As you probably already know, Microsoft held a big event in LA to unveil their future iPad competitor called the Microsoft Surface. The Surface is definitely a closer competitor to the iPad than the Kindle Fire or the new Google Nexus 7 tablet, both aimed at the lower-end market. For high-end tablets, the iPad and Surface are at the top of the pack. So will the Surface prove to be a real competitor to the iPad or not?
The coolest part (yes, cool and Microsoft used in the same sentence) of the Surface is definitely the Touch Cover. This is totally something Apple should have come out with way before Microsoft, but they didn’t. And now Microsoft has a very useful cover that also is a fully-functional keyboard and touchpad. But first, let’s talk about just the specs.
Operating System – Windows RT for Surface, Windows 8 Pro for Surface Pro, and iOS 5 for Apple iPad.
Display – 10.6 HD Display (1920×1080) for Surface, 9.7 inch 2048×1536 display for iPad
Processor - Nvidia Tegra for Surface, Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge for Surface Pro, Dual-core A5 for iPad
Weight - 676g for Surface, 903g for Surface Pro, 656g for iPad
Thickness – 9.3mm for Surface, 13.5mm for Surface Pro, 9.4mm for iPad
Ports – (microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video for Surface), (microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video for Surface Pro), Micro-SIM tray for iPad
Battery - 31.5 watt for Surface, 42 watt for Surface Pro, 42.5 watt for iPad
Apps – Surface will be have Office 15, but at additional cost most likely. iPad has AppStore.
Storage – 32, 64GB for Surface, 32, 64, 128GB for Surface Pro, 16, 32, 64GB for iPad
As you look over the specs, you can see there are definitely some plus points to the Surface over the iPad. It also depends on which version of the Surface you end up buying. As of now, Microsoft has not released any firm pricing yet, but the Surface said will be comparable to other similarly priced tablets and the Surface Pro will be comparable to similarly priced ultrabooks. So you’re probably talking around $500 or so for a Surface and closer to $1000 for a Surface Pro.
Even though that may sound high compared to the iPad, you also have to see that the iPad is running on a tablet OS with limited functionality. You still can’t multi-task on an iPad. The Surface Pro on the other hand will include a pretty much fully functional version of Windows 8 Professional. That’s a fairly significant difference in terms of usability.
And Microsoft is really making the Surface a tablet/computer mix. You have a USB port, a port to connect your tablet to an external monitor and a port for extra storage. The iPad has a micro-SIM port and that’s it. It’s not very useful for most people unless you have a 3G or 4G iPad. Which brings me to one downside of the Surface, there is currently no 3G or 4G connection option. This may change later, but at this point, it’s going to be a WiFi only device. That’s not a huge deal for me, as I end up using the iPad in places where there is always a WiFi connection.
Another point is that the iPad is mostly used as a consumption device: games, movies, music, etc. The Surface will be a much more serious device where you can actually get work done. Yes, you can buy third-part stands, keyboards, etc for the iPad and download apps that let you create docs, etc, but it requires additional accessories and it’s definitely not ideal. Do you think a financial analyst would use Numbers on the iPad or use Excel 15 on the Surface? You get my point.
The big plus for the Surface is Windows 8. It’s definitely a lot nicer looking on a tablet than iOS 5. There is no iPad start screen or anything. It’s just a bunch
For someone like me, who needs to create, but also loves to consume, having both devices would be ideal. I personally plan on buying the Surface and using it for more intensive tasks like writing blog posts, managing my financial accounts using Quicken, and programming. I love my iPad for watching movies, playing games, reading magazines, listening to music, checking Facebook, etc.
If you have to choose one over the other, it basically comes down to whether you want to consume more or be more productive. Apple has a huge selection of apps that Microsoft is nowhere near touching any time soon. They also have tons of media via iTunes. Microsoft has xBox, but it still doesn’t have as much content as iTunes. And everything syncs between your iPad and your other Apple devices like the iPhone or MacBook. The Apple ecosystem is very well-built and makes using the iPad a real joy.
The Surface can turn out great if people and developers jump on board, but with any first-generation device, you never really know. You’ll be putting a lot of money down for something that is basically a Windows PC shrunk down into a nice-looking tablet.
I’ve been jumping around points quite a bit in this article, so I’ll try to list out the pros and cons below.
Windows 8 – Better UI and functionality than iOS
Intel i5 processor on the Pro
Extra ports (USB, SD card, etc)
Productivity apps (Office 15, other apps from major companies designed for the Metro UI)
Surface Pro is a lot heavier
No 3G or 4G announced yet
Limited number of apps in the store
3G or 4G connectivity
Large number of apps
Large amount of media available via iTunes
Lots of accessories and third-party products to extend functionality
Well-connected ecosystem (Mac computers, iPhones, Apple TV, iTunes, iCloud, etc)
No keyboard included
Lacks full-fledged apps like Office
No flash support
No USB support, SD card reader, no external monitor connection
File management is non-existent
In summary, there really is no clear-cut answer as to which tablet you should buy. Depending on your budget, expected use and general like or dislike of Apple/Microsoft, your choice should become more clear. What’s your take? Which one would you buy?