What it is: Microsoft sells the Surface Pro while Apple sells the iPad Pro. Which is better?
Sales of PCs keep dropping but desktop PCs are selling worse than laptops. That’s because the world is shifting to mobile computing led by smartphones and tablets. To shift to the world of mobile computing, both Microsoft and Apple are selling 2-in-1 hybrid devices. Microsoft’s trying to keep Windows relevant by dragging a desktop operating system into the world of tablets while Apple is trying to make iOS more like a desktop operating system. Depending on what you need will determine which device is better for you.
The Surface Pro is basically an ultra portable laptop with a mediocre keyboard. The iPad Pro is basically a large tablet with a mediocre keyboard. The main advantage of the Surface Pro is that you can run all types of desktop applications such as AutoCAD, Quark XPress, and Photoshop. The main disadvantage of the Surface Pro is that most Windows software isn’t optimized for a tablet. Even Microsoft sells two versions of Microsoft Office: one version for desktops and one version for tablets. Each version works similarly but have slightly different feature sets and user interfaces. That basically shows that you need software optimized for either the desktop or tablet.
The main advantage of the iPad Pro is that it’s small, light, and able to run all iOS apps. The main disadvantage is that iOS apps aren’t as powerful as ordinary Windows or OS X programs. So if you mostly need a laptop, get a Surface Pro. If you mostly need a tablet that can double as a light weight computer, get the iPad Pro.
With software like Microsoft Office and iWork available on iOS, you can be productive using a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program. For most people, an iPad Pro will be all they need. However if you want to write programs using Xcode or create interactive e-books using iBooks Author, then you’ll be better off with a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro laptop.
For maximum flexibility, you’d be best with a MacBook Pro so you can run Windows 10 as a virtual machine under OS X. This gives you the ability to run both Windows and OS X software. Rather than get a Surface Pro, consider Microsoft’s other option, the Surface Book, which is more like a conventional laptop with a detachable touch screen that turns into a tablet. Like the Surface Pro, the Surface Book is better suited for laptop users who may want tablet capabilities.
If running desktop applications like AutoCAD or Adobe InDesign isn’t important, then you might be able to get along with an iPad Pro. If you actually need to run CAD or desktop publishing software, then you probably need a laptop more than a tablet. The Surface Pro and Surface Book are laptops first and tablets second. The iPad Pro is a tablet first and a laptop second. Knowing this, just define your priorities and decide which one is best for you.
Then again you could always opt for both. Get a MacBook Air and an iPad mini, and you’ll spend as much as a Surface Pro with its additional accessories, or a Surface Book. No matter which device you get, the future is clear. The world is shifting to mobile computing where our computers will be light and small enough to take with us. If you need to stay more firmly rooted in the past, then the Surface Pro or Surface Book may be more attractive toy you. If you aren’t as tied to the Windows ecosystem and want to adopt the future, then you’ll likely be more inclined to choose an iPad Pro.
Ultimately what’s more important is what you need and what you want to do with a mobile computer, rather than the technical specifications or features of either device. Decide what you need and then see how each device can meet your needs.
Just remember the last time people had to decide which operating system to use, they had a choice between MS-DOS and CP/M-80. Anyone who chose MS-DOS wound up in a thriving ecosystem. Anyone who chose CP/M-80 gradually watched their opportunities evaporate before their eyes. While Windows may still be popular today, will it be just as popular tomorrow? If all else is equal, choose iOS since that’s the future while Windows represents the past.