Mobility

Six lessons from 2013 that the iPad, Android, and Surface 2 could learn from each other

Jack Wallen takes a look at lessons that major tablet platforms could learn from one another.

 

Tablets of 2013
 

The year 2013 was a big one for tablets, because they finally usurped laptops as the go-to mobile tool for business users. During that time, Apple, Android, and Microsoft jockeyed to get their products into the enterprise. Each platform experienced successes and failures -- some big and some small -- and there are definitely lessons here that can be learned. That's right, all three platforms should turn an eye toward one another and educate themselves on how best to move forward with their products. In the end, however, the results could be a complete game changer for one or more of the platforms.

Let's examine each platform to find out what they can learn from their competition.

iPad

The iPad is the king of business tablets. That doesn't mean it has perfected the mobile experience. In fact, the iPad can learn a couple of very important lessons from its competitors.

Android: If anything, the iPad could take a page or two from the book of flexibility that is Android. With the iPad, you know what you're getting into -- you work Apple's way or no way. If you don't like working the Apple way, your only hope is to find another platform. Apple might want to re-think this plan of attack and allow users more configuration options to better serve specific needs.

Surface 2: The Surface 2 has one major lesson it can teach the iPad -- expandability. The Surface offers both a MicroSD and USB 3.0 port to help expand the tablet. With the iPad, you get nothing of the sort. Apple needs to seriously learn that business users need to be able to connect via USB. For the life of me, I can't understand why Apple refuses to add USB to the iPad.

Android tablet

Android is doing a great job of stealing market share from the iPad. It offers everything the iPad doesn't. However, Android shouldn't rest on its growing reputation. Instead, the flexible platform needs to keep its eyes trained on both Apple and Microsoft and learn from what both platforms offered in 2013.

iPad: When the iPad Air was released, it completely wow'd consumers with its size, amazing display, and power. The iPad's A7 chip is a 64-bit mobile powerhouse that has placed Android in a serious state of catch up. If Android is going to keep up in this race, it's going to have to have a piece of hardware that can stand up to the iPad Air. At the moment, it has nothing of the sort.

Surface 2: If there's one major lesson to be learned from the Surface 2, it's the inclusion of a powerful, functionable, office suite. All Android tablets should be sold with a complete set of tools that enable mobile business users to do everything they need -- without having to install a single piece of software. This could mean the inclusion of something like Kingsoft Office.

Microsoft Surface 2

The Surface 2 is much improved over the Surface RT. In fact, the Surface 2 is very close to being one of the best mobile options for business users. However, it still has a few lessons to learn from the other competitive platforms.

iPad: If the Surface 2 needs to learn anything from the iPad it's that gimmicks never work. A little kickstand and a keyboard that looks like a toy will never have a tablet seeing the enormous success the iPad enjoys by employing such gimmicks. The Surface needs to take a page from the Apple marketing handbook and channel its powerful connection to the business class user – and not try to suck dry the well of hipper (not hipster) users that flock to the iPad.

Android: What Surface 2 can learn from Android is how to make the user interface not only highly configurable but efficient. The Windows 8.1 interface isn't the most efficient use of a users time and energy – especially when on the road. Yes, the Surface 2 has all the tools a mobile power user needs to get serious work done, but if the Surface 2 enjoyed a similar interface that the latest iterations of Android has, working on the go would take on new levels of power and efficiency.

Each of the major mobile platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. With so many improvements happening in 2013, it was a great year for those platforms to learn from one another. Although none of the above companies would admit to getting "educated" by the competition, you can be sure they are closely watching and learning. Little do they know, their individual efforts do add to the collective whole that is the tablet experience.

