Barney's Rubble

Smashing the iPad

Doug buys an iPad, but he's looking forward to the Surface.

I'm now officially an objective observer in the upcoming war between Windows and iPad tablets, having shelled out 500 of my hard-earned Barney dollars for an iPad.

After owning an iPad for more than a month, the fact that it's barely been used in a house with two adults, a 16-year-old Apple fan and a 5-year-old girl tells you something. The bloom is off the iPad rose.

The 5-year-old loves Bugs Bunny on TV and Angry Birds on her brother's iPhone. The 16-year-old 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 OSes, run full PC applications and, best of all, have real keyboards.

And the Windows 8 machines, running on Intel, are managed just like Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 machines today: through Active Directory, Windows PowerShell, System Center and all those great third-party management tools we 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 its endgame is the enterprise, this is a masterstroke on Microsoft's part, wouldn't you say?

This came to me all at once. At first I thought tablets were 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 Windows 8 tablet without a hitch. If it was that stable then, how good would a Microsoft-made machine be almost two years later? Imagine an iPad-like machine that works as a full computer. Nice.

If my theory turns out to be right, will the critics who have done Steve Ballmer all the wrongs admit their errors? Nah?

Am I on to something, or did Microsoft send me a big box of Kool-Aid mix? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 James B. San Francisco

I think you're on to something but I don't think it is a failing of Apple - the Enterprise just isn't their endgame or even any part at all of their game. Like you I have a largely idle iPad at home which I've tried to use in the office. Certainly you can consume things on it - read email, look at Excel files or PowerPoint decks. But editing anything at work is impossible for as I need real Msft Office for that. Our firm commonly uses Excel functions (simple things like SUBTOTAL()) that don't translate to either iOS Numbers or Google Apps. Dumbing everything down to the lowest common denominator just to support tablet OS's is a non-starter. We've tried to use various HP slate and ThinkPad convertible tablets for the last 5-6 years and will happily buy Windows 8 Pro tablets when they are available. Possible we'll buy Surface Pro tablets but the Lenovo ThinkPad 2 tablet looks interesting as well and comes with a pen. Even on Win 8 RT having a full Office suite there and real file compatibility will make Win 8 tablets in any form many times more productive than iOS or Android.

Tue, Aug 7, 2012 Jeff M.

Not sure you understand the iPad Mr. Rubble. Its a portable lifestyle device not a laptop. Laptops are getting smaller and more energy efficent with solid state storage.The Enterprise does not really need a tablet. The enterprise needs a Smart Phone with a big screen though. The iPad is also becoming an application specific computer. Coffee shops use it as a register. Bakeries like 'Specialties Bakeries' use it for complete self serve order/payment. My kids use it as a gaming device in the car, I watch netflix and do email before I shower in the AM. I read my magazines and checkin on FB as a BYOD at work. MSFT needs to understand this and make sure there are apps available. BUT... I wish my iPad had a mouse interface which brings us back to it being used as a computer. So it does need a better interface. I don't like using my fat fingers to navigate the screen. Oh and full disclosure I'm not an Apple fan at all. I got the iPad to keep up on the trend and understand the hype. I prefer Android, but I embrace diversity and wanted to make the most of the Apple App ecosystem.

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