Surface RT Versus iPad: Which Is The Better Work Tool?

ZNet’s Steve Ranger notes that workers in the enterprise are falling in love with tablet computing, even if their bosses still aren’t quite sure. Ranger sets himself to compare what’s it like to use two of the leading contenders – the iPad and the Surface RT – as work platforms to try and determine which is better tool for that tasking.

Ranger notes that Apple has in the past done little to encourage business use of the iPad because it hasn’t needed to, but it’s by far the most used tablet in the enterprise anyway, due to a combination of staff bringing in their own iPads as the BYOD trend gathers momentum, and more recently some corporate investments — such as Barclays Bank recently buying 8,000 iPads.

However, he observes that Apple has started to talk up iPads in business. A case in point is the press release accompanying Apple’s announcement of the new, 128 GB capacity iPad (already being dubbed the “iPad Pro”) last week noting that:

“The iPad continues to have a significant impact on business, with virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 percent of the Global 500 currently deploying or testing iPad. Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad. The over 10 million iWork users, and customers who rely on other productivity apps like Global Apptitude for analyzing team film and creating digital playbooks, Auria for an incredible 48 track recording system, or AutoCAD for drafting architectural and engineering drawings, will also benefit greatly from having the choice of an iPad with more storage capacity.”

Ranger ventures that Apple’s newfound business focus could be because of Microsoft’s Surface tablet PC posing a fresh challenge to the iPad’s enterprise dominance. However, superficial similarities notwithstanding, he contends that the two devices embody completely different design philosophies and even attitudes to the workplace, startign at a fundamental level with the respective form factors. To wit: Surface is square, boxy, earnest, and wants to be useful. iPad is curved, sensuous, playful and wants to be adored. Surface is most at home sitting on a desk. iPad wants to be held.

In fact, Ranger notes that it’s tempting to argue that the Surface isn’t a tablet at all, but rather a notebook that wants you to pretend it’s a tablet, observing that without its optional keyboard cover and its fold-out kickstand deployed the Surface is “forlorn,” “bereft,” and “unbalanced.” He thinks that this is entirely deliberate for benefit of businesses, most of which aren’t entirely sure they want to buy tablets, and that boxyness and emphasis on utility is actually quite reassuring. The downside he says is that Surface still feels much more like a notebook, and a business tool, and is “far too worthy” to be a fun gadget for consumers, nor does The Microsoft Store have anywhere near the range of apps that Apple can offer.

He says the main problem with using an iPad for work is the lack of two things: a keyboard, and Office. The keyboard is something you can deal with easily (a pointing device not so much – CM), but it took Ranger a while to get used to the iPad with a keyboard, and while he thinks the Surface looks naked without one, the iPad looks awkward with one, and concludes that the Surface RT will do little to win over consumers from the iPad or various Android tablets.

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