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Microsoft is making a play for Apple's base of creatives

Designers and other artsy types have long gravitated toward Macs, but Microsoft is hoping to change that.
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During today's Surface event Microsoft executives used the word "creative" tens of thousands of times. Sure, they talked about using Word, Excel and Powerpoint as a way to achieve these artistic goals, but at the core the company that's traditionally filled meetings with large spreadsheets and bullet-pointed mission statements is going after the designers of the world. The question is: Why?

By all accounts the Surface Pro and Surface Book are solid computers. They'll fit right into any Windows-centric home or office with their fancy pen and detachable displays. But wander down to the local coffee shop and you'll be hard pressed to see the company's hardware. A majority of the computers being used to write scripts, update web pages, create logos and compose songs are MacBooks. The Apple logo has been associated with artists for decades. Microsoft wants its logo on those machines creating content.

"Creatives" (ugh that word) form bonds with the machines that help them produce their work. That MacBook becomes their favorite paint brush or pencil. The attachment these folks have with Apple products kept the company afloat (barely) in the 90s. It's an illogical love for a piece of hardware that I myself succumbed too when I was a designer in the late 90s.

Microsoft was about work. Apple was about art. Art is cool, work is not.

You can argue the merits of the competing operating systems until you're blue in the face. But to designers and artists, Apple was and still is the obvious winner.

That dedication and evangelism not only kept Apple alive during its darkest hours, but it helped propel the company to become a tech juggernaut. Everyone wants to be cool and picking up few Apple products is a great way to show that you were one of the "crazy ones" ready to change your mindset to "think different."

Microsoft and especially CEO Satya Nadella wants that sort of devotion for their products. They want to be loved. In fact at the Windows 10 event in 2015 Nadella said, "we want people to love Windows on a daily basis," and "we wanna make Windows 10 the most loved release of Windows."

To get that love -- or at least a very strong like -- it's focusing on the computer users that make the deepest attachments to their tools: creatives aka the "cool kids." They need them to show up to the coffee shops carrying a Surface Book to work on a client's logo. It needs a creative director to guide clients over to a Surface Studio to walk them through the design of their site.

It's human nature to want to be like the coolest person you know. If your job is working on mundane spreadsheets all day, the fashionista with the Surface Book looks like the awesomest person in the world. You might not be able to pull off the duds or the do, but you sure as hell can buy a computer to be cool.

That's all Microsoft wants. It wants you to think you're cool when you buy its products because it's achieved that status in the eyes of artists. These hip new users probably won't do much for the company's bottom line (remember Apple almost died when all it had were the cool kids), but it'll give it some much needed counter-culture clout. And if you happen to fall in love with a piece of metal and plastic and tell all your friends about your latest symphony, that's even better.

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