By: Robert Kozak
Business Insider ran an article on November 12, 2012 called 8 Reasons Microsoft’s Surface Is Better Than The iPad. In this article I will use the same 8 reasons and contradict each one.
The Windows Surface tablet announced last summer is finally in the market place and, from all accounts, it has not resonated with the market. Sure there was some initial excitement when it was announced a few months ago because it was all possibilities. How much will it cost? How will it work better than the iPad? Would the keyboard hold up and actually be a differentiator?
Many people wondered if the new Surface would be able to beat the market leader iPad or at least hold its own. The idea that it would be exactly what the enterprise and business markets needed was a compelling reason, but I don’t think that will hold out.
The Microsoft Surface, we are told, comes in two flavors: Surface RT and the Surface Pro. The Surface RT is out now running on an ARM chipset and the bigger, heavier Surface Pro which runs on the x86 chipset should be out 1st quarter of 2013. Bigger, heaver is bad and thinner, lighter is better. We are in the post PC world now and although the tablet market is nascent, I don’t believe you can upset the market leader unless you are better in almost every way. Being close is not good enough. You have to be much better.
With that in mind let’s take a look at the 8 reasons I think that the surface is dead in the water:
1. The Keyboard
Many people assumed that the Surface with one of its keyboard covers would be the big differentiator but I believe it’s a crutch. Windows 8, the operating system that Windows RT is based on, still cannot do everything by touch. Microsoft needs to have a keyboard in order to make sense, especially for the office apps that are included. This would make their tablet a content creation device rather than just a content consumable device. One of the reasons the iPad has such a market share is because its more passive. You read, watch, and browse on it. Why would I reach for a Surface when I can do more on my laptop? Especially when they have more power and are light and easy to carry and actually fit on my lap because they are not top heavy like the Surface RT with keyboard cover is?
2. The Size
Which brings me to the size. The screen measures 10.6″ on the diagonal which makes it a much bigger machine than the iPad and way bigger than the Google Nexus 7. Since it has a 16:9 aspect ratio, it is very long when holding it in portrait mode, which I believe very few people will do. Plus with the keyboard you are forced into landscape mode all the time so it really is not a tablet but an inferior laptop. This size does make it good for watching videos, but who needs just a portable video watching machine? iPad is more convenient for those times you want to watch on a trip, during a flight or on a train. Any other time you might as well just plop down in front of the big screen TV you have.
3. The Specs
The Surface RT doesn’t have anything spec-wise over the iPad. Windows RT itself takes up 12-13 GB of RAM so you won’t ever see a 16GB version of this device. But if we learned anything about the tablet market, it is that people don’t care about the hardware specs but instead, they care about how it “feels” when working with it. Reports are already coming in that the MS Surface is slow and that Word can’t keep up with an average touch typist. For the most part, the animations are smooth but it does hiccup and felt sluggish at times.
4. Actual USB Ports
This is an iffy reason. Some people might appreciate having USB ports on their tablet but I don’t see it as a major selling point, just like I don’t see having a DVD drive in my tablet as a major selling point. If I want to add on a bunch of peripherals, I might as well carry a very light laptop like the MacBook Air or some of the newer thinner Ultrabooks that are hitting the market now. Maybe if you want a USB port for some reason, then you could buy a Surface over an iPad. But I expect you are in a very small market segment.
6. Microsoft Office
This is almost a necessity for a Microsoft device. If it were not included, it would be a very big deal indeed. But because it is there would you actually use it? I’m fairly certain that the people buying the Surface tablet, the business people who would use Office, have a desktop computer and probably a laptop too where they actually do day to day work. I have friends that have Surface tablets and they claim Office is a big deal on the tablet, but when I see them using Excel and Word, they are sitting at their desks using those programs on their desktops with multiple monitors.
7. Built-in Kickstand
Really? Its cute and seems to work well, but what a built-in kickstand tells me is that this device is not a tablet but is a weird hybrid desktop computer. A kickstand can only be used on a flat surface like, um like, say a desk. Tablets are not for desks. Tablets are for the daily commute on the train or bus, while traveling, and while you sitting on the couch or when you are laying down. If you are going to be at a desk, what good is a tablet? Its more awkward than a laptop and not as powerful as a desktop PC.
8. It is a Laptop Replacement
The Surface RT is based on Windows 8 but not quite. It is too similar for its own good. People will be expecting to do things they cannot do because its not a real laptop. Surface RT runs Windows RT which has a desktop mode where you cannot install software. It does not run your old Windows applications and the only ones you can install are from the Windows app store that were compiled and designed for the ARM chipset. So why would it be a good laptop replacement if it cannot run your software, and won’t fit on your lap, and has no HD to store your files?
Microsoft’s attempt at getting into the Post PC market with the Surface was a very bold move but ultimately I believe will be proven disastrous. It is a hybrid device that has no benefits like the current tablets in the market and has all of the short-comings of not being a good laptop. But competition is good and I hope they do come out with something better. But in its current form, this is not it.