Microsoft is doing a better Apple impression than Apple is
Apple and Microsoft have both announced new computers this week built for professionals, and while the companies' hardware may be very different, the way they're selling these new devices is eerily similar. Check out the MacBook Pro overview from Apple above, then watch Microsoft's introduction for the Surface Studio. Okay, so one has a Jony Ive voiceover and the other has a dramatic cover of "Pure Imagination," but the general arc of the videos — the narrative they're trying to tell the consumer — is the same.
We start with the camera lingering on polished, machined surfaces; gleaming chrome and impregnable aluminum. The inner components break apart as if in zero gravity, giving us a chance to see how each individual part fits together, and then the whole thing reassembles like a slow-mo explosion in reverse. A human enters the frame, touching the computer and bringing it to life. For Microsoft that means adjusting the Studio's display, for Apple it's activating the Touch Bar, but the meaning is shared — we put all this together. Even the test footage used to show off the screens is the same: explosions of colorful powder surely inspired by photographs of the Hindu festival of Holi.
Of course, none of this cinematography is uncommon (what's rare is Apple and Microsoft announcing new computers back to back). Tech companies of all stripes have been using the slow-mo-component-explosion shot for years as way to show off the engineering that's gone into making these devices. What's perhaps most interesting is the reactions to the two videos. The Apple one seems unremarkable, but Microsoft's is genuinely exciting.
The question is: why? It could be a result of over-familiarity with Jony Ive videos, which follow a familiar cadence but are so unchanging they almost slip into self-parody. It could be that Microsoft's video is just better — the music pushes all sorts of emotional buttons, and we get to see the Studio and its peripherals just do more. But there might also be a larger issue with brand. Both companies seem like they're repositioning themselves; with Microsoft pushing into the professional creative market, and Apple moving the MBP more mainstream (e.g. emoji on the Touch Bar). The former move is, to me at least, more exciting.