Pro iPad or Surface Pro?

Why enterprise will choose iPad Pro over Microsoft’s Surface

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Just two years ago, Apple chief executive Tim Cook took pot shots at the rise of 2-in-1 tablets, and claimed the iPad was a far better option for anyone seeking a tablet. Oh, how things change — Apple now has a similar product, the iPad Pro.

And perhaps surprisingly, it is the iPad Pro, not Microsoft’s Surface tablet, that will be popping up in cubicles everywhere this time next year — despite Apple’s history of ignoring the decidedly-unsexy-but-still-lucrative enterprise market.

The iPad Pro is much larger than its predecessor, and was designed to work with a new Smart Keyboard and a glorified stylus called Apple Pencil. It’s basically an SUV: not strong enough for some tasks, but packed full of useful features.

A look at the iPad Pro's Apple Keyboard attachment, which allows the tablet to double as a laptop.
A look at the iPad Pro’s Apple Keyboard attachment, which allows the tablet to double as a laptop.

The iPad Pro is a lot like Microsoft’s Surface product. Both feature displays that seem just a little too large to be convenient, both were designed with keyboard covers in mind, and both have gone to great lengths to convince people they should opt to spend between $49 and $99 on a stylus. There is one important difference, though: the iPad Pro is an iPad, and Surface products are not.

That might sound facetious, but it’s an important distinction. Apple isn’t trying to sell a new product to the enterprise customers it so obviously wants to attract with the iPad Pro. It’s trying to sell them an iPad (which many of those potential customers probably use outside of work) that was built with them in mind. Microsoft tried to establish something new; Apple is expanding a popular product — and that’s how it’s approaching enterprise.

Also, it doesn’t hurt that 70 percent of the smartphones and tablets used by enterprise workers bear Apple’s logo, according to a recent report by CompTIA . People are already using iPads for work, even though the device was designed as a vehicle for enjoying content instead of a workhorse machine. Apple’s decision to capitalize on that popularity with a new device should hardly come as a surprise.

It doesn’t hurt that analysts believe the iPad’s growth, which has slowed in recent years, will be bolstered by increasing popularity in the enterprise. Forrester Research said earlier this year that it expects business-owned tablets to represent 20 percent of the total segment by 2018; that’s a large increase over the 14 percent of the tablet market is owned by businesses this year.

All of which means that Apple products represent a large portion of a growing market segment — and that was when the company focused almost exclusively on the consumer market. If the iPad found a place in enterprise when its claim to fame was HBO Now, imagine how well it could do now that it comes with a dedicated keyboard accessory and what appears to be a rather capable stylus.

The iPad Pro is the latest example of Apple doing what it does best: waiting for its competitors to fizzle out in a market, designing a product that reinvigorates interest in the category, and then acting like those other products never even existed. The company even had a strange ally in creating that illusion: Microsoft executive Kirk Koenigsbauer, the corporate vice president of the Office division.

Koenigsbauer took the stage yesterday to show off how Microsoft’s Office productivity suite planned to support the new iPad Pro. He showed some interesting things, like PowerPoint turning doodles into presentation-worthy shapes, and expressed his employer’s excitement over Apple’s new tablet. That’s right — a Microsoft executive helped present a product that directly competes with Surface.  And since software is far more lucrative for Microsoft than hardware sales, I’m sure the company is extremely happy Apple is finally catering more toward workplaces with the iPad Pro.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the company's new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the company’s new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
‘Apple tax’ vs. perceived value

Surface has just one advantage over the iPad Pro: its price. Buying a Surface Pro 3 with 128GB of storage, a Surface Pen, and the Surface Pro 3 Type Cover will cost at least $1,029 before tax. An equivalent iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard will cost at least $1,218. (There are cheaper options available, but these two are the most comparable, at least for our purposes.)

That’s the stereotypical “Apple Tax” that has allowed the company to make more money than its competitors. The iPad Pro will cost more, sure, but it also has access to the App Store, a bigger and better display, and other features that put it ahead of the Surface Pro 3. I suspect many people will be willing to pay extra for those features and the ability to keep everything inside Apple’s ecosystem.

There have already been jokes about Apple getting credit for something Microsoft released three years ago. (And they aren’t too far off the mark!) Apple basically just announced its take on the Microsoft Surface after it spent years pooh-poohing the idea of using a stylus or of using one device to fill various functions instead of buying an iPad, an iPhone, and a Mac for their separate roles.

