Since its debut back in 2009, the iPad has dominated the tablet market. At the time of writing this piece, the device holds around 55% of the market share in the United States. Rival tablets from the likes of Amazon, Samsung, and HTC have tried to do battle with it, but they’ve had very little impact on its success.
But there is one tablet that Apple will need to keep its eye on: Microsoft’s new Surface. It’s already being dubbed an “iPad killer” by some, and although we’re skeptical the Windows-powered slate will “kill” Apple’s device, there are a number of reasons why the “Pro” variant will have more of an impact than you think.
Like the iPad, the Surface was designed to look and feel great — like any premium device should. Microsoft learned a lesson from Apple, and from Android tablet manufacturers. It realized the only way to compete was to ensure the Surface was as beautiful and as distinctive as the iPad, and that building it out of cheap plastic just wasn’t going to cut it.
Microsoft realized the only way to compete with the iPad was to ensure the Surface was just as beautiful.
One Microsoft executive told The New York Times shortly after the Surface’s unveiling that the company was “stunned by how deeply Apple was willing to reach into the global supply chain to secure innovative materials for the iPad.” This is one of the reasons why it decided to take hardware matters into its own hands for the Surface. It knew other manufacturers weren’t willing to make the same bets Apple was making, and it had to step up.
But it’s what’s going on inside that magnesium shell that’s so important.
You see, it’s all about the apps. One of the reasons why the iPad is so incredibly popular isn’t just because it has great hardware, it’s because of Apple’s unparalleled ecosystem that puts the world’s best tablet software at your fingertips, as well as the world’s best mobile operating system. At least for now.
One of the reasons why the iPad is so popular is that it puts the world’s best tablet software at your fingertips.
Of course, you could argue that Android tablets have all that. But the problem is, they don’t. I’ve used Android extensively — I’ve worked with a ton of Android devices, and I have my own Samsung Galaxy Note that I use frequently. And while Android has some great apps for smartphones, its tablet selection still needs a lot of improvement.
As Tim Cook pointed out at the new iPad keynote earlier this year, a lot of tablet apps on Android are simply the smartphone versions expanded. They don’t take advantage of the larger display, they just get wider. Admittedly this can’t be said for all Android apps, but it can be said for a lot of them.
Check out the official Twitter for Android app below. This was updated just this week — on July 10 — so it’s a recent app. And the tablet version looks almost exactly the same as the smartphone version; there’s no dedicated user interface like there is on the iPad, it’s just expanded.
My point is, a lot of people choose iPads because they know they’re getting great software, which they can’t always get with an alternative tablet.
But soon that may not be the case. Why? Because Microsoft’s “Pro” Surface tablet — the one with the Intel Core i5 processor — runs real Windows 8, and brings the entire Windows experience to your palms. That may not mean much to you if you’re a diehard Mac user, but it’s huge if you use Windows.
The Surface will launch with access to the biggest software catalog in the world.
It means the Surface has access to every application your Windows PC has access to, and because developers are working to take advantage of the system’s new Metro user interface, they’re going to work great on your tablet. The Surface will launch with access to the biggest software catalog in the world, one that beats the App Store hands down. That catalog may not be all in one place like iOS software, but it certainly won’t be difficult to find the software you want. This is the first tablet that has this kind of advantage
You get the best of both worlds with a Surface: Metro apps designed to be used with touch when you’re sat in front of the TV and catching up with friends on Facebook. And legacy Windows apps when you need to edit that Powerpoint presentation for next week’s meeting, and you don’t want to do it with a watered-down version of Office that you’re not used.
This is the first tablet I could really see replacing my notebook, because it can do everything a notebook can, and just as well. I mean, I love my iPad and I don’t see it ever being completely replaced by another tablet. But for some things, it’s just not practical as it could be.
I’ve tried and tried to work from my iPad, but I just find it too difficult. I need to use three different apps just to edit an image and upload it to WordPress, and then I have to tackle WordPress itself on a browser that isn’t properly supported. I can multitask, but I can’t put two windows side-by-side when I need to see two things at the same time.
For a lot of people — especially those who use iPads with Windows PCs, who are already using Windows apps — this is going to be the reason why they’ll drop the iPad in favor of a Surface. The other will be flexibility and freedom.
You don’t need to jailbreak the Surface to run an application Microsoft doesn’t approve of.
Because the high-end Surface is running Windows 8, you can install whatever you want — just like you can on your desktop PC. You don’t need to jailbreak it first to run an application Microsoft doesn’t approve of, or to customize the way it looks and feels.
You can plug in a control pad and play games the way they were meant to be played, or plug in a mouse and keyboard to work comfortably at a desk. If you want to break the law and download movies and music with BitTorrent, you can do that.
I certainly don’t believe that the Microsoft Surface will topple the iPad and become the market leader. For many of us, especially those with Macs and iPhones, the iPad is still the better option. But I do believe that the Surface — the Pro version at least — will have a big impact on the iPad, one that many won’t have been expecting.
The Surface will be the first tablet to put up a real fight against the iPad.
We’ve been watching the iPad laugh in the face of the competition and dust off competitors without too many worries for the past three years. But the Surface will be the first tablet to put up a real fight, and that’s something Apple will need to keep an eye on.