Surface vs. iPad: Pick the Best Business Tablet

tabletYou know the importance of a business tablet as your company becomes more mobile.

But the question persists: Which tablet will give you the best performance for your investment?

A recent survey of information workers gives an answer you might not expect.

Best Business Tablet May Surprise You

Out of 9,766 information workers surveyed worldwide in Forrester Research’s annual Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends, 32% said they would prefer a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet while 26% said they would prefer an iPad. Just 12% showed interest in an Android tablet.

Launched Feb. 9, Microsoft’s Surface Pro has met with lack luster response, but several aspects of the new mobile tablet might explain its appeal and why small business owners might also want to give these devices a second look.

First, the Surface Pro includes Microsoft Office software, long the standard in business. This makes it appealing to companies large and small.

Second, Apple has a reputation for doling out its innovations incrementally. This could be bad news for companies seeking a business tablet as a good investment for long term use.

As Shwetika Baijal observes in PolicyMic, Apple didn’t include a front-facing camera in the first iPad in 2010, although the company included the camera feature on its iPhone 4 released just two months later.

Baijal suggests Apple made the conscious decision to withhold the feature from the first iPad even though the company likely already possessed the capability. She suggests the decision is part of a business strategy intended to keep prices and demand high for each new model.

Business Tablet Race Heats Up

While the recent survey suggests the Surface Pro may be more in demand with enterprise users and so perhaps an investment to think about for small business owners too, challenges remain.

Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reports Microsoft failed to take orders for the new device ahead of time and in some cases sent insufficient numbers to retailers to meet demand.

Baijal says other obstacles are the Surface’s lack of apps, about 10,000 compared to the iPad’s 300,000+, and the unfamiliarity of the new Windows 8 operating system.

In a review in The Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg calls the Surface Pro heavy and expensive. (It weighs two pounds and starts at $899.) But Mossberg also points to another feature that may appeal to business users. The Surface Pro is able to operate like a conventional laptop, even though it is considerably more portable. But it also runs Microsoft’s new touchscreen tablet interface, making it a hybrid of both devices and a versatile choice for a business tablet.

Tablet Photo via Shutterstock


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.

3 Reactions
  1. iPads may be lighter, but most business environments are going to want something that integrates with their existing systems and network. How well can an iPad do that?

    Microsoft does have a version of Office for Mac environments, but that’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to integration.

    The majority of my clients in the Philadelphia market don’t use iPads in their office environment, though many have one for personal use. On the other hand, many that want portability continue to stick with laptops over tablets, even when use of an external keyboard to mimic a laptop is available on certain tablets.

    • Jon, interesting observations and for the most part I agree.

      I think there’s a place for everything. To my mind, tablets are great for light work such as checking emails or social media accounts while sitting out on your deck, or when you need to travel overnight for one or two days and just need to check emails and possibly some other light tasks. Tablets don’t really substitute on a permanent basis for desktop computers or even a full-size laptop.

      I have a desktop, a 17-inch laptop, a 10-inch netbook with a 92%-size keyboard, a 10-inch Nexus tablet, a BlackBerry Torch and an iPod Touch. I use each for very different purposes. All are capable of checking and even responding quickly to email, for example, and for connecting to the Web. But I use each in very different situations.

      The 17-inch laptop is great for travel of at least 5 days, because I can pretty much do all my work on it. And for a lengthy trip, I don’t mind lugging that heavy thing around.

      The 10-inch netbook is perfect for shorter term travel where I know I need to get some real work done, but want to travel light. My BlackBerry and Touch can fill in at airports and taxi cabs, and other places where it is unrealistic to pull out a computer for a few minutes. The Touch is also a great entertainment device with music, Kindle books, videos and games — so I don’t have to use up my phone battery.

      And my tablet? Well I love it for just hanging out and checking in while watching TV or sitting outside. I can do light work on it, but not anything requiring lengthy typing of more than about 10 sentences, because it takes too much time. Ten sentences is my patience limit. And since I write much more than 10 sentences on most days, it couldn’t possibly be a 100% substitute.

      So I manage to use all those devices for different purposes, and with virtualized and cloud software systems, access is pretty easy on most of them for email and Web-based systems.

      What I don’t do is try to use them for purposes they are not well suited for. That would be frustrating and inefficient.

      – Anita