Talking tech since 2003

Microsoft’s campaign to part Apple users from their devices continues, as the company has launched a new trade-in promotion for old iPhones. The deal is simple: all you have to do is bring in your old iPhone 4S or iPhone 5, and you’ll get a gift card for the Microsoft store with a minimum $200 credit that you can use on—what else?—a new Windows Phone. The “you” in that equation, of course, refers to the “mythical iPhone user who wants $200 from Microsoft.”

I’m being slightly facetious here. There are definitely going to be lots of people who wouldn’t mind $200 from Microsoft, especially considering that the promotion is good for more than simply a Windows Phone. The credit will entitle users to $200 worth of anything at the Microsoft Store, meaning that you can use it on a new Xbox 360 or an Xbox One when that comes out in late November. The brilliant twist (or fatal flaw, depending on  your perspective) is that there are definitely going to be lots and lots of users looking to unload their old iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 handsets, what with the new iPhone 5s and 5c models that came out last week. So, sure, lots of people are done with those old phones—but that’s mainly because they’ve already bought the newest iPhone.

In short, no one is going to take that $200 credit and get a Windows Phone. The offer expires on November 3, and takes its cues from an extremely similar iPad trade-in offer from two weeks ago. In all, it’s not a bad move on Microsoft’s part in terms of getting people into its stores and considering its products for the first time. On the other hand, it basically confirms people’s opinions about the company’s devices: that they’re worth less than Apple’s (or simply worthless).

Here’s Microsoft’s sales pitch, essentially: “Hey, give us that old device you don’t want anymore and we’ll trade you for this brand new one that nobody’s buying!” As far as economics are concerned, it’s tough to beat, but the damage to consumers’ perceptions of Microsoft’s gadgets is pretty huge. I’d be surprised if the promotion managed to convert any Apple fans—but it’s possible.

And with my criticisms out of the way, I also have to admit that I have no idea what else Microsoft should do to compete with Apple’s hold on the hearts and minds of its consumers. Other than “be Apple,” there isn’t much Microsoft can do other than try to lure customers in with crazy deals like this. And if there’s one thing Microsoft will never be, it’s Apple.

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