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.
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 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.
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 jackwallen.com.