Microsoft has another one of those negative advertising campaigns, but instead of going after its usual foe Apple, Microsoft's attack-hungry marketing department has transformed Samsung and the uber-popular Galaxy S III into its latest tech enemy — just another indication that Apple's no longer king of the smartphone makers. In the major new spot for the Windows OS-running Nokia Lumia 920, which will air during March Madness and which you can watch below, some Microsoft guy proves to a nice couple in a "challenge" that their Galaxy S III takes "bad smartphone photos." It's a relatively minor dig at the most popular Samsung phone, but the Galaxy S III is not known for poor camera performance — CNET puts it in third place in a comparison test after the iPhone 5 and HTC One X, writing that "the Galaxy S3 turns out very good pictures, too, but they're not as usable at larger sizes." Of course, the insult itself doesn't really matter — the competition does. Microsoft seems to be signaling some sort of ascendance by Samsung: It scares Microsoft more than Apple in the phone market.
When it comes to marketing, companies attack up. Samsung, for example, put out those fanboy ads to take down Apple. (And they worked!) Looking at Microsoft's past, it's always gone on offense against the top competition — just never against Samsung. Back in 2009, Microsoft entered the computer-ad war against Apple head-on, but only after Apple had dethroned it with those famous PC-vs.-Mac guy ads. Realizing it no longer enjoyed personal-computer dominance, Microsoft hired its own PC guy. That upset a lot Apple fanboys — and got the attention of Apple, which immediately put out ads mocking Microsoft for spending dollars on advertising instead of fixing its much maligned Vista OS. Then Microsoft went on to play bully on the other side of its business, making Google a punching bag with its very aggressive Scroogled campaign. But, Samsung? No, the South Korean gadget maker of the moment has never felt the ire of a Microsoft... because it was never in the right position.
So maybe Samsung should feel honored; it has enough threat potential to land itself on the receiving end of an attack ad. Not that it's outranked Apple, necessarily. Microsoft only has to attack up and it doesn't have the same leverage as it did during the great PC-Mac war of the aughts. So perhaps, in this case, the Windows mobile operating system powering the Nokia Lumia is a mass-audience, low-cost grab at the March Madness crowd, trying to steal slightly less formidable competition. We are talking about the Nokia Lumia, after all — it hasn't sold very well, topping out 4.4 million units worldwide. The Galaxy S III has moved 40 million units, which was enough to challenge Apple briefly but not enough to dominate the smartphone market. Launching a negative campaign against Apple's phone would be too ridiculous right now, and Microsoft has lost that battle before. Samsung, however, may be within Microsoft's fighting reach:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.