on June 18 unveiled its new Surface tablet. The device, which will launch later this year, comes in two flavors—an Intel-based option and one running on an ARM chip—and runs Windows 8. The ARM-based version runs Windows RT, while the Intel-based option is running Windows 8 Pro, giving consumers and enterprise users the full experience on the device.
Of course, now that Microsoft has shown off its tablet, speculation abounds over how it will compete against Apple’s iPad. Some observers say that the device will be ignored by consumers, since Apple has been hogging the spotlight for years and won’t give that up so easily. Others say that Surface might actually have a chance to compete, since the device comes with some of the nicest features seen yet in a non-Apple tablet.
But perhaps that should go one step further. Apple’s iPad is still the top tablet on the market, but the Surface looks extremely impressive. And for many customers, it might just be a good idea to ditch Apple’s iPad for Microsoft’s upcoming tablet.
Is that really possible? Read on to find out:
1. A bigger display
Apple’s iPad has a 9.7-inch display, making it one of the larger options in the tablet market. However, Microsoft’s Surface comes in with a 10.6-inch screen. And on the Windows 8 Pro version, it’ll deliver a high-definition experience. Although the difference doesn’t seem major on paper, in practice, a larger screen really matters.
2. Two flavors
There is constant talk of Apple launching an iPad Mini at some point in the future to give its customers more choice. Whether an iPad Mini will ever show up, however, remains to be seen. Microsoft has decided to deliver two flavors of its device, including one that’s based on ARM and another that’s based on Intel chips. The ARM-based option will run the stripped-down Windows RT, while the Intel option will have Windows 8 Pro. More choice is always better in today’s marketplace.
3. The cover is better
Apple’s Smart Cover was supposed to be a major step up over any cover on the market. But all it proved to be good for was to protect the screen, and now with a new version, the backside of the device. Microsoft’s cover, meanwhile, includes screen protection, but doubles as a full, multi-touch keyboard, effectively turning the device into a notebook. That’s a really nice feature.
4. A full, desktop operating system
One of the issues with Apple’s iPad is that it’s running a mobile operating system designed first for smartphones. Many Apple fans and critics have called on the company to bundle OS X with the iPad. Although Apple hasn’t done so, Microsoft has heard that call loud and clear and will offer Windows 8 Pro in the Intel-based option. For enterprise users, especially, that’s great news. It’s about time tablets deliver the full OS experience.
5. The kickstand is a game-changer
Although some have questioned Microsoft’s decision to include a kickstand with the Surface, the fact is, it’s a game-changer. A kickstand extends the overall usability of the device and makes it easier for folks to get tasks done. There’s nothing worse than trying to juggle multiple products in two hands. And the kickstand solves that problem.
6. Ample storage
According to Microsoft, the Windows 8 Pro version of its Surface will come with 128GB of storage. Apple’s new iPad tops out at 64GB. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. As users bring more content, including video and audio, to their tablets, they need as much storage as possible. Having twice as much storage in the Surface than in the iPad is a major advantage for Microsoft.
7. The Windows 8 element is important
As noted, the Surface comes with Windows 8. But simply saying that that means it’ll come with a full-fledged experience isn’t enough. The fact is Windows 8 has an excellent chance of becoming one of the most popular versions of the software ever. And according to some who have used it, the OS could eclipse Windows 7 in overall functionality and popularity. Windows 8’s inclusion in Surface will be a major factor in its success.
8. Apple’s experience is getting old
Apple has done a fine job selling millions of iPads around the world, but it’s about time someone states the obvious: the iOS experience is getting a little tired. Apple has done little to dramatically improve the way the operating system functions and the fact that there is no file system in place is a conundrum. Until Apple makes iOS more sophisticated and stops it from playing the same old game, Surface looks awfully attractive.
9. It’s a true Ultrabook or laptop replacement
Microsoft has said that Surface is a new kind of device and it’s hard to argue that point. In one way, Surface can be a tablet replacement. In another, it can take on notebooks or Ultrabooks. The Windows RT version is fine for those who only want a slate. But the Windows 8 Pro option is ideal for folks looking for a notebook or Ultrabook replacement. Finally, tablets are starting to cannibalize notebooks.
10. The overall design is top-notch
Finally, it’s worth taking a look at the overall design of Microsoft’s Surface. By all measure, it’s nice looking and can go a long way in matching Apple’s iPad in look and feel. Is it better looking than the iPad? That’s tough to say. But it’s safe to say that it’s on an equal footing with Apple’s tablet.