Occasionally, the marketing department goes too far. Microsoft developed ads matching Surface Pro 3 models against Macs, but the campaign hasn't worked perfectly. Apple reported record iPhone and Mac sales revenue for its most recent quarter, while Microsoft —which already wrote off nearly $1 billion in Surface inventory no one bought—continues fighting. Its new entry, the Surface 3, looks to be an underwhelming product.
Known for its ubiquitous operating system and office productivity software, Microsoft is attempting to create a niche for its hardware. Unfortunately, the tablets don't compete all that well. At least one media representative who received a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to track election results chose to use the Microsoft device as an iPad kickstand.
The Surface 3 doesn't even seem to really be an iPad replacement. Out of the gate, iPads appear to possess three advantages over the Microsoft tablet. Let's take a closer look.
An Apple iPad 2 Air boasts a fast A8X chip, an M8 motion coprocessor for stunning graphics, and 16 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. The Surface 3 packs an underwhelming Atom chip and 2 GB RAM, with either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. At least one media report suggests the Apple's entry-level iPad Air's performance is 36% to 93% faster than the new Surface 3.
The iPad 2 Air, of course, runs iOS. Thus, iPhone users are already familiar with the intuitive interface. It plays well with back-end Exchange mail servers. IT departments, many of which discovered the BYOD revolution (thanks largely in part to early generation iPads), are often already prepared to support the platform. Because the iPad uses iOS, a business' previous iCloud, Apple TV, and iOS application (not to mention mobile device management system) investments are all immediately compatible. So, there's little disruption in adding iOS within many enterprise environments.
The Surface 3, meanwhile, is powered by Windows 8.1. Organizations must upgrade to the Surface Pro 3 to receive the Professional business-grade OS, typically a Windows requirement for leveraging group policy administration advantages.
And lest you believe it's unfair to tout an iPad over a Surface 3 because the iPad better leverages previous Apple technology investments, I say this. It's no less fair than Microsoft's touting the Surface's built-in kickstand as a reason to consider the Surface Pro 3 over a Mac, especially considering a MacBook Air doesn't need a kickstand.
iPad Air 2 displays are stunning. At 9.7 inches measured diagonally, the tablet boasts a 2048 x 1536 resolution at 264 pixels per inch. That's 3.1 million pixels, if you're counting at home.
The Microsoft Surface 3's display supports a 1920 x 1280 HD resolution. So, you can view more information at a glance on an iPad. While seemingly a small advantage, when fine, high-resolution graphics matter, the iPad excels. The iPad's new manufacturing techniques also lower internal reflectance, resulting in improved contrast and color. In fact, Apple claims iPad Air 2's display is the least reflective tablet in the world, meaning it's easier to see and read.
In other words, the iPad more than holds its own against the Surface 3. Instead of picking on the MacBook Air in its ads, maybe Microsoft should have compared the Surface line to Apple's iPads. In many situations, the iPad remains a better bet for businesses needing potent performance, the familiar iOS platform, and more than capable graphics.
Which device would you prefer for your organization? Explain your reasoning in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.