that Microsoft and the PC world has always done.

One problem: Feature wars don't sell lifestyle products, emotions do. This is what Apple and to some extent Google now know well, but Microsoft is still struggling with the concept.

“Microsoft is clearly not appealing to emotion in the way that Apple does. They’re appealing to rational benefits. That’s going to have some value, but people buy their technology products for more than rational opinions,” Roger Beahm, marketing professor and executive director of the Center for Retail Innovation at Wake Forest University. “I’m not sure that Microsoft has yet cracked the code on being able to capture the emotional sell.”

Microsoft's strategy here is to convince consumers that this is one device that can replace what many currently accomplish with two, a laptop and an iPad. “Microsoft is planting a seed. They have to start getting people to think about tablets as, potentially, their next laptop,” said Kevin Burden, the director of mobility market research at Strategy Analytics. “These commercials are about pushing people in that direction.”

The commercials are Microsoft's latest assault on Apple's most portable laptops. In June, Microsoft tried a promotion that offered Apple users $650 to trade in their MacBook Airs.

The problem is that consumers now understand the different uses for each of their devices, and they see the tablet as more for content consumption than productivity. “The transition from working on a laptop to working on a tablet is something that the industry has been looking at for several years now,” Burden said. “Eventually, all of us will be using tablets as our laptops."

Are Microsoft's new ads getting you thinking about trading in your MacBook Air? Let us know in comments.