Like I said, this is what Apple does best. It watches others fail, then it releases its own product and makes ungodly amounts of money on products that establish their categories in the public conscience. Before the iPhone there was BlackBerry. Before the iPad there were Microsoft tablets. Before the Apple Watch there was Pebble. And before the iPad Pro there was the Microsoft Surface. If the Pro follows the same historical pattern, it’ll probably be a knockout hit.

86 Responses to “Why enterprise will choose iPad Pro over Microsoft’s Surface”

  1. my10cents

    Fizzle out? Surface has generated 1 bllion in revenue and is a real computer and not just a consuming device. The act that you have to buy a separate KB accessory just to get the iPad to be able to stand on its own is clearly a design mistake. The author also has clearly chosen to ignore the upcoming Surface 4 Pro and the other recently announced OEM hybrid and tablet devices as well as the deal that MSFT just made with Dell, HP, and Accenture I guess once a fanboi always a fanboi, ignorance must be bliss.

  2. The iPad Pro won’t be competing against the Surface Pro 3 but the upcoming Surface Pro 4 with improved specs. And that is discounting the fact that Surface runs a desktop OS whereas the iPad Pro does not. No track pad on the iPad keyboard combined with no ports for external storage is yet another noticeable component lacking. Points taken on the Apple brand power, and it may well prove correct. But labeling the Surface as yet another “failure” primed to be marginalized by a superior Apple product seems a bit exaggerated considering the numerous advantages offered by the Surface at a lower price point. The competition is on for both, and let’s just leave it at that.

  3. Oranjoose

    “The iPad Pro will cost more, sure, but it also has access to the App Store”

    Correction: the iPad Pro ONLY has access to the App Store. The Surface Pro has access to actual “Pro” software, since it runs a FULL operating system on a much faster processor.

    Expect the iPad Pro to really only be purchased by those who have/want an iPad, which are admittedly quite a few.

    But let’s not get confused here, the Surface Pro is undeniably better in almost every single way: more connectivity (interfaces/ports), more and better programs available (particularly ones that make use of a stylus), price, performance (faster processor, etc), much much better storage capacity), security and enterprise features.

  4. Talk about Apple fan boy. You’re really comparing a full computer to an iToy? Do you think large enterprises are running on a Mac ecosystem? No they are running Windows servers with Active Directory domains and Microsoft management tools. I’m sure they would prefer a Windows computer that can be managed by Group Policy or Intune over some home consumption device tied to iTunes. Seriously what world do you live in? Just because some execs like the iPad to check their email and read the news doesn’t mean it’s a fit for their corporate IT structure for getting real work done.

    • You clearly have absolutely no clue about how large enterprises work these days. I guess according to your ‘logic’ then IBM, SAP, Oracle, not to mention the vast majority of the worlds largest enterprise companies who have all standardised on iOS during the last 5 years or so, while completely ignoring the MS Surface tablet are all just ‘fan boys’ too eh?

      • Raynor106

        IBM. Oracle, Cisco and who ever you are talking about are not switching windows with ios/os x, they are empowering it which is not because it is powerful, because it is powerless but undeniably popular and beautiful. These companies are not some people like yourself in love with apple they are doing it for money. Do you know what standard is? standard is windows therefore surface therefore any other WINDOWS tablet. If you have a basic knowledge of IT or CS you will realize that iOS is by NO means ‘standard’ and this is not about the application availability this is about the os itself. I had a symbian phone (nokia c7) and back in the day I was proud since my friends with iphone couldnt even manage their storage :D and you are talking about standard? . Apple is catching up and this seems to be profitable for these companies to help apple since they can sell their services on apple devices as well. The exact same as what Microsoft is doing with office. It is true for windows as well. companies like oracle don’t love windows they want to sell their service on it.

  5. Steffen Jobbs

    I think you’re jumping the gun about the enterprise choosing the Surface Pro 3 over the iPad Pro. The only reason I say this is because Apple is working with both IBM and Cisco as enterprise partners. I’m only saying this should help Apple quite a bit. I’m not knocking the Surface Pro. Even I think it’s good that it can run a full version of Windows 10 where Apple’s product is limited to iOS only apps. Let’s just wait and see which way most businesses choose before coming to any conclusions. Maybe if employees have their say, they can bring or choose what they want in the way of products. A couple of hundred dollars over the life of a product isn’t very much so Apple’s slightly higher product cost can’t make all that much of a difference.

  6. Except the Surface is successful, way more powerful, and cheaper… Why on earth would enterprises buy this?! As a start on the accessories, the keyboard is just that flat fabric. MS tried that with the Surface Touch Cover, people didn’t like it… Not to mention that the cover is a step backwards when compared to the Surface when it comes to being a kickstand! Limited amount of angles if there even is more than one is horrible, Surface meanwhile, been there done that, problem already solved. Need I remind of the lacking OS they chose, or the specs inside? The pen is about on par with the Surface Pen, but way more expensive, and that’s not even counting the fact that it doesn’t come included! Ok, maybe I could see this being stiff competition if the price was way lower, as in an extremely noticeable difference, but the one they chose boggles my mind, I just can’t wrap my head around it! It would be such a sweet victory if the upcoming Surface Pro 4 is even cheaper than the Pro 3 was when it debuted as the rumors hint at! Interesting to see just how brainwashed Apple still has people!

  7. William Petri

    Um, I think you are forgetting that enterprises need more than just touch apps. They need programs. Actual, desktop, programs. The kind that let you do real work, and the kind that you connect to multiple monitors to be way more productive than just a 12 inch screen. Enterprises need support for USB drives, they need support for legacy software, and sure, they may be able to implement a few touch-first apps. Hence, the perfect description of the Surface Pro 3. Not to mention the Surface Pro 4 is being released very soon, possibly before the iPad Pro is even available for purchase.

  8. iPad Pro is just big screen iPhone it is not a true full blown O/S. You run limited apps on it but for real work you need a real computer. Also keyboards have been around since the beginning, nothing new there. For the money and features the Surface blows away any iPad. Plus existing corporate apps can be executed from it, full blown Office and more memory options. iPad Pro does not have an external SD Card or USB port without carrying more stuff around with you, also accessing files and such are limited on the iPad device.

  9. TheCudder

    Enterprise gains full Office productivity suite + Office for Mobile Devices on Surface Pro 3. The iPad Pro supports only Office for Mobile Devices (apps). These apps are limited in feature set, great for home users but not so much for enterprise users who often use the more advanced features of Word & Excel. Surface Pro 3 also has access to millions of enterprise & desktop productivity suites that you would use at your desk (you’re just as functional at the airport, on the plane, in the hotel etc.), additionally keeps all of your information on one device & offers a single experience.

    The iPad Pro is a great device for certain people, but I think it’s even more of a niche product than the Surface Pro is.

  10. John Sturgeon

    Wow. RDF is strong with the author. Enterprise choosing a toy OS? You have never been in an enterprise apparently. Maybe a better argument if it actually ran OSX… And BTW, the stylus is INCLUDED with Surface PRO 3, not extra. Seems every Apple-slanted journalist on the web has been getting that one wrong (on purpose?). Maybe because the year-plus old Surface Pro 3 still outclasses the yet-to-be released iPad Pro in most ways? And Surface Pro 4 is right around the corner…

  11. Ken Wright

    It is amazing how close these companies are on hardware. It will be interesting to see how this competition unfolds. I suspect that the software available to tailor these tablets for deployment in an enterprise will give the edge to Microsoft.

  12. Nate Robinson

    The author might want to learn a little history. What he said Apple does best was actually Microsoft’s thing. It’s Microsoft who “borrowed” mac OS and brought Windows, which almost killed apple. Microsoft Office was copy cat of lotus notes. Visual studio came from Borland turbo C

  13. The other thing that you are completely disregarding is that this iPad “pro” is still IOS where as the surface pro is full windows 10 which supports more than just mobile apps.
    Another point is when you design something with business in mind you get a better business product than something that was designed for general pubic use…

  14. Lol! This post is obviously bias! And has no valid points. Enterprise customers wont use an iPad for work. It doesn’t run full OSX. Surface Pro does – running full windows and that’s what enterprise customers love. Good try with the post – only naive and uneducated people will buy into this. iPad pro is just a bigger and shinier iPad for consumption not hard core productivity. Surface sales continue to grow exponentially. This is the dumbest post I have read from apple fan person

    • Surface sales would have to grow ‘exponentially’ for a long, long time before they could even so much made a dent in existing ipad deployments to enterprise, or for that matter come close to breaking even (MS have already lost around $10b trying to push this turkey). As for ‘hard core’ productivity, you’ve clearly never been anywhere near an enterprise business if that is what you believe, and quite what you think an awkward, underpowered, and likely soon to be discontinued hybrid device like the Surface could ever bring to imagined world of yours, is quite frankly beyond me.

  15. This is such a funny article. Journalists who have never worked in corporate IT thinking that because they use iPhones IT will migrate to iPads for one portion of their infrastructure while everything else is Microsoft.

  16. Swing and big miss on this article. I see the iPad Pro more for artists and designers. Will be great for that. Surface Pro is an enterprise product. It integrates into security, directory services and custome enterprise applications. True they have similar form factors but they’re different tools. Like saying a hammer doesn’t make a good screwdriver.

    • Even for artists it will be hugely limiting. Can it run all the Adobe suite software for getting real work done? No! Because it’s touch only, it will NEVER EVER run anything as productive as desktop class software no matter how slick or “nice to use” it is. A designer would have to carry both an iPad Pro and a Macbook which is just a whole lot of bulk. A Wacom tablet and a Macbook would be a much better choice. A Surface Pro would be an even better choice than that.

  17. While I despise apple and the inferior products they sell at a premium to people who don’t want get the most out of their hardware, this article is well written and makes valid points. I hope the author is wrong, but his conclusions are based in historical fact… Apple is the greatest corporation of thieves to ever exist.

  18. I wish you were a bit objective… Think about iPad, it cannot run any of the 86 and 64bit processor apps. Many companies have already built several of their own softwares that work well on windows. Using iphone is different since you do not work on an iphone. But a tablet aimed at the Enterprise but does not support the existing software may not make much sense.

  19. Your basic argument is because people use an iPad at home and carry an iPhone around, Apple will be able to sell the iPad Pro to the IT departments within the enterprise. You also argue that Microsoft’s decision to port Office to iOS will allow the enterprise to migrate to iOS.

    I have a friend who runs the IT department for a large national retail company. He said they like using IE 11 because it supports Java and they like to use Windows Embedded because it allows for a more stable computing environment.

    I doubt the enterprise is keen on integrating iOS into their computing environment.

    What you should argue is that newer companies that do not have a large complicated decades old computing infrastructure, will find using iOS mare productive and thus be more likely to integrate Apple hardware into their business processes.

    What is clear is that Apple needs the iPad Pro to reverse the roughly 15% iPad unit sales DECLINE. To say that iPad sales growth has slowed in recent years is deceptive. Apple needs iPad sales to GROW not DECREASE as it has done for the last 4 quarters.

    Finally, people seem to forget that Intel is hard at work designing and producing better and better mobile chips. The iPad is consuming info, which is what iOS is designed to do. The Surface and its OEM clones are for producing information, which is what Windows is designed to do. Further, OEM’s will sell Surface like devices at a lower price than Microsoft, further widening the price differential between a iPad Pro and a Windows 10 powered tablet/hybrid/laptop device.

    Apple will sell a lot of iPad Pros but not for the reason you are arguing. They will sell more for the same reason they sold a lot more iPhone 6’s. People wanted a larger screen. However, this maybe a problem. People argue the introduction of the iPhone 6 meant Apple sold fewer iPads. Why? Because the large iPhone 6 screen was enough for Apple users to stop using their iPad. What Apple may discover is the sell of the iPad Pro may result in fewer MacBook sales. I other words, Apple maybe be introducing products that also compete against other products Apple sells. Maybe we will see that the iPad is a larger threat to OSX than Windows.

  20. John Gibson

    I disagree in that for enterprise the device management and app situation is not great on the iPad. Surface can run all the legacy enterprise apps while the iPad is limited to iOS apps. The iPad on the consumer side has stagnated because there is little incentive for developers to write good iPad-centric apps. The economics of an app store with no trials, upgrades and access to customer information discourage anyone from writing anything other than apps or front ends to social networks or content.

    The iPad is making progress but for now at least it’s too limited to make sense in the enterprise.

  21. Stella Lee

    “both have gone to great lengths to convince people they should opt to spend between $49 and $99 on a stylus”
    The Surface Pro 3 comes with the pen though! Although the Surface 3 does not.