With the positive reception garnered by Microsoft’s Surface Pro, pundits are wondering if there will be a shakeup in the tablet playing field. Well, the pecking order in the tablet world is really simple: on top, Apple’s iPad series, right underneath, the other tablets from other manufacturers. Occasionally, formidable contenders appear to threaten iPad’s niche at the top of the food chain. Such instances include the appearance of Asus’ Transformer (which fizzled, after users got tired of its mediocre specs,) the Kindle Fire (quite affordable, but focuses only on Amazon content) and the Nexus 7, which combined affordability with decent-to-impressive performance. The Surface Pro’s emergence could totally upend the hierarchy, as it offers full Windows 8 functionality, even when it retains the look of its abysmal brother, the Surface RT.
Will the iPad bend, or break?
Apple’s tablets account for most of the tablet sales in the market, and there’s no denying that it is the one to beat. It is, after all, the one that totally sold us the concept of the tablet, not just as an oversized iPhone alternative, but as a mobile computing device (given the right set of apps). Looking back before its inception, no one in their sane minds would replace their notebooks and netbooks with a slate that has no physical keys and has inadequate physical memory. The iPad carved its own spot in the tech world, and not only did it generate a following of consumers, it also paved the way for copycats who are looking to cash in on the tablet craze.
But the original can also be overwhelmed by its rivals, with the Surface Pro’s emergence looking just like that. It effectively (or ineffectively) combines the mobility of the tablet and the hybrid functionality of a desktop computer. Immediately learning from the shortcomings of the Surface RT, Microsoft was quick to incorporate full desktop functionality, allowing the new-gen surface to run most programs that a user would on a Windows 8 computer. It’s not really an innovation (Microsoft’s first foray into something like this was a failure, but they were the “first”) but it puts the iPad on a tight spot. It’s something that could potentially affect the sales of the famous fruit brand’s slate, considering that it’s limited to the applications it can run. These applications are optimized for mobile computing, so it’s truly inferior to what the Surface Pro’s programs can do.
Rumors have surfaced (no pun intended) that the Cupertino-based tech giant is mulling over the thought of releasing their own “pro” tablet, perhaps an iOS-OSX hybrid. Taking the cue from Microsoft, the so-called iPad Pro will be a tablet and laptop hybrid, able to run full Mac OS applications with no hang-ups. The Surface Pro can switch from tablet to desktop, but the transition could still be buggy. The touch interface can be stumbling block for users, and it could interfere with the programs that they’re running. Apple could 1-up this feature by giving the “tablet to desktop” a smooth transition, perhaps from the screen orientation, or the moment it gets fixed on a dock or a keyboard cover.
Not really innovative
Again, the tablet concept is not really new, with Microsoft dabbling on production of such a device in the 90s. The potential has always been there, and it was only Apple who first capitalized on the idea by releasing the first successful tablet, the first-gen iPad. It is like having the Internet early in the 90s without knowing about the possibility of VoIP, or having a camera in your mobile phone early in the 2000s, but not being able to use it for video calls. Apple sold us the idea that a tablet can be an everyday device by combining mobility with functionality and performance. This time, Microsoft takes away the ball by introducing a tablet that can totally render a desktop or laptop irrelevant. Your move, Apple.