Throughout history, as long as there have been market leaders there have been competitors, that’s just how it goes – Coca Cola has Pepsi, Ferrari has Lamborghini, and Apple has Microsoft and Google. With regard to the tablet market the recently announced Microsoft Surface tablets (Surface and Surface Pro) could be the first truely serious contenders from Microsoft who are looking for a slice of the extremely lucrative market practically created by Apple’s ever-dominant iPad.
How Does It Compare?
The Microsoft branded Surface tablets mark Microsoft’s move from being more software orientated to being a player in the hardware market, in what can only be described as a blatant way to emulate the success of Apple.
Just like Apple with its products, Microsoft have been secretive about the Surface tablets and at present only a little concrete information exists about them. The standard Surface tablet has been announced to weigh 676g, making it slightly heavier than the iPad’s 650g. The screen will be larger at 10.6″ rather than 9.7″ seen on the iPad and it will be 0.1mm thinner at 9.3mm (however the Surface Pro is rumoured to be thicker than the iPad).
The Surface Pro will have an Intel Core i5 “Ivy Bridge” processor under the hood while the standard Surface will have Nvidia Tegra CPUs. The Surface Pro will run a full version of Windows 8 Pro with support for Microsoft Office (a big plus) while the Surface will run a “mobilized version” called Windows RT. Screens will be slightly different between the two with the Surface Pro having a Full HD ClearType 16:9 aspect ratio screen with the Surface’s screen being an HD ClearType 16:9 screen (I’m not entirely sure what difference omitting the “Full” will have on the quality of the Surface screen – Ed. Microsoft has been extremely coy about the screen resolution).
Almost immediately I’ve run into a problem with the Surface. Why have two variants? If Microsoft truly wanted to copy Apple’s business approach to tablets (and all existing evidence would suggest they do), then why haven’t they “gone Apple” and offered us one spec of Tablet with say a choice of how much storage you’d like?
I think Microsoft would have been better just producing and selling the higher specced Surface Pro.
This way, they hit the tablet market with everything they’ve got in one go and they avoid potential low sales of the lower specced model as a result of the “I have to have the best” attitude that many consumers have.
I have to admit, though, that photos of the Surface are very impressive. The “VaporMG” magnesium casing looks very cool and the magnetic “Touch Cover” keyboard/cover combo is without doubt the most impressive feature of the Surface. If there is going to be any feature that could switch iPad users to the Surface, this keyboard cover will most probably be it. In all honesty though I’ve never had a problem with on screen keyboards and the iPad’s is very easy to use and serves its purpose well, however I do know people who find the iPad keyboard hard to use (my Mum for example) and for these people the keyboard could well be a huge lure for them.
Microsoft have even announced a slightly thicker “Type Cover” that promises to resemble the feel of a true keyboard, which Microsoft no doubt hopes will allow Surface to capture some of the laptop market.
So back to the question in hand. What will the Surface tablets mean for the iPad?
My gut feeling is “not much”. We’ve all heard the phrases “iPhone killer” and “iPad killer” used in abundance since iPhones and iPads were released, yet they still dominate the smartphone and tablet markets respectively.
My flatmate duly informed me last year when he bought a Motorola Xoom tablet that his new purchase was sure to be an “iPad killer”, yet here we are 18 months later and he’s now on his second iPad. However, until Microsoft’s lastest offering is released and pricing announced there is no way anybody can say for sure what effects the Surface will have on the iPad although I’d be willing to bet that the iPad will still be very much alive and kicking this time next year.
Whilst Microsoft’s Surface looks to be a very impressive in terms of both design and specs, Microsoft should not underestimate the astounding popularity of Apple products. If I bought all my products based on value and specifications then I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this on a MacBook. Obviously prices of the Surface tablets are yet to be announced but anything more expensive than an iPad and I think that Microsoft will be setting themselves up for a flop. However elusive and trite it may sound, I guess at the moment it’s just “cooler” to own an iPad. What do you think the Surface means for the iPad? Leave your comments below.