Microsoft's Surface Pro is apparently just what businesses want in what was formerly known as the desktop computer. If that's the case, Apple's brain trust may want to revisit the space where the Mac and the iPad intersect.
According to Forrester Research's annual survey of nearly 10,000 people around the world who use a computer to do their jobs an hour or more a day, 32 percent said they would prefer Windows over Apple or Android for their next work tablet. Currently, about 2 percent are using a Windows tablet for their work.
Forrester predicts that Apple will continue to be a smartphone maker of choice for business users, but the research company predicts that 200 million workers will be lining up for a Windows tablet, such as the Surface Pro. It could be that those business users just want their Microsoft Office and other Windows features on a tablet. Still, 26 percent of those surveyed preferred an iPad compared the 32 percent who wanted a Windows tablet.
Despite what Forrester says, Apple portrays the iPad as taking the enterprise by storm.
"With more than 120 million iPads sold, it's clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and everyday they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a press release introducing the new 128GB iPad. "With twice the storage capacity and an unparalleled selection of over 300,000 native iPad apps, enterprises, educators and artists have even more reasons to use iPad for all their business and personal needs."
Schiller added that "virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85 percent of the Global 500 [are] currently deploying or testing iPad" for applications such as film editing, music composition, training videos, architectural projects and medical diagnostics.
iPad apps are generally single-purpose. For example, professional sports teams are buying iPads to run apps, such as GamePlan, that replace paper playbooks, game film, schedules and guidelines for players and coaches. The app is not part of a more complex workflow involving several apps.
The reality is that people like the iPad, or just tablets in general, and that's helping to fuel a post-PC wave that is eclipsing sales of PCs. "Post-PC," as Steve Jobs put it, means devices that are easier to use and more intuitive than a PC. But the new 128GB, $799 Wi-Fi-only iPad in its post-PCness doesn't satisfy users who want multitasking, multiuser access and other "PC" features.
It's the difference between what you can do with Mac OS and Apple's mobile iOS. Some users will want the best of both, and that is what Microsoft is attempting to do with Windows 8 and the hybrid Surface Pro.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has described the Surface as "fairly compromised, confusing product," and compared it to designing a car that flies and floats. "I don't think it would do all of those things very well," he said.
The $999, battery-life deprived Surface PC-laptop-tablet might be off to a slow start, but as ZDNet's Ed Bott wrote in his evaluation of the machine, "this is a great product for anyone who's already committed to a Microsoft-centric work environment. It isn't likely to inspire many iPad owners to switch, unless those Apple tablets are in the hands of someone who has been eagerly awaiting an excuse to execute the iTunes ecosystem."
Jean Louis Gassée, a former Apple executive, founder of Be Inc. and venture capitalist, sums up Apple's "pro" problem in his attempt to use an iPad to write his recent Monday Note column:
Once I start writing, I want to look through the research material I've compiled. On a Mac, I simply open an Evernote window, side-by-side with my Pages document: select, drag, drop. I take some partial screenshots, annotate graphs (such as the iPad Pro prices above), convert images to the .png format used to put the Monday Note on the Web....On the iPad, these tasks are complicated and cumbersome.
For starters -- and to belabor the obvious -- I can't open multiple windows. iOS uses the "one thing at a time" model. I can't select/drag/drop, I have to switch from Pages to Evernote or Safari, select and copy a quote, and then switch back to the document and paste....Adding a hyperlink is even more tortuous and, at times, confusing....and things get worse for graphics.
Gassée speculates Apple might want to expand the iPad into "authentically Pro territory." He concluded, "The more complex the task, the more our beloved 30-year-old personal computer is up to it. But there is now room above the enforced simplicity that made the iPad's success for UI changes allowing a modicum of real-world "Pro" workflow on iPads."
If the Surface Pro becomes more successful as it evolves, Cook and design chief Jony Ive will have to think about designing a no-compromise iPad that can fly and float, or fly and drive, and do both very well.