But, again, even though it's difficult, I need to suspend the comparisons between the two companies. On its own, Microsoft -- as a brick-and-mortar retail proposition -- stinks. Walk into one of its stores. The only thing that looks like it makes any actual sense (or money) is Xbox. Microsoft really doesn't feature its other success story, Office, much at all. So you're stuck with a bunch of these Surface tablets and random laptops. Microsoft's mounting of a copycat of Apple's retail blueprint is embarrassing enough; it's even worse that it does so with a wholly unprepared product line. When you're in a Microsoft store, read the expressions on the faces of people who stumble upon a Surface tablet. They're really not sure what the darn thing is. That's Microsoft's fault. The company has done a horrendous job marketing the product. Creepy commercials featuring young ladies in schoolgirl outfits with this half tablet/half laptop thing flopping across the screen doesn't cut it. What's it for? Why does it matter? Why should I spend my money on this thing instead of an iPad? Microsoft can't answer these questions. Steve Ballmer does not have suitable answers. Microsoft is unprepared because he's unprepared. As such, the customer comes into contact with the Surface tablet unprepared. Microsoft marketing -- in the media, in stores and on billboards should focus on Microsoft's few strengths. Instead, the advertisement outside of the above-pictured pop-up store says "Click In," a reference to the keyboard you can take on and off of a Surface tablet. If that catches your attention, Microsoft loses you the second you play with what is, stated kindly, a flimsy feeling device. Microsoft has two differentiators it should use to set the Surface tablet apart -- Xbox and Office. For some strange reason, Ballmer takes the opposite approach. If you didn't follow these things, you might not even know that Xbox is a Microsoft product. You sure as heck wouldn't know that it kicks the crap out of everybody in the living room, including Apple.