Error message

Notice: Undefined index: content in clean2014_block_view_alter() (line 631 of /var/domains/harmon.ie/www2/sites/harmon.ie/themes/clean2014/template.php).
Surface Pros and Cons

When tablets made their first appearance back in 2010, the consumer market went wild for them. However, after the initial enthusiasm for such products, the market has gradually stagnated. The most recent statistics from IDC show a long-term decline in sales for all the major hardware providers.

There’s a whole range of reasons tablets have started to lose their allure. To a degree, they’re a victim of their own success – tablets tend to be well made and dependable, meaning there’s less need for consumers to replace them. At the same time, there’s been a corresponding lack of innovation – most consumer tablets are fundamentally the same in 2016 as they were in 2010 when the market began. After the initial shock appeal wore off, tablets have ended in a sort of tech limbo. More powerful than mobile devices (although sacrificing portability aspects in the process) but unable to compete with the productivity side of laptops or desktops.

See, a tablet certainly can be used in the workplace. However, if you need to write a hundred-page report or create a PowerPoint presentation, most people will still tend to gravitate towards a ‘full’ power computer with a physical keyboard. This has meant that tablets are often (if unfairly) seen as consumer devices – as the following chart attests.

North American Tablet Web Usage volume
 

Chitika’s research shows that the peak usage hours for the major tablet providers is decidedly ‘after hours’ – from 6PM until around 11 in the evening.

While Microsoft’s Surface commands a far smaller percentage of the market, it is actually used more often during working hours than either Android or iOS tablets. This is a revealing trend, and tells us a lot about how users view the Surface Pro range compared to Apple’s tablets. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The battle for the enterprise market

All the major tablet providers have come to realize that the consumer market for tablets may not have the most prolific future. However, breaking into the enterprise market could offer a very lucrative, long term market for tablets…as long as they’re configured to the needs of enterprise users.

And that, in a nutshell, explains the genesis of the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro range. The Surface Pro range has been around for a few years, but the Surface Pro 4 – released on October 26, 2015 in the US – is a slick update on earlier iterations. The iPad Pro’s first incarnation hit the stores from November 11th of last year.

“If you see a stylus, they blew it” – Steve Jobs, 2010

We can only speculate what Steve Jobs would have made of the iPad Pro: a tablet with a huge screen that includes the dreaded stylus and comes with a detachable keyboard. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 has all the same features, although it comes with a slightly smaller screen, more ports and with full power Windows 10 software; iPad users will depend on Apple Store apps. See this comparison (it’s just one of many out there) of the two offerings.

So, we have two pretty similar products, each targeting the same market and incorporating a lot of almost identical features. Will the iPad Pro do what Apple has done so many times before, reimagining existing ideas with an intuitive UI twist? Or will Microsoft – with its deep entrenchment and knowledge of the enterprise productivity world – manage to fend off this incursion into its heartland?

While it’s early days yet, estimated sales statistics indicate a lead for the Surface Pro 4. The Register reported in December that Microsoft’s online tablet sales were almost double those of the iPad, although these figures are not broken down by specific product and, unsurprisingly, neither firm has announced precise sales figures.

It’s a rare occurrence to see Microsoft out-Apple Apple. Yet with the Surface Pro 4, it does look like Satya Nadella’s firm may have taken the lead in the enterprise tablet market, and may even expand its dominance in the wider tablet arena in years to come – according to Strategy Analytics projections. iOS remains the market leader in the tablet niche, yet Microsoft seems to be creating the more innovative enterprise productivity tablet and Apple has found itself aping the stylus and detachable keyboard that have long been central to the Surface Pro.

What can we expect in 2016?

It’s far too early to tell how Apple and Microsoft’s versions of an enterprise-friendly tablet will pan out. Apple may still win over employees – who we must remember are consumers in their personal lives, for whom the iPad has always appealed. Nevertheless, the Surface Pro 4 seems to so perfectly fit the hole in the enterprise tablet market – especially with Windows 10 included as standard – it seems like it’ll be hard to displace Microsoft.

Whichever enterprise tablet you go for, make sure your employees can connect to SharePoint and Office 365 via their devices with harmon.ie's mobile solutions.  

David Lavenda
Chief Product Officer