iPad Air 2 Vs. Surface Pro 3: No Comparison - InformationWeek

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iPad Air 2 Vs. Surface Pro 3: No Comparison
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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 6:22:08 PM
Re: Stupid
bBob,


Thanks for the thoughtful comments.


Yes, I agree there's lots of overlap in iOS app store. But suppose that just 10% of those 450,000 apps is useful. That's still a pretty big number. What percentage of Windows Store Apps is useful compared to the percentage of iOS apps that's useful? What actual number of Windows Store Apps are useful? What actual number of iOS apps?

Which apps matter will vary by user, of course. For some users, there will be a few Modern apps that matter enough to move someone to a Windows tablet. For others, the tablet experience simply isn't as important as highly mobile access to legacy applications, so they buy a Windows hybrid because they "get" a tablet in the deal but "need" a "real" computer. But on the whole, if the Modern UI and iOS were interchangeable as mobile experiences, wouldn't a few more Windows tablets have sold? Wouldn't users download more Windows Store apps than they do? If the number of apps isn't relevant, then I'd argue that device usage and app revenue provide at least a bit more insight. Apple happens to be pretty dominant in both of these metrics, which suggests people are in fact using iOS apps (and presumedly finding value in them) at a much higher rate.

Just one example-- suppose you're a basketball coach who uses a connected basketball to help high school players improve. I know of iOS apps that do a pretty good job collecting this data and making it actionable. I don't know of Windows Store apps that do the same thing. That's just a random, niche example-- but it's also an example of a distinctly tablet use case, and one that the iPad does better (as far as I know) than Windows. Suppose you run CAD programs, which is generally more of a desktop thing, but you prefer the way you interact with models in the iOS UI. That doesn't make the iPad CAD program more powerful, but it makes it useful-- and at least for some users, even more useful than a desktop version.

I'm emphasizing Windows app store vs. iOS app store here because in terms of the tablet experience, we shouldn't include the Surface Pro 3's desktop capabilities. That's a different use case, and not one that really competes directly with the iPad Air's use cases. If someone wants desktop capabilities, I have to wonder why they're looking at an iPad Air in the first place. It can be a productive device, including in some ways that overlap with PCs-- but the experience of using a PC is different than the experience of using an iPad. Similarly, the experience of using a MacBook Air and iPad is different than the experience of using a Surface. I think Surface Pro 3's strengths overlap more closely with the MacBook Air's than with any iPad's.

That brings me to your second point, about things that an iPad can't do but that a Surface can. You bring up good points. All of those examples are among the Surface Pro 3's strengths. They're why I said it works best as a laptop but is lacking as a tablet. It's also why I said Surface Pro 3 and iPad Air 2 will be compared too easily. They're different devices with different strengths. Just comparing the two of them as "tablets with large screens," as some publications already have, is significantly conflating some meaningful distinctions.

All that said, it's a good time to be a customer, given how many options we have. You want a cheap tablet? Great, there are Windows and Android options galore, and the iPad Mini is now reaching fairly affordable levels. Want a quality "pure" tablet? Great, you've iPads, Samsung devices, and so on. Want a 2-in-1 device? I think the app gap is revelant, but some of the Broadwell-class Windows 2-in-1s are going to be beautiful peices of hardware. I don't think there's "one device to rule them all," which is why I find the Surface vs. iPad comparison a bit suspect. Different devices are good in different situations-- and we have more devices from which to choose than ever!
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 5:55:24 PM
Re: Stupid
@Seven,


Thanks for all the thoughts!


"The apps that currently don't exist on the surface aren't incapable of working and being polished on the surface, they just haven't been adapted for it. Similar to how Android was (and still is, in some cases) when it first started it's sprint to the top. Still, they CAN be ported over and are slowly doing so." That's true, but how slowly? With new mobile apps, Windows is a distant third in developer priority. If Windows takes too long to develop parity, what other advances will iOS and other competitors have made in the meantime?


Agree on the Surface stylus being a differentiating feature-- as you probably saw, in the article, I referenced the stylus as one of the non-laptop use cases in which the Surface Pro 3 is quite intriguing. USB is another worthwhile point that I probably should have mentioned explicitly, though it falls under the "Surface Pro 3 is most useful as a thin, light laptop" idea I advanced in the column.

Regarding Continuity-- yes, that's true, Windows 8.1 offers a lot of syncing across devices, as the article briefly mentions. The significance is ecosystem dependent, though I think the implementations are different enough for people to subjectively grow to prefer one more than the other.

Also agree that both devices are well-built. That was sort of the underlying idea of the column. I find it a bit questionable to compare the Surface Pro 3 and the iPad Air 2 because each is excellent in its own distinct way. One isn't necessarily better than the other. Different tools, different needs.

It's good to get your perspective as someone who's found the Surface useful as a tablet. I haven't, but it's not for lack of trying. As I mentioned, the app ecosystem is different, the touch UI is different, the ergonomics are different-- unless we're reducing the tablets to the point that functionality trumps experience, the devices offer too many differences to brush off. I like the Surface Pen a lot but otherwise use the Surface Pro 3 mostly as a laptop. I use the device a lot and the tablet experience still hasn't won me over. So while I continue to find Microsoft's hardware interesting and ambitious on the level of intended function. I agree that the Surface's kickstand is a nice touch that might sway some people's preference. Anyhow, my point isn't that the Surface can't be an acceptable tablet for a given person's need; it's that the Surface offers a different kind of tablet experience than the iPad, and that the rush to compare the two devices as "big-screened tablets" really undermines these substantial differences.

That said, I do think there's interest in an Apple 2-in-1 of some sort. As you point out, the interest around the rumored iPad Pro speaks to this idea. That said, I suspect some people are interested because they hope Apple will find a more elegant solution to hybridity.
Michael Endler
IW Pick
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 4:52:29 PM
Re: That app ...
It's free!
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 4:10:03 PM
That app ...
Michael, Any word on the cost of that video editing app? It sounds intriguing.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 3:41:19 PM
Good analogy
Nice anology by the writer: "comparisons between the Surface Pro 2 and the iPad Air 2 are misguided, somewhat like comparing a smart car to a station wagon."
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
10/17/2014 | 3:19:17 PM
Re: Stupid
"Is there anything you can do on an ipad that you cannot do on a surface?"

Well, there are at least 450,000 or so apps that you can run on an iPad that you can't run on a Surface. Among the apps that overlap between the two devices, some aren't as fully featured on Surface and some cost money while the iOS versions are free. You have LTE options with iPads that you don't have with any Surface but the Surface 2. iPads can sync with Macs in useful ways that Surfaces can't--e.g. Continuity. iPads are the only tablets that run iOS 8, which is a subjective distinction, but you're simply trolling if you think that just because you prefer the Modern UI, everyone must prefer the Modern UI.

In any case, I could keep going, but I think I've made my point: There's plenty that you can do on an iPad that you can't do on a Surface. You might not care about the distinctions-- but that's about your needs. Again, it's trolling to define devices purely in terms of what you think is important. All I said is that the Surface Pro 3 has uses that are mostly centered around its laptop mode and the pen, while iPads have a different set of uses. They're both excellent devices for certain needs. It just makes increasingly less sense for us to keep comparing them.

 


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