Most businesses are fond of animalistic aphorisms. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world.” “Eat or be eaten.” But new ads for Office 365 (opens in new tab) that criticize Office 2019 makes it seem like Microsoft would rather chomp on its own tail than compete with other companies.
The ads in question pit Office 365 and Office 2019 users against each other in productivity contests. The user with Office 365 always wins by miles, compared to the person who "just had Office 2019."
The kindest way of looking at these ads would be to say that Microsoft doesn’t even consider Google Docs, Apple’s iWork and similar offerings as true competitors to Office. It’s like breathing: yeah, there are many elements in the air, but most aren’t even worth discussing because oxygen is the most vital.
But this ad-ouroboros is unsettling because it sees Microsoft portray one of its products as, well, bad. The ads make it clear that the company doesn’t want you to buy Office 2019—a product it made and named after the current year—because it’s outdated. The company isn’t necessarily wrong, considering it released Office 2019 back in 2018. And because Office 365 is subscription-based, it gets constant updates, but there’s no guarantee those updates will be released for Office 2019. And that’s ignoring the advantages Office 365 has as a web-based service over the native version.
Yet the only way for Office 2019 to become outdated, and the only way for it to lack features compared to Office 365, is for Microsoft to neglect the platform. Does the company expect to be praised for selling a product it thinks is inferior, or portraying the people who use that product as worse off?
A blog post (opens in new tab) this week by Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jared Spataro reads: “On the flipside, Office 2019 also delivers full installs of the Office apps we know and love—but they’re ‘frozen in time.’ They don’t ever get updated with new features, and they’re not cloud-connected. Also, Office 2019 doesn’t support real-time coauthoring across apps, and it doesn’t have the amazing AI-powered capabilities that come with Office 365.”
Look, we aren’t saying we want to see a couple dogs eat each other. But at least that metaphor aptly portrays the idea that people and businesses have to be ruthless in their competition with each other. Microsoft applied that ruthlessness to itself.