With the impending release of Microsoft's Surface Pro, Google News has filled with articles comparing it to the iPad. But the very idea of comparing the iPad to the Surface Pro -- which runs the full version of Windows, has the technical specs of a laptop and has a starting price tag of around twice an entry level iPad -- shows what a major dent the iPad has made in the PC industry.
In reality, the iPad and the Surface Pro are two very different devices aimed at two very different audiences.
There's little doubt that the Surface Pro is Microsoft's best tablet. OK, it helps they have only one other tablet in their lineup, and the other tablet is a scaled down version of the Surface Pro running a lighter operating system that is not compatible with Windows applications. But at least the Surface Pro has an audience, something the Windows RT version failed to produce.
The Surface Pro may very well pick up some steam in the enterprise, where the idea of a tablet is intriguing but the incompatibility with Microsoft software products is a major holdup to tablet integration. The business environment is also able to overcome the weaknesses of the Surface Pro, some of which are targeted at the great-on-paper-but-bad-in-reality cover keyboard that takes the lap out of laptop. In a business environment, it will be the portability that is key as well as the ability to go from sitting a desk or table to standing in front of an audience.
Another demographic that may find the Surface Pro intriguing is anyone who didn't want a tablet but did want their PC to act more like a tablet. Its ability to serve as a tablet that runs full Windows applications is bound to turn some heads, but this audience may be more interested in a third-party Windows tablet that overcomes the flimsy keyboard issue.
On the other hand, the iPad appeals to anyone who wants a tablet. It's not going to win any performance tests against the Surface Pro, which packs a faster processor and four times the RAM, but it also runs applications with a much smaller footprint. This means it is still as fast to the end user and will last longer between charges. It also has a better set of cameras, an overfilling app store filled with software that usually costs just $1-$5 instead of $30-$60, a gyroscope and accelerometer that developers will actually put to good use and a price tag that is about half of a Surface Pro.
The iPad fits perfectly with home use. It's great for normal tasks like web browsing, checking Facebook, watching Netflix, playing games, reading books, etc. But it has also been making headway into the business sector. The iPad can be great for small businesses, with enough power to track inventory, keep up with accounting and accept credit card payments. It's also finding its way into larger companies, usually as a compliment to the Windows environment.
The Surface Pro is an ultrabook with a touchscreen, which might excite some people, but the poor keyboard may be a turnoff. Despite the keyboard, I think it is a good machine for those who want a more tablet-like experience while keeping their Windows applications. But it is not going to take any sales away from the iPad. The decision between the two is not new, it is just a new version of "iPad or Laptop?"