What the New Microsoft Surface Means for the iPad

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.

So what does the new Microsoft Surface announcement mean for the iPad?

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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).

Microsoft-Surface-Windows-Tablet-745x559-7897c4fb9d6b5a95

The Microsoft Surface certainly takes its styling cues from the iPad.

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.

microsoft-surface-tablet-2

The magnesium casing is impressive as is the magnetic keyboard cover.

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.

Conclusions

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.


  • Manuel

    This article was hilariously biased. And I own an iPad.

    “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.”

    - It’s called strategy and adaptation, not the “trying to be like Apple” syndrome the fanboys so much like to claim.

    “Almost immediately I’ve run into a problem with the Surface. Why have two variants?”

    - They have 2 variants. iPad has 2*3. You keep generalizing as the “Apple approach” so should I also dwell on their range of MBP for example?

    “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.”

    - Is this a joke? Have you looked at the latest numbers in the smartphone market and how iOS is being crushed by Android?

    In the end it’s simple. iOS is severely outdated and behind in innovation in comparison with Android or Windows 8. Apple’s competition is now based on hardware and the popularity it has gained. The Surface is one generation ahead of iPad when it comes to innovation and vision; the Nexus 7 tablet has a price tag of 200$ while still managing to get a quad-core chip inside. So you ask yourself if Apple is in trouble? I’d say yes, very. However, your whole article reeks of bias so I doubt you can see it. And I repeat, I’m a proud owner of iPad 3.

    • Dave

      I couldn’t agree more with what you said. This article is horribly biased, you can tell right at the outset when he says “Coca Cola has Pepsi, Ferrari has Lamborghini, and Apple has Microsoft and Google”
      For a start, Microsoft lead on OS and unit sales and hold a 90+% marketshare when it comes to OS. Yes, they may be behind when it comes to tablets, but really, I wouldn’t say that either are clear leaders or followers. Google is top of it’s game when it comes to web/search and their mobile offerings are, as you say, destroying the iPhone.
      I also want to add to what you said that Microsoft were the ones who offered the first usable tablets in the 1990s, Granted, their offering was lame but they were still ahead of the curve.

      Finally, Microsoft aren’t underestimating apple, they just don’t seem to care about them. Yes, they are trying to create a competing product, but firstly, this product isn’t an iPad clone at all, it is far, far, FAR superior in every way Secondly, a huge amount of features that the iPad doesn’t have are packed into a very neat case, which I would say looks better than an iPad any day. Thirdly, Apple don’t own the rights to style, no matter how much this dude wants to believe they do. Stop being bitter that apple are feeling the pressure because they have been negligent. Tim Cook is a poor man’s Steve Jobs and the company are of course going to feel the effects.

    • http://digitalm.co Ken Thompson

      Umm…AppStorm: iPad. Of course it’s biased.

    • Oliver de Looze

      Thank you for your feedback.

      When I mentioned that Microsoft are looking to emulate Apple’s success, I was merely referring to the fact that Microsoft have now adopted the approach of producing their own hardware. Whilst this may be ‘strategy and adaptation’ it also happens to be the same business model that Apple has adopted. The point was not that Microsoft are ‘trying to be like Apple’, but that they perhaps see Apple’s business model advantageous in the pursuit of increasing revenue. This was the main point here.

      In addition, Android users may well exceed iOS users, this would naturally be expected since many manufacturers (HTC, Samsung etc) run Android OS but only Apple manufactured devices run iOS – total devices sold through a number of manufacturers will easily exceed devices sold from one manufacturer. Whilst you may disagree, since the iPhone was released numerous devices have been touted as iPhone killers, yet 5 years later the iPhone still exists and still enjoys a wide user base.

      I hope this clears a few points up.

  • http://twitter.com/DarylGriffiths Daryl Griffiths

    I think in the minds of consumers it’ll come down to price between Microsoft and apple – google are the ones to be worried by this more than apple.

  • http://finkaboutit.com Alex

    I don’t get how people can afford to have (several) iPads. Those are so expensive, if you are not willing to take a phone contract.

    • Dilbert Asended

      Why would you need “a phone contract” for an iPad?

      You can get a first gen iPad for a little over $200 these days.

      Nothing you said makes any sense.

  • Mikemick

    It seems like MS is using the industry terms for their resolution. Full being 1920×1080, and normal being 1280×720. Considering that this is (or has been used) in every single consumer space dealing with video, it doesn’t seem like they are being secretive about their resolution to me.

    As far as the effect on iPads, I’m not sure. Its interesting to see someone try to make a more capable tablet and sell it for more than the iPad. Traditionally people assume Apple products are of higher quality and more expensive than Microsoft based products. Itll be fun seeing what happens when Mircrosoft tries to flip roles on them, by releasing a seemingly more powerful tablet and nearly double the price (in reference to the pro). Kind of a smart move making seemingly a smart version and a dumbed down version. The dumbed down version competes with the iPad. It makes the pro really seem better.

