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Win Tabs Get the Last Laugh

I am now officially an objective observer in the upcoming war between Windows and iPad tablets, having shelled out $500 hard earned Barney dollars for an iPad.

Owning an iPad for more than a month and the fact that it's barely been used in a house with two adults, a 16-year-old Apple fan and a five-year-old girl tells you something. The bloom is off the iPad rose.

The five year old loves Bugs Bunny on TV and Angry Birds on her brother's iPhone. He loves his Xbox 360, Netflix, Macbook and Greek classics in actual print. No e-readers for him.

So I have the Apple tablet all to myself. Here's what I think: The iPad camera is awesome, but the onscreen keyboard is still just an onscreen keyboard. It isn't a computer, so my lap remains covered with a trusty (but imperfect) workhorse: a Dell Latitude E6500.

That may change when Microsoft actually ships one of the new Surface tablets it just announced. These have a few things going for them. The OS and hardware, like the Xbox, are completely controlled by one vendor. Our Xbox hasn't crashed yet, plus it's simple as pie to use and works great with third parties.

More important, these Surface machines are full PCs. They have full PC operating systems, run fill PC applications and, best of all, have real keyboards.

And the Win 8 machines, running on Intel, are managed just like Win XP, Vista and Win 7 machines today -- through Active Directory, PowerShell, System Center and all those great third-party management tools we all depend on.

The iPad, as great and revolutionary as it is, will probably never have this. And Apple will probably never turn the Mac into a tablet because it already has the iPad.

If your end game is the enterprise, this is a masterstroke on Microsoft's part, wouldn't you say?

At first I thought tablets was Apple's game to lose. The iPad was slicker and more stable than anything Microsoft could do and had the "wow" factor.

Then I remembered a year ago watching a Microsoft employee spend a full day pounding away on a Win 8 tablet without a hitch. If it was that stable then, how good would a Microsoft-made machine be almost two years later? Then imagine an iPad-like machine that works as a full computer. Nice.

If my theory turns out to be right, will the critics who blame Steve Ballmer for all of Microsoft's wrongs admit their errors? Probably not.

Am I on to something or did Microsoft send me a big box of Kool-Aid mix? You tell me at

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/20/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Jul 12, 2012 Patrick

I think you are reaching. There are a number of uses for the iPad the main being the use of Apps in a mobile function that has more functionality than a smartphone. From a usability perspective a full blown PC in tablet form will be cumbersome and make people which they had their notebook. Apple will be fine. Their genius is not in funcitionality, but in superior design. They create markets with their products. They don't really serve existing markets (see biz community). But I have seen the new Win tabs and there is alot to like. But Apple has entered the psyche of the human conscious. People just feel they have something good when they get an Apple product, whereas people (apart from MS enthusiasts) feel they may have a problem when they get a Win product. It's an uphill battle, but not insurmountable.

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 Al

Microsoft (and other manufacturers) are going to provide two tablets that will work every way like an ordinary tablet but will also provide an honest to goodness ultrabook replacement. Any objective person would see this as win-win. If you're a die-hard Apple or Android user, you may or may not care. On the other hand, there are a lot of users who want an iPad form factor (thanks Apple) but a mobile device that is also a capable PC (thanks Microsoft). Jobs chose to make the tablet an appliance device (no need for external keyboard, mouse/tochpad, or stylus support -- two-finger typing is sufficient). I've seen people referring to the so-called "pure tablet". Presumably, that refers to the form factor, the device not requiring any additional hardware, and a device powered by an OS/UI that lets you work intuitively. Based on the keynote demo, Surface allows the user to use the tablet just as a tablet but also allows the user to have a very capable ultrabook. As an iPad/iPhone owner, I have to say anyone feeling that additional options/choices is a bad thing need to examine their objectivity. When the iPad came out, I was one of the disappointed people hoping for mobile OS X. Jobs and Cook have both said this isn't going to happen. I'd take notice if they changed their mind. The same would be true if I could have a supported tablet Linux. Not Linux as an appliance but desktop Linux.

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 TC Maryland

I am mostly a Windows Developer, yet I bought an iPad 2 a year ago. Got tired of waiting for Samsung. Figured Microsoft desided not to enter the market at all. Isn't the magic coffee table "Surface" like 10 years old? The home market is already flooded with iPad. I think the small business market is in the process (great sales tool). Apple won these markets, it's over. But yes, Microsoft could replace Blackberries and DayTimers in the integrated enterprise as a management device very well; if they are really ready now. Maybe that "cheaper" paperless Hospital will finally happen too?

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 Johnny Reb Utah

Should we lament the Surface's passing the oh so Powerful (gag) Netbook ... that was going to revolutionize the world....where are "they" the recylce bin....

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 Roger

I can't wait to get a Microsoft tablet (which is also a MIcrosoft PC) so it can be hacked!

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 Trevelyan UK

All the Apple/Windows loyalty commentary is pointless. The simple fact is that 90% of tech users in the home and the enterprise don't give a damn about whether it is Apple or Dell or Microsoft or Asus or RIM or Google. They want technology that entertains, communicates and manages daily life. They do not want to be messing about under the hood and they want their stuff here, now. Tablets are changing the face of techonology, the PC as we know it is now dead. Go and look at the data. As an expert FMCG marketeer I can see that Apple keep hitting home runs when no-one else can get to the plate, never mind first base. Come on Redmond! If you can make this bugger work we may get a two horse race. But lets put legs and a saddle on the horse before we ask a jockey to ride. For goodness sake; Gates had a working tablet ten years ago; iPad was launched more than two years ago; and you demo a non-functioning device! I've seen hundreds of blogs arguing the toss about Apple vs MSFT fails and they all miss the point. Every non-Apple tablet has failed in the market so far - you cannot risk a failed demo when the customer is alert to fails in this segment. MAKE THE BUGGER WORK; PLEASE!

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 ezzy office Line for line. Welcome to the party, softies, now it's time to hear how you can't live without this iPad1 that only works in landscape mode

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 Andre NY

Interesting that you would bang the drums on the stability of MS projects when the thing actually crashed during the demo. Love my iPad and will be keeping an eye on this as well.

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 Garry Robinson Sydney, Austalia

I program in Microsoft Office so an Ipad was not a big thing for me. But I bought one for each of the kids. For them its now a portable youtube device after the initial rush of garage band and ipad games. Now they play games on PC internet and Xbox and leave the ipad games for car trips. But for me the Ipad has been fantastic for reviewing documents and designing my house in a 3D cad program for the Ipad. Its the finger zoon function that totally rocks and when you share files that with Dropbox on the PC, the Ipad becomes an amazingly productive file and picture viewer. But this functionallity will be available from day one on the Surface. I think this new machine will totally rock. Also the longer shape of the Surface is the perfect shape for a womans handbag. This could become the perfect place for computerised interactive shopping lists. Final word USB 2 and 3. Say no more.

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 Dan Iowa

Doug, You can't fool me. "Apple has the 'wow' factor" is code for "I'm an Apple fan boy." You may claim to be objective, but I know different. You're still a member of the Apple cult. I don't really understand where you're going with this. Perhaps you're just finding a way to make room for the obvious. The simple tablets like the Ipads are only good for content consumption, and thus can never really live up to replacing the PC. Despite the comments you'll get from other Apple fan boys, EVERYONE wants a tablet like device that can actually do the job of replacing a PC. We'll see if Microsoft and the OEMs can deliver on that, but Apple fans will still be waiting for that special device that has the fruit logo on it regardless of what Microsoft does.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012

Doug, I have always turned to you for lucid analysis, heck you supported the Amiga against all the naysayers. But strongly supporting Surface, of which we know so little, seem's like you are getting ahead of yourself. I mean, we don't know if those are "real" keyboards, what software will really run, what storage it will have, what ports it will have, how it will handle Cloud technology, I could go on and on. Yes, I have an iPad 3. So does 1/2 my company of 57 people. And none of ours are sitting unused. Hope it works out for you! John

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Bruce DeLand, FL

I guess I don't get it. The MS "Surface" to me is unexciting. When I'm doing heavy work I prefer my 15.6" Dell notebook or my XPS with its 22" monitor. When sitting here in my chair relaxing, my iPad3 is the perfect environment. I read my books here, listen to my albums, browse the web and play a game or two... Even deal with some email. Works well for me. Not interested in Metro in any form factor, really.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 peter US

'do i really want a tablet that is a full blown PC' if you do real work then yes you would. Your Samsung must be great for Facebook, Angry Birds and surfing the net. You hit the nail ion the head.... it does what you what it to and thats how you decide what you purchase! A lot of people will use the surface and see the need for it.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 LA, CA

I’ve been waiting for the new Win8 tablet, but as soon as I saw Microsoft using 19th century hardware (x86…really???), I don’t think I would even consider a purchase. It will never cease to amaze me how Microsoft can destroy a product before it ever hits the marketplace.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012

Sell your Apple stock now.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 JBinPDX Oregon

BINGO. This is the device I wanted three years ago! One for the enterprise that runs existing apps. Visual Studio developers, are you ready? I can't wait!

