Microsoft’s Answer to Ellen Feiss

[Update: Microsoft removed the “Switcher” article from their web site after it became obvious that it was made up. Slashdot picked up the story, and one of their readers found the author’s photo in a stock picture archive. Dave Winer has the story too, including this link to the original article in Google’s cache. It looks to me as though all the testimonials on Microsoft’s “Insider” sub-site are made up, so I’m not sure why they’ve only removed the “Switcher” article.]

A few days ago, Microsoft posted this happy tale of a Mac user who switched to Windows XP. (Link thanks to MacInTouch, which sadly still doesn’t offer permalinks.)

I share MacInTouch’s suspicion that the article is apocryphal. Most obviously, despite the fact that the article is written in the first person, there is no byline. But the details don’t ring true either. It’s quite bizarre. Take this line, for example:

I can read my files, import e-mail addresses from my Palm* to the Microsoft Outlook® messaging and collaboration client, and keep my Web favorites.

Does anyone outside of Microsoft’s tin-eared marketing department describe Outlook as a “messaging and collaboration client”?

Next up is the old “Macs are more expensive” bit:

There’s a much greater choice of portable computers and features, for less money, on the Windows platform. My laptop came with 512 MB of RAM, a 15” screen, a DVD player, and Windows XP Home Edition preinstalled, for $450 less than a comparable iBook. My recommendation is to go straight to Windows XP Professional; the extra features for mobile users are worth it.

Two points, here. First, you can’t do a price comparison of a laptop loaded with XP Home Edition, then recommend XP Professional (which costs more). Second, it’s easy for this switcher to claim she found a comparable laptop for $450 less, but it’s a lot harder to actually find such a machine in the real world. I just priced a Dell Inspiron, with the same RAM (256 MB), screen (14"), and disk size (30 GB) as a stock 14" iBook, and the Dell machine came out $50 cheaper ($1,750 vs. $1,799). Can you get a PC for less money than a Mac? Sure. But especially in portables, Apple’s prices are extremely competitive for comparable machines.

But we still aren’t to the point where the article gets weird.

AppleWorks (previously called ClarisWorks) pales in comparison to Microsoft Office XP. There’s no equivalent for the versatility of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint®.

Geez, if only there were a version of Office for the Mac.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 does more for me than Netscape Navigator ever did, and I am a surfing addict. Searches are faster; the History feature makes it easier to find that site from last week; and I can name and organize my Favorites any way I want.

Geez, if only there were a version of Internet Explorer for the Mac. This concept of naming and organizing my Favorites sounds very appealing.

The first time I turned on my PC, Windows XP prompted me to set up User Accounts. I set up one for me and one for my husband. I love that we can define completely different user experiences without messing with each other’s settings.

Do I even need to say it?

What’s so odd about the article is that it doesn’t contain a single actual advantage to switching to Windows (other than the bogus claim that a comparable Wintel laptop costs $450 less). No mention of the fact that Windows is a much better gaming platform. No mention of the fact that web browsing is faster on Windows than on the Mac. No mention of the fact that there exists a lot of software that only runs on Windows.

Whether or not you like Apple’s Switch campaign, at least Apple’s switchers sound genuine. It never ceases to amaze me that a company so spectacularly successful as Microsoft could be so utterly ham-fisted in its marketing. They can’t buy credibility. Not that they need the extra millionth of a percentage point in market share, but can you imagine a single Mac user reading this article and thinking, “Hey, that sounds great. Maybe I should switch to Windows.”

Further Reading

One more pro-Windows factoid not mentioned in Microsoft’s switcher article (probably because the article tries to insinuate that Office doesn’t even exist for the Mac) is the fact that the Mac version of Office costs more. A lot more. The new $199 Office Party promotion makes the pricing close, but it’s only available with the purchase of a new Mac. As Dan Benjamin reports today at Hivelogic, that’s not much consolation if you want to buy Office for your current machine.

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