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Microsoft exec savages Apple's 'struggling, lightweight' tools

Doug Gross, CNN
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at a 2012 event rolling out a new version of the company's Office software.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at a 2012 event rolling out a new version of the company's Office software.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Microsoft VP: "Reality distortion field" surrounds Apple this week
  • Vice President Frank Shaw calls Apple tools "struggling, lightweight"
  • This week, Apple announced iWork will be offered for free

(CNN) -- A Microsoft executive took to the tech giant's official blog Wednesday to take an uncharacteristically direct shot at rival Apple.

"Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino," wrote Frank Shaw, Microsoft's vice president of communications. "So let me try to clear some things up."

Shaw was referring to coverage of Apple's rollout of two new iPads -- the iPad Air and revamped iPad Mini -- and other announcements. Among them was news that the company will begin giving away its iWork suite of productivity apps for free.

"Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it's hardly that surprising or significant a move," Shaw said. "So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don't see a shot across our bow. I see an attempt to play catch up."

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Apple did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Shaw is pressing one of Microsoft's remaining advantages over its rival. While Apple has dominated the mobile field and made strides in computer sales, Microsoft Office -- which includes tools like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype -- is still viewed as the far superior productivity product by most.

The "reality distortion field" Shaw referenced is a catchphrase often used by Apple critics to describe the sometimes breathless coverage the company gets in the tech press and elsewhere for even minor announcements or upgrades to existing products.

"Perhaps attendees at Apple's event were required to work on iOS devices that don't allow them to have two windows open for side-by-side comparisons," he said in another dig.

Shaw went on to compare Microsoft's tablets, the Surface and Surface 2, favorably to the iPad. He noted that the Surface tablets are less expensive than comparable iPad models, offer more storage and come with full versions of Office 2013 for free.

His claims are accurate. But they don't change the fact that the Surface has struggled to make a splash in a tablet market that the iPad continues to dominate.

Earlier this month, documents revealed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saw a bonus check docked because of lower than expected Surface sales.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday's event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that 170 million iPads have been sold since the device was introduced in 2010. He said studies show 81% of all tablet usage happens on an iPad, despite recent gains by Samsung and others making tablets running Google's Android operating system.

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