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Am I the only one who views the repeated use of the term "kool-aid" in a comment as having the same impact on value as obvious termite damage in the sill plate of a house?

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Kirby Atlanta

When I first installed the win 8 beta on a crusty old Dell Latitude 510, I saw this coming. With win 7 as stable as it is so far I just did not see the rush for win 8 until now. THE LIGHTS ARE ON!!!!! It may or may not be an iPad killer, but The Apple heads will DEFINATELY know they are in a fight.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 GD

I find it hard for you to be objective, writing for Redmond, the "independent" Microsoft bandwagon. You already drank the kool-aid many years ago. I've been testing Windows 8 on a Lenovo x200 convertible tablet for several months, and I don't see anything to like. It's non-intuitive, cumbersome, and excessively busy. It even has crippled Win7 beneath the covers! It's in a word, a pain. I've showed it to other IT friends, and they are not fans. Even had my kids try it and they give it two thumbs down! I use both an iPad (work) and Motorola Xoom (home) tablet and both work fine for me, and my kids can't keep their hands off them either. You can go back to drinking the MS kool-aid and we'll enjoy our non-MS devices.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Notafanboi

What we have in Surface is just another ultrabook with a touchscreen. Most people that I know who own iPads use it for what it was designed for - content consumption, not creation. All they need is a browser and some apps to make the UI simple. That's it. A full-blown Win8 machine is probably more than what they want. I don't think that this will be an iPad killer, but an ultrabook killer. OEMs must be howling made about that.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Karl Compton Houston, TX

Ballmer's been reading my mail! Looks like the Surface machine is built to be a lot better for information creators the typical flat glass tablet. That makes it much more desirable from my point of view, though I have exactly zero desire to learn and use the stupid new Metro interface. Guess I'm not really a Metrosexual! All that said, I'm afraid there are a lot more drones, oops, sorry that's 'consumers' out there than creators. That, plus the fact that neither Bill G nor Steve B will ever have a cult of personality like the departed Mr. Jobs, and I don't know if the Surface will sell any better than the Playbook.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 ibsteve2u Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The scene appears to be "Control" vs. "Controlled" - making me suspect that Msft has indeed achieved something. Your line "It isn't a computer, so my lap remains covered with a trusty (but imperfect) workhorse" reinforces my opinion for it is precisely why I shook my head at the words of those who predicted the imminent demise of the personal computer after the various interface-to-something-somebody-else-controls-in-a-tablet contributions came to the market. For the PC to go away, the human need for power and control must go away. The history of technology (of trade in manufactured goods, for that matter) is that he who empowers the consumer the most, wins - but with the advent of tablets I was being told that suddenly I should believe that he who limits the consumer the most would win. A concept, it seems to me, that takes a totalitarian mindset for it requires that you believe that humans will willingly submit to being limited to only those thoughts, actions, and purchases - and no more - which benefit the vendor. So I suspect that what I'm seeing now in the way of Apple tablet sales is more fashion fad than developing trend; a fad that is reliant upon nobody bringing something to market that offers the consumer more power and control in roughly the same package. Which Msft may just have done.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 theKman58 Southern USA

Microsoft is still a software company and I don’t believe hardware sales are the ultimate goal here.
Additional benefits to producing the Surface include.
1. It provides a great stage for the Windows 8 to perform.
2. It wakes up there OEM partners who may have been on cruise control.
3. It will ensure Windows is still relevant and has a place in the computing future.
Have access to my daughters iPad2 but this is the one I have been waiting for. Should be able to fit right in with my Home Group. And if I opt for Pro can even access domain resources at work

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Luke Peters NH

I have been saying it for years, even before the iPad hit the streets, I need a device that can run real PC applications and one I can take on the road and act like a tablet. I think this is a home run, but then I never saw the attraction for the iPad so what do I know.

I do know this, if there is a list that I can put my name on to get one of the pro versions I’m going to get my name in it.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Chris

Wow, I actually had to re-read this article to see if I was missing something. Nope, just an odd opinion clearly stated. Now, I'm no Apple fan. My wife and daughter both have an iTouch, but that's it. However, I don't think Apple has anything to worry about. Do I really want a tablet that is a full blown PC? Nope. My tablet (Samsung Galaxy 7.0 Plus) does exactly what I purchased it for and does it well.

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