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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