I don’t want to say this but… I told you so!
Apple missed a huge opportunity by not developing a laptop/tablet and now, Microsoft hit it out of the park with its latest Surface devices. Yes, the very first Surfaces were a bit kludgy given that back then they ran the awkward Windows 8 operating system which cobbled the touch screen interface on what was otherwise a keyboard and mouse-driven tool. But even with these flaws, it did far more than the more polished iPad.
The newest iPad Pro is a bit more fit for real computing duty thanks to its larger screen, but the rest of the machine is the same. It still has a tablet file system that gets unwieldy with too much data, poor keyboard functions and peripheral support, and the same old less-than-full-featured apps. The clunky Windows 8 Surface on the other hand was a real computer that also had tablet features. Windows 10, however, has overcome many of Win 8’s obstacles, so now the Surface is a powerful tablet and PC. You can print, scan and perform any other computer functions.
Pushing Surface envelope
Most recently Microsoft pushed the Surface envelope with the Surface Pro 4 hybrid and a pure Surface Book laptop. The new Surface Book is stuffed with storage and processing power – a full terabyte of hard disk, 16 gigs of RAM, and the latest Intel Core processors. It also comes with a graphics processing unit (GPU) to speed design intensive apps, video and games.
In the early days of Windows 8 it was easy for Apple to make fun of its problems, but where Apple has two distinctly different devices for tablet and the laptop/PC computing, Microsoft has one that does both.
With Apple, you have to buy two machines, two sets of apps, and use the devices completely separately. This puts Apple at an even higher premium, and this might be the final stick that breaks the enterprise’s back and sway them towards Microsoft.
Is it possible that Apple could not blend a MacBook and an iPad or is there a reason why they won’t? After all, it’s only software and Apple doesn’t care all that much about the Mac as it makes far more from tablets, phones and watches, together with all the profits coming in through iTunes. Creating a laptop/tablet combo was the next natural step.
Apple might be adamant it wants to stay as a consumer company but are leaving so much on the table by letting Microsoft own the laptop market while take a bigger chunk of the tablet space as well. No wonder iPad sales have stalled.
Microsoft is also reviving an old category of products with inexpensive tiny laptops – the Netbooks, many for less than (USD) $200. I was walking through an electronics store the other day and had to stop myself from pulling out the credit card.
Was Wozniak wrong?
A couple years back I had a brief conversation with Steve Wozniak where I said how completely separate Macs and iPads made no sense. The Woz disagreed.
“There are a lot of things I like about [the Mac] that I would like in the iPad. But number one is to keep that technical side of things; things like files have been kept totally out of the iPad. You never see a file. Yeah, it’s hard to give a file to somebody on a flash key like we do with computers, you know the limitations,” Wozniak said. “It’s probably better for the masses and I would keep the two products separate and distinct as Apple does. I think it’s a good decision to limit the product, limit its ability, which is a huge benefit to the majority of people. Those who want more still can find computers. And thank heavens for the MacBook Pro.”
Given the iPad’s slowing down of sales and the Surface’s stunning uptick, perhaps I was right after all. Apple might have missed the first mover advantage when it comes to the tablet/laptop combo as the iPad Pro might still not be enough to convince businesses to go for Apple, especially when the new Surfaces look like this: