It had been obvious for a while, but Apple's iPad Pro launch event today made it abundantly clear that the new oversized iPad is gunning directly for Microsoft's Surface Pro. With Apple's new Smart Keyboard attached, the new iPad Pro even looks just like a Surface Pro. And with pricing starting at $799, Apple is angling to match the competition dollar for dollar. If you're thinking about buying a big, powerful tablet to carry with you on your next project, consider these key points of comparison.
1) Nobody will want a $799 iPad Pro.
Sure, the iPad Pro starts at a relatively wallet-friendly $800 bucks, but take another look at the configuration. The low-end model has just 32 GB of storage on board. Cloud-connected workflow or not, you're going to want to keep at least some of your media on local storage alongside all your apps, and 32 GB isn't going to go very far when you start talking about editing 4K video, as Apple's Phil Schiller did today. The 64 GB on the entry-level Surface Pro 3 is less of an insult to content creators. Go a little upmarket, and the Surface Pro 3 starts to look more attractive. A 128 GB Surface Pro 3 with keyboard and stylus runs $1,029, compared to $1,348 for an iPad Pro with keyboard and Pencil. Advantage: Microsoft.
2) Drawing could be a dealmaker.
Seriously. Steve Jobs disdained the lowly stylus, but many people working in design, digital painting, and other fields need stylus support. It seems like the Apple Pencil's close integration with Apple's iOS could deliver a truly superior drawing experience on the iPad, that would be a meaningful advantage for a lot of creative pros. Advantage: Apple.
3) Size matters.
The iPad Pro is thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro 3, which becomes important in a device you're planning to haul around on set or on location all day long. At 0.27 inches thick (vs. 0.36 inches) and 1.57 pounds (vs. 1.76 pounds), the difference doesn't amount to much. But throw in a slightly bigger screen (12.9 inches vs. 12) and higher resolution (2732×2048 vs. 2160×1440) and Apple has Microsoft beat on that score for now. Advantage: Apple.
4) Microsoft makes the next move.
The iPad Pro won't ship until November, which gives Microsoft sufficient time to work on its head-to-head strategy, announcing the Surface Pro 4 and making any pricing adjustments that it deems advantageous. Microsoft will no doubt be looking to give its Surface as many competitive advantages as possible. Advantage: Microsoft.
We'll call it a draw, at least based on what we know right now. Apple has a chance to make a big impression with performance and usability — or to end up playing catch-up with Microsoft, who did after all get to this market first.
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