Pro iPad or Surface Pro?

Why enterprise will choose iPad Pro over Microsoft’s Surface

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. wiseone

    every enterprise has hundreds of custom applications. my town has 200 running on PCs. we do not have the money to rewrite it for Apple iPad to please some Apple fan boys

  2. Really this question between iPad and MacBook. I don’t know anyone who is weighing a choice between iPad and Surface. Different platform, etc. I think the surface is interesting but according to sales figures it isn’t selling. At all. I like having a tablet and a laptop. They are complementary. The surface is an interesting touch-enabled laptop but it isn’t a very good tablet. Those who really like it like it as a laptop that runs a laptop OS.

    • Servnhimusa

      Being an apple user since the Apple II, I have to disagree that the Surface is not a good tablet. Apple has been bested by a superior product. The stylus is amazing and it can ink any office document without any special app. I have two iPads and have been trying to find an effective way of doing this for a couple of years. Maybe the iPad Pro will accomplish this, but I doubt it will have the same functionality of the Surface.

      The iPads strengths is that Windows 10 is clunky. Like Linux, it needs to strip out the geeky crap so that we can work, but keep it their for those who want to “geek it up”.

      The Surface being able to run Solidworks, macros in excel, and a stylus that is freaking awesome….it the best on the market right now. Maybe that will change with the iPad Pro, but until then, this Apple user will honestly say that the Surface Pro is a better device.

    • Really? Their sales have been setting records where as the iPad sales have been flat. Look at there recent earnings report and their huge stock jump. Oh yeah not to mention the Surface Book blows anything out of the water. Oh yah, those are completely sold out too…

    • ” I think the surface is interesting but according to sales figures it isn’t selling. At all.”

      LOL! Another ignorant idiot who is spouting BS and has no clue. What sales figures are you looking at you fool? None I suspect. You’re talking out of your ass, because the Surface devices are selling extremely well, especially considering the limited availability.

    • LOL! Too bad the author is too ignorant to realize that Surface Pro has been penetrating the enterprise markets for years. As for the iPad, it has no market in the enterprise except for BYOD. iOS has absolutely no software IT departments use or need. Apple can’t even run their own backend. They’re run by AWS and Microsoft’s Azure.

      IT departments are not going to be buy this overpriced piece of crap.

  3. Everybody is praising the surface for what a great laptop it is but then if you want to make comparisons you should compare the surface to other laptops. The surface is more expensive, the keyboard is crap compared with the keyboard of real laptops, it has less storage, etc,etc. But you may say you can’t use a laptop as a tablet. But for the same price as a surface you can get a REALLY good laptop and a pretty good tablet. So what’s the point of the surface?

  4. “Surface has just one advantage over the iPad Pro: its price”

    Good joke! Surface run a real OS – Windows 10. You have access to entire x86 Windows ecosystem, do you realize what that means? We can use without any effort Windows security tools, as AD. We are talking about enterprise, right?

    iPad Pro is just a very expensive toy compared to Microsoft Surface.

  5. The addition of a keyboard isn’t going to make the iPad pro more attractive to the enterprise. Keyboards have been available for years. Here’s the problem, it still doesn’t have the concept of a file system.

    Whether its a Windows or Mac desktop environment you’ll find the file system is heavily used.

    I think MