Surface vs iPad comparisons inevitable, but foolish in the end

Jun 21, 2012
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Surface vs iPad comparisons inevitable, but foolish in the end

Let's have a bit of a chat on why the Microsoft Surface tablets revealed this past week have no place being compared to the iPad. Pundits will be required to speak up on how Microsoft has very possibly created this Surface device to compete with the dominant device in the so-called tablet market, but there's one glaring mistake that you'll see made over and over again: the assumption that the Surface can utilize the iTunes app store.

Wait a second, you might be saying, why on earth would anyone think that the Microsoft Surface would be able to download apps, or for that matter music, movies, and whatever else Apple has in their store in the future? The point is not that the Surface wont be able to reach the iTunes store, it's that there is only one iTunes store, and one Apple ecosystem.

The iPad isn't just popular because it's 9.4mm thin, not just because it has a "Retina" display, or long battery life. The iPad is selling better than any tablet computer today because it is not a tablet, it's an iPad. The Microsoft Surface, you may have noticed, does not use the word "tablet" or anything like it in its brand name. Unfortunately Microsoft does use the word "tablet" in their product description, and will be pushing the device directly into the pile of tablets already on the market, and about to be on the market running Windows 8 as well.

This week I wrote a column about why the Surface is being set up for a fail. The column you're reading right now is another article about why the Surface is being set up for a fail - and this time let's get a bit more specific.

The Surface is quite clearly what Microsoft's Windows 8 user interface was designed for. If you've used the early versions of the OS on a non-touchscreen device, you know good and well that it was not intended to be utilized there. This device attempts to keep the functionality of a notebook with its keyboard flap cover whilst remaining thin enough to surpass the cool factor of the ultrabook. Because this device cannot successfully sit on one's lap, the world will have to change for the device - if Microsoft can convince us all to do this, congratulations to them.

But back to the iPad: is the Surface an iPad competitor? I don't think so. If Apple released something with the same specifications and had called it the iPad Surface - you never know, people probably would have bought it over the iPad. But people will still buy the iPad if they've always wanted an iPad, and people who want a Windows device will consider the Surface if they're in the market for a small computer that also just happens to be a tablet.


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