  • Danilo

    Zune’s brother…

    • Mr. Hilarious

      … Zune died young :)

  • http://cansurmeli.com C@N

    As an Apple fancier I find Surface to be a decent product for Microsoft customers who are looking into switching to Windows 8. We’ll see how it really performs when it’s in the wild.

    I think Microsoft produced Surface just to lead it’s OEMs. They knew that they weren’t doing a good enough job when it comes to competing with Apple. Yeah, they’d some good products but just look at the current situation.

    I’m not saying that Surface will make a huge dent in Apple since Apple’s products works really well & plays well with it’s ecosystem, but it will surely be a good choice for Windows 8 customers.

  • Joe Doe

    This is quite interesting. In the same vein as C@N, wasn’t I an Apple fancier this would get me so excited right now. The “power” of Windows on a tablet.
    I think they took too long.

    Hopefully this will be a great gadget that will bring a lot of happiness to Windows users.

    • John Jansen

      I think you mean the “overhead” of windows on a tablet.

      At the end of the day it will be software that wins this, hardware won’t even get a look in.

      If it turns out that a tablet pretending to be a laptop (with questionable ergo-dynamics) is more generally acceptable than a tablet designed to be a tablet, i for one will be surprised.

      I get the real sense of a complete reluctance to let go of the past (on the part of MS).

      When you really look at the productivity advantages of the surface, there would be only 2 possibilities. 1) buying a MS branded keyboard for your tablet is better than an aftermarket one for iPad AND therefore improves your typing speed. 2) MS Office never appears on iPad and is significantly better (from a productivity point of view) than Pages (which never gets reviewed, but should).

      There is the possibility of a third (being the trackpad) but with that comes a cursor. I don’t know about you but i can’t wait to see how this thing works without a keyboard. Maybe you drag your finger across the screen to move the cursor and then tap ;-) JOKE, but you never know with MS ….

  • takondwa

    the ipad is like no other but only the keyboard as compared to the surface is my worry lets try and see the surface …

  • Zhai

    IF I didn’t already have the iPad 3 + ton accessories and apps, I would possibly consider this as an option if the Surface Pro was a similar price to the iPad. My choice would also be based on Win 8 being any good, as a windows user at home it would be nice to have the cross accessibility.

    But then again I DO have an iPad so I doubt I will jump ship after all I have put into making my iPad work for me (which isn’t as hard as people make it out to be)

    • Zhai

      *or it would possibly replace my laptop depending on what it can do*

  • a8650224

    As a windows working NB user like me, I think surface makes the working NB smaller n portabler, it’s not so bad if my company gets me one in the future.
    Many sales visit customers with an ipad now, and we know it’s not that easy to work on EXCEL or anything like that, it’s just easy for viewing.
    All that I need for working on Surface is a big sub-screen in office then I can throw away my NB. I would say that Surface is a new competitor to mac air or ultra-book instead of iPad.
    For personal usage, I love iPad for the smooth iOS n tons of apps for my life, not working. And for those two points, I can not see anything better from windows 8, so, good luck Surface pro, I hope u r good enough to sell in the commercial market, a small part of iPad market share.

  • NaviYmmurc

    Surface looks impressive but unless Microsoft has an answer for iTunes and the App Store they can hang it up. A new tablet only scratches the “surface”.

  • MIghty Mac

    Why with keyboard???? It more to Notebook. Do you need to carry around those keyboard up and down, here and there all the time??? Let Tablet being a tablet.

  • John Simpson

    The author should try and at least make an effort to hide his obvious bias. Any reason why an article about a new Microsoft product spends more time discussing Apple? I hope they’re paying you ; otherwise it’s foolish to work for free. In any case, we have a truly innovative product here. A true computer in tablet form not just a toy tablet Apple sells. A computer with all the power of Windows and true multitasking not just the limited Apple version of it. The versions offered cater to personal and business users. The touch keyboard is brilliant. Finally we have a keyboard one can do some serious work on. Good job MS; Apple should be worried. There`s a reason MS owes 90% of the computer market.

  • Cassidoo

    So yeah, the author’s totally biased.

    BUT I must say, the Surface isn’t just for competing with the iPad. It’s going to be the thing that brings the best of laptops and tablets together. As a college student I would love to take my iPad or my Android tablet (yes I have both for programming purposes) to class and use it like I could a laptop. But they simply weren’t made for that. They have some apps available for word processing and alarms and stuff, but they aren’t nearly as serious as the Surface appears to be. I’m totally pumped for the surface to come out just because I want to have a portable and light touch device available to me while still maintaining the power of a laptop. I don’t want to have to type on a screen or bring an external keyboard just to write down class notes. Etc.

    Anyway, TL;DR, I think that the Surface will be GREAT around campus because it brings out the best of both tablets and PCs, not just because it’s competing with the iPad.

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