 

 

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

38 comments
marj23_cutie
marj23_cutie

Different technologies have come our way. I could say that this product are very essential to our daily lives. It help us in our work because they have features including multimedia, productivity etc. This tablets and iPad will make our world productive. 

skylight
skylight

Great article Jack and thank you for nailing the problem. I have always been a PC user but bought an iPad a few months ago because of the fact that it was the only tablet offering 128GB along with LTE.  But I did not realize how much of "my way or the highway" attitude the iPad is built around.  Since then I have been beefing about some of the same things you have pointed out.  This is particularly true for the iPad i.e. the sad lack of connectivity, and of course that you cannot load anything without going through Apple's appstore - this is tantamount to a dictatorship.  I want to sell my new iPad and buy a decent Android or Windows tablet.  But there really isn't suited to my needs.


In my experience there are very limited (if any) offerings of high-end Android/Windows tablet from companies like Microsoft, ASUS, Google, Sony, Samsung etc. that can truly compete with the iPad.  In my opinion this is primarily because the iPad is consistently available at the stores with minimal exceptions like when a new iPad is released.  Outside of this one has to keep an eye on the market if anyone has released an Android or Windows tablet with LTE and large disk size like what I got with my iPad.  So far no luck.


It blows my mind why Android tablet makers keep tinkering around (at least for the past 2-3 years) with what I consider marginal changes in their new releases.  I would have even bought a Windows tablet if it had a decent version of windows.  There is a crying need and virtual vacuum for half-decent Android tablets if you want LTE and larger disk sizes of at least 64GB/128GB along with decent specs (which otherwise many of them already have).


Given this post is coming more than a week after your article I wonder if you will even read this. But I certainly hope so.

philip.arnold
philip.arnold

You completely ignored something that the iPad can learn from both - 16x9 screens!


The rest of the world has been 16x9 since just after 2000, and you can't buy a 4x3 TV or monitor for nearly a decade, so watching media on the iPad means that you get big black borders, or you watch just the middle of it


Apple moved to 16x9 with the iPhone just over a year ago, but the iPad is still to make the "jump" to the scale, and if the device is seriously meant for video consumption, then they HAVE to move to 16x9


I've heard iOS developers complain that it's "harder" to develop for different resolutions, but Android developers have been doing it since day one, and they need to learn to put up or shut up - they can keep on developing for the 4x3 scale, or they can handle the different screen sizes like they do for iPhone now - it's not exactly that difficult, and with some fore-thought by Apple (God forbid) then it might make for better products than the dross that tends to get churned out in the App Store by 90% of the developers :-P

Tom007
Tom007

"For the life of me, I can't understand why Apple refuses to add USB to the iPad."

if Apple were more customer-centric, iPads would certainly have USB ports and SD card slots. Given how much Apple charges for their proprietary cables and adapters, and how often they change them (thus forcing us to buy all new adapters), we can only assume Apple won't follow industry standards so it can milk us for more revenue.

SMMinke
SMMinke

Yes, though this article tries to do a fair job of representing plusses and minuses of each platform, it should have never thrown the word "Business" into the review unless it was going to point out the massive advantages of the Surface 2 and also the Surface Pro 2 for "real business".  Android and iPad are truly consumer devices with SOME business use, given you are in a business that uses apps that the platform supports. 


We are an IT managed service provider for both large and small companies so we see ALL variants across many industries and we know where each fails.  Without a doubt, every single iPad and Android tablet user reaches a moment of realization that, indeed, their tablet is NOT going to allow them to do everything they thought it would do in a business environment.  One poster mentioned Network Printing.  That's just the tip of the iceberg.  The lack of Microsoft Office is, quite simply, an immediate relegation to the "consumer" market as opposed to the business world for most business people.  There are many great apps for both iPad and Android that do great things in a business environment-- but there is always a pain point for each user at some point that requires a special config in order to get their tablets to play nice on the business network. 


Now, the Surface 2 tablet does just about everything you'd need a tablet to do for "light business use" including web-surfing, apps, and Microsoft Office.  For the average light business user-- that plus a subscription to Office 365 and you have a winner.  However, though it's certainly ahead of Apple and Android for the business user-- it's still am "Entry-Level" Business device.  It also doesn't have nearly the backing the the AppStore and Google Play store has as far as the sheer number of apps and there are still a few "niche" biz apps missing-- but I'd challenge you to find an app that you'd use for business every day that is now not present in the Windows Store for both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.  It's made great strides over it's relatively short life and now has many quality apps that are geared towards SharePoint and other business applications (WebEx, etc.).  Also, for once Microsoft has out-innovated the mighty Apple and Android with that (rather robust) kickstand and the other unique "Surface" features.  It's often forgotten that the iPad USED to be considered "gimmicky" as well and now we consider it a mature product of innovation.  Anyone who's struggled with an iPad or Android product while trying to prop it up for hands-free viewing appreciates that sexy little "gimmick" of a kickstand.  The public seems to agree.  Hard to find Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets this holiday season.  It's the "In" thing to have now and it gets you noticed-- not that that has any bearing for business (or does it? ;-).   


Then again-- a real business user probably steps into the realm of the Surface Pro if they need a real laptop-like experience in a tablet.  That gives you everything you need to leave your laptop at the office or home and still be able to power through everything from Photoshop to AutoCAD PLUS all of your Apps from the Windows Store and the docking station is a work of art. Finally, USB 3.0 and a Stylus for signing documents, drawing up diagrams, marking up documents, etc.  Of course, you step into a nice class of UltraBook devices at that point and we are no longer talking about true "Tablets".        

dhuhtala
dhuhtala

adornoe is absolutely right - iPad is NOT the king ofI the business tablets.  It was simply first and most popular.  The decision to bring iPads into our environment was not a logical one - it was an emotional, knee-jerk reaction to a lot of pressure a couple of years ago - about this time of year - because a whole lot of very senior executives got one for Christmas.  They wanted to use their toy at work too.  After two years of trying to integrate these tablets into the enterprise, we're still where we started - you can read your e-mail, but don't try to do much more - including manage your calendar with an Exchange server - it's a nightmare.


IPads do NOT work in the enterprise!  They probably never will.  A USB port and an SD card is not going to change that.  If you can't do simple tasks such as manage your files, it's never going to happen.  Apple would have to rebuild iOS from the ground up to enable things like that and I just don't see that happening.


The Surface Pro took about 3 months to completely integrate into our environment and does absolutely everything a laptop can do - it's extremely productive.  Every person who has seen the Surface Pro 2 I have immediately want to turf their iPad to get one - they are all frustrated with not being able to do anything with them. 


As far as a "toy keyboard", I use a TypeCover (not a TouchCover) to type everything - including this note - at 70-80 WPM.  That's no toy.  I can't do that with the iPad/case/keyboard combination I used to use.


A Surface Pro is thicker and weighs more.  I don't care.  It's still a lot more portable than a laptop, including ultra portables. 


I spend 90% of every day in meetings and travelling to 3 main buildings I visit on a daily basis.  This is by far the most productive tablet I've used.  I have used 3 versions of iPads, 3 versions of Android tablets, 3 versions of Windows tablets (including RT which was actually not too bad either), several versions of phones and I have landed on my most productive kit so far - which is unpopular but unquestionably best for me... a Surface Pro 2 and a BlackBerry Z30 phone.  Great combination for the enterprise - because they were built from the ground up to do that!  Nothing else out there was... they're all marketing for it, but their products simply can't deliver.


When authors write about how these products work in the corporate world, they should try using them in the corporate world first!



warboat
warboat

The one thing not mentioned here is PRINTING!

Windows tablets do this like a champion.

iOS printing is retarded. Android is not much better.

Printing to a network printer? Windows.

squirrelpie0
squirrelpie0

Tried the early Androids and wasn't impressed by the reliability. To cheap to buy an Ipad. Been using a BB Playbook 64 (under $200) for a couple of years and it works, but a dead duck now with lack of support and apps, plus its hdwe is getting a bit long in the tooth. The 8" screens look nice in RT and Android, but none are going to replace my old Vostro Laptop. It just keeps on ticking with all my old W7 apps. Waiting for the Playbookand/or Vostro to die and then I'll step up to something else

adornoe1
adornoe1

Mr Wallen is trying too hard to sound unbiased, and he may be, but he's also trying to be fair in the comparisons, and that's where he fails.


Fact is that, out of the 3 platforms, the one most suited for business use, on the road and in the office, is the WP8/8.1 platform, no matter if it's the Surface Pro, or the ones being made by the OEMs.  


iPad is NOT the king of business tablets, even as they might still be the most used, but being the most used is just an indication of the several years head-start that the iPads had on both Windows tablets and on Android tablets. If the race were to get started today, there is absolutely no doubt that iPads would not even enter into consideration at most businesses.  


There is also a major point that the author fails to mention, and that is that, Apple may be positioning to be just a provider of consumer goods,including the iPad as strictly a consumer device.  Apple may be giving up on the business side, and that might be the reason that the iPad is headed in the opposite direction of where the Windows tablets and Android tablets are headed.  Not including the features that business users want and need, could easily be interpreted as a sign that, Apple is not worried about playing in the business sector.  It's quite possible that they've given up on the business side of tablets. 

michael_ollom
michael_ollom

Apple can learn a thing or two from Androids on profiles.   Being able to hand your ipad off to another person and restrict what they're able to access or change is a huge option that needs to seriously be there.

Zorched
Zorched

NAND Flash memory costs as little as $0.31 per gigabyte.  Now, the price difference between the ipad 32GB and 64GB is over $100, but the hardware difference only costs Apple about $10 in memory.  All the rest of that is PURE profit at a level that slithers arrogantly into the 'greedy SOB' arena.  


They're literally rolling in it and laughing all the way to the bank with their Semi-truck fulls of cash.


And you wonder why Apple doesn't want to have any expandability???


But, as long as the sheep keep bending over and buying it, Apple will keep providing them with their brand of crack.
cbslc
cbslc

You forgot to mention video out. This is one of my biggest needs. I'm always hooking to a projector and doing a presentation. The Ipad dock with video out was a joke - barely worked, single orientation and had to sit in the dock! The surface 2 has video out. Ya I have to dongle it to hook to many projectors, but still it has the ability!

What the surface 2  lacks is apple's marketing engine that can somehow convince people to upgrade every 8 months. I'm just amazed watching people on their upgrade treadmill

tkainz
tkainz

While tablets certainly CAN be handy, I still find them all too limited to be seriously used as a business tool - the way that "I" need to use them.  I was waiting ohh so patiently for the Surface to come out but when I went to actually try it out... the limitations combined with the high cost just didn't add up.  I tried the iPad  and wasn't impressed - again.. too many limitations combined with an unacceptable high cost  - even with its 'hip-ness' it didn't make the ROI cutoff  Besides... I despise the idea of some entity telling me I have to do things their way or buy their attachments or else. As far as the Android devices... again too limited even for the lower cost. 


I just the other day bought a name brand laptop convertible with a beautiful & responsive touch display - a display that is actually big enough to work on without having to put my reading glasses on mind you.  I can use it as a tablet or as a full-fledged laptop.  It's a 64 bit machine which has 6GB RAM, a 20 GB SSD, 500  GB HD, USB 3 ports - yes... port-ssss as in plural, HDMI output, terrific audio, a 'real' keyboard, Windows 8.1 and I can install any standard Windows software I want on it...for under $500.  This machine, I can do business with and without having to work around any limitations.

jmfcosta
jmfcosta

1. "The Surface 2 is much improved over the Surface RT." - Not really but I don't think the upgrades from RT to 2 are essencial for current and eficient use.

2. "In fact, the Surface 2 is very close to being one of the best mobile options for business users" - At last! After one year the evidence has come to light... It was already true for RT.

3. "What Surface 2 can learn from Android is how to make the user interface not only highly configurable but eficient" - What can be more eficient than to have the same OS and use the same work routines and main office applications across all devices? And W8.1, with its dual UI (possible to have at the same time, in two split windows), is way ahead. After two years I still can't figure out how Android manages files in my smarthphone...


Nevertheless, a very good and focused article.



RajeevDuggirala
RajeevDuggirala

I do not understand why iPad needs USB (re: what iPad can learn from Surface 2). Enterprises are shutting USB drives on laptops, and the same good reasons will apply to business tablets

wjohanne
wjohanne

> For the life of me, I can't understand why Apple refuses to add USB to the iPad.

There are two reasons for this:

1) Apple (apparently) claim the power drain from attached devices cannot be controlled.

They want to be able to stand by their claim of a certain number of hours usage of their devices.  When people attach other components that could draw power from the unit, the battery life is no longer reliable.

2) Apple make a *huge* amount of money from selling devices with more internal memory.  Eg. if a 16Gb device costs $300, the 32Gb model will be at least another $100; even though the cost of the additional memory is significantly less.

So, if Apple offer people the ability to use their own memory expansion (via USB /SD cards), Apple lose out on additional profits.

twingard1
twingard1

And yet there is a way to use USB with the ipad. There is a USB converter attachment that plugs into the Ipad's port.

whitewolf60
whitewolf60

@philip.arnoldThe ONLY thing a 16:9 aspect ratio display does better is display wide-screen video, and who REALLY wants to watch a movie on a tablet?


For everything else, a 4:3, 5:4, or even a 16:10 is better!

warboat
warboat

@philip.arnold 

iOS developers WANT the ipad to have a different aspect ratio so that they can churn out so-called tablet specific versions of their apps with about as much work as hard coding for screen rotation and charge twice for essentially the same app.

Android devs have to code for scalable screen output the proper way.

warboat
warboat

@RobinHahn 

Microsoft admits there is a problem and pulls the code from distribution.

Apple never admits to problems and deletes posts in their forums and just tells users they are holding it wrong!

Hazydave
Hazydave

@Tom007 Well, Apple only changed the connector once since the second gen  iPod. Ok, they did add a few new signals along the way.


But there is one fundamental rule about iOS: Apple gets their 30%. Period. Whether it's a power dongle or an app or a video, they get their cut.  Anyone bothered by this should switch to Android. 


The idea of the lightning comnector is kind of cool... the device will switch the port to whatever your add-on needs. So at some point they can add Thunderbolt or whatever and nothing breaks. With standard USB, you're limited a bit, only USB data, bidirectional power, and video out (most support MHL). So ok, most of what you want, anyway.  Because the main point of lightning was control. Theur hardware, their prerogative.  I favor as stsndards... it is nice to be able to hook my camera to my tablet with just a $1.50 cable that I can grt anywhere.

tombillet
tombillet

@Tom007 I have to agree that the ipad and to a certain extent the android based tablets seem to be limited when people want to use them to do business work.  I really like the Surface 2 Pro and all the flexibility that it offers.

JCAlford
JCAlford

@dhuhtalaMy company, too, emotionally jumped on the tablet bandwagon very prematurely.  Instead of telling people that they would be fired if they put HIPPA data on a non-company, unsecured device my company spent $$$ trying to get it secured.  Still not fully there.


Right now there are a boatload of Galaxy Tab 3s sitting here that can't go out because Samsung randomly changed settings and didn't tell anyone and now the tablets don't function with our management software.  If my company would have waited, we could have just bought Surface and Surface 2 tablets that would have worked with our in-place system and saved a ton of money.

mohsin.ladha
mohsin.ladha

@tkainz $500 sounds great. Please provide make and model of laptop you bought.

warboat
warboat

@RajeevDuggirala 

How about just printing via USB?

There are millions of USB printers everywhere and the ipad can't use them.

Often I just want to do a quick 1 page printout for consignment labels or simply a sign or notice to stick somewhere, using a USB printer.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

@RajeevDuggiralaNot everybody is a business user, so the ways of business should not dictate what is available on a consumer device.  Lack of USB or MicroSD expandability seriously hampers the usefulness of the iPad and is one reason I wouldn't buy one.

bsalloum
bsalloum

You make it sound like a major shift is going on, and that USB drives won't be allowed anywhere in business in the near future. Nonsense.

warboat
warboat

@wjohanne 

1. Is a garbage excuse. You don't deny users the option just because you can't control battery drain. When you play a heavy 3D game the battery doesn't last half as long so that excuse doesn't fly. They don't disable GPS on the cellular models so that you don't drain it in half the time when using navigation software.

It's all about DRM and Apple getting their cut.

If user experience was top priority, Apple would let you use music you have already bought as a ringtone.

garyleroy
garyleroy

@tomwingard So on a pad that costs more, you have to buy accessories to try to gain the usability that's left off intentionally.


I wouldn't use a pad for business anyway, but recently needed an inexpensive one for general use, and the 'must have' features were micro SD storage and a HDMI out port, along with simple USB connectivity..  Obviously anything made by Apple was out by three strikes right there...inexpensive, HDMI, micro SD, and an extra strike for USB.  And another strike for the closed system that won't let me do something as simple as copying over a few MP3 files from my computer unless I'm willing to install Apple's software on my computer.


With micro SD storage, one really has infinite space on their device.  Put as many movies as you like on multiple cards, and swap them.  Play using the HDMI port on any hotel/motel TV, very simple, convenient, and no accessories need be added.


I can't figure out how they were able to sneak in Bluetooth; it allows non-Apple devices to be connected and is just not in line with their 'my way or the highway' policy.

bsalloum
bsalloum

Another accessory to buy, instead of just providing a USB port everyone can use. Sounds like Apple.

wjohanne
wjohanne

@tomwingard

It's my understanding that the adapter will plug in cameras /USB sticks *but* you can only view still images (jpegs, etc.).   I have one of these adapters.

The availablility to view movies is blocked.  It *may* be possible to remove this block if you jailbreak the ipad /iphone but I haven't been able to get it working on my iPad.

whitewolf60
whitewolf60

@philip.arnoldcontinued from above, since "edit" didn't work...


In fact, of the 20-or-so displays (both desktop & laptop) in my home right now, not one of them is 16:9. They get on my nerves! A couple of my desktop displays are permanently mounted in a "portrait" orientation for document work, and 16:9 doesn't make sense that way, either!

A large number of DELL Precision Mobile Workstations users had a hissy-fit when DELL moved to the 16:9 aspect ratio in the M6600 displays...no good for serious work! That is why I won't upgrade beyond the M6500.

midlantic
midlantic

Agree, and the point is about storage. What if you can't connect to the "Cloud"? What if some files are too sensitive to trust to the Cloud (and the NSA). Seriously, I can use a gargantuan storage sized USB device and have that data available to me at all times. Another reason why Apple's closed fence policy turns me off time and again.

transistor1
transistor1

@warboat @wjohanne  There is probably something to Apple's claim.  I have tinkered a bit (as an amateur) with electronic design-- specifically USB devices-- and the USB specification does state that devices should pull only 100mA of power or less, and devices are supposed to ask the USB host for more power if they require it (though I believe the host does not have to honor that request if it can't). 


However - there are 2 issues, if I recall correctly.  (1) There are a lot of computers that are lax with the protocol for requesting power.  That is, they will allow devices to draw more power without asking, and (2) The market is flooded with USB devices that don't adhere to the USB specifications-- think of all the USB cup warmers, lights, and Christmas trees you have seen. Some devices will just try to pull extra power without asking.  That isn't a problem on one of the many computers where point (1) is in effect.  However, from what I've seen Apple tends to go by the book in their designs, which probably isn't a bad thing.


See here for more info on USB power spec.


For full disclosure-- this info applies to the USB 2.0 spec, as I'm not really familiar with requirements for 3.0.  To further complicate things, mobile devices generally use "USB On The Go," which is specifically for low power devices.  My guess would be that the spec for that probably allows devices to draw even less power.


All this being said, there is a lightning to USB connector for iPad, that is marketed for cameras, but I've read that some people have had some success with other USB devices.


warboat
warboat

@garyleroy @tomwingard 

Bluetooth on iOS is retarded. You can't transfer files by bluetooth.

The profiles available on bluetooth are minimal. It's ridiculous that they brag about having BT4.0 speeds and all you can do is use it with low bandwidth devices like keyboards and headsets.

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