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The new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is out and Microsoft is hoping that they have a winner on their hands. It’s a sweet piece of technology, to be sure, with a 12-inch screen and a Core i3 processor for the base model, but, like previous Surface models, it’s unlikely to experience the same level of success as Apple’s iPad. Why is this?
No matter where your tech loyalties lie, you can’t deny the crazy success of Apple’s iPad over the past four years–selling over 200 million units. There has to be something more to it than the performance of the iPad’s hardware (especially when Microsoft’s Surface Pro models have more power under the hood), and consumers are too smart to buy iPads by the crate just because it has an Apple logo stamped on it (or at least we hope so). We think the success that the iPad has seen over Microsoft’s tablet offerings has to do with the differences in the way the two products are designed and used.
The most noticeable distinction between Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface Pro is that Apple is really comfortable with the iPad just being a tablet, while Microsoft has taken the angle with its Surface Pro to make it less like a tablet and more like a laptop. If one was to compare the hardware between the two products, one would think that the tablet-as-a-laptop angle should work out nicely in Microsoft’s favor because they’re offering a more heavy-duty product. However, here’s the problem; if a consumer wants a laptop, they will buy a laptop.
The reverse can be said about tablet shoppers looking for a tablet. Apple knows this, which is why they worked hard to design their iPad and their MacBook to be so different from each other. By doing this, Apple has a greater chance of selling the consumer both an iPad and a MacBook. Whereas the tablet-as-a-laptop angle taken by Microsoft with the Surface Pro means that, if you buy a Surface Pro, then you have no reason to also purchase a laptop, and vica versa.
Apple’s strategy with the iPad requires the development of apps and software specifically for the iPad. This way, it can stand on its own feet, and after more than four years of developing iPad exclusive software, iPad has a strong foundation to continue to find popularity with consumers–this despite the fact that overall mobile device sales appear to finally be leveling off after experiencing a five-year boom.
Looking to the future, it appears as though Apple’s mobile device strategy has set themselves up for more profits, seeing that iOS users significantly outspend the users of others devices. Christmas Day 2013 is an example of this with 23% of all online sales coming from iOS devices. The nearest mobile competitor was Andriod with 4.6%, and Windows RT, Microsoft’s mobile-exclusive OS designed to be more in line with Apple’s tablet-as-a-tablet approach, didn’t even make a dent in online sales.
Come to think of it, isn’t it odd that you rarely hear anything these days from the Microsoft camp about Windows RT? Microsoft has yet to officially pull the plug on Windows RT, but their lack of marketing for it and their increased efforts to promote Surface Pro as a tablet/laptop hybrid is pretty much a death sentence as far as RT goes. For Microsoft, the addition and promotion of Windows RT was too-little too-late in light of the huge gains made by iPad.
Additionally, Microsoft’s big marketing push to sell Surface Pro as a fully operational Windows 8 tablet created confusion in the market due to shoppers assuming that every Microsoft-made tablet had full Windows 8 capabilities. This led to disappoint after the consumer found out that the Surface tablet they were considering (because of its low price) was equipped with Windows RT, and they would have to pay more and upgrade to Surface Pro in order to get the heavily-touted Windows 8 tablet-as-a-laptop experience.
When the tablets from both Microsoft and Apple are compared side-by-side, it is here that the rubber hits the road and the user will find out firsthand that the iPad is designed for a full touch-screen experience, while the Surface Pro still requires its users to carry a keyboard or stylus, due mostly because of their attempt to be a hybrid-laptop.
Galen Gruman from InfoWorld explains how this breaks down:
The biggest problem is Windows. The operating system and its applications are designed to use a keyboard and a mouse at a foundational level. You simply need those devices. Microsoft knows that, of course, which is why it has often bundled pens with its tablets as mouse surrogates and why it has more recently offered the Type Cover snap-on keyboard, an accessory that’s optional only in name. What those accessories leave you with, of course, is a laptop. All Microsoft has done is deconstruct the laptop into several pieces you have to reassemble to work properly.
When shopping for a tablet, a user that comes across the Surface Pro with its optional-yet-necessary detachable keyboard may think to themselves, “Maybe I should just get a laptop, like an Ultrabook or a Macbook Air.” Point Apple.
Based on the fundamental differences between the two devices, it doesn’t seem likely that the Surface Pro 3 will pull Microsoft ahead of Apple in the tablet battle, at least not for this round. But hey, for all you Microsoft enthusiasts out there, the tech world is full of surprises and upsets are always possible.
We (and a lot of users) love the idea of an all-in-one mobile device that runs all of our everyday applications that we’re used to on our PCs and laptops. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the Surface Pro 3, and it even impresses in many areas, but it’s still got a ways to go before it inundates the tablet market quite like Apple has with its iPad.
Microsoft versus Apple, where do your loyalties lie? Or do you enjoy watching the battle rage between the tech giants from the sidelines of the Android camp? Share with us your thoughts in the comments!