As is tradition, Apple threw a bit of smack talk Microsoft's way during its big iPad presentation yesterday. While CEO Tim Cook didn't specifically call out Microsoft, he said Apple's competition was "confused." "Now they're trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs," Cook said in an obvious shot at Microsoft's Surface lineup. "Who knows what they'll do next?" That wasn't the only dig — Apple positioned its now-free iWork suite as a feature-rich alternative to Microsoft's Office, and Redmond noticed.
Today, Microsoft called Apple out and then some in a blog post by VP of communications Frank Shaw. After fawning over Nokia's new Lumia 1520 ("I'm really excited for a 1080p Lumia with a third column on my start screen"), Shaw tears into the press and Apple for daring to compare iWork to Office. "Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world's most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively," Shaw writes. "Making Apple's decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal."
"So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don't see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up."
He goes on to reinforce Microsoft's mission with the Surface, to make a new type of device that's equally suited for "kick back" consumption activities and "lean in" productivity work — a task he clearly feels only Microsoft is suited for. "It doesn't change the fact that it's much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking," Shaw says about two features that haven't stopped Apple from selling some 170 million iPads. "It's not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much 'work' you can get done on their devices," says Shaw. "Adding watered down productivity apps. Bolting on aftermarket input devices. All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines."
There's little doubt Shaw has a point — Office is still the gold standard for productivity software, and it's typically easier to work on a spreadsheet or presentation with a keyboard as opposed to a touchscreen. But his point is buried beneath the tired argument that the iPad is a consumption-only device — a viewpoint not backed up by the many excellent content creation apps that line the App Store. At the end of the day, it's not surprising to see Shaw come to Microsoft's defense with a vigorous bashing of its competition — he called the media biased for its coverage of CEO Steve Ballmer's departure and jokingly said Facebook Home was "inspired" by Windows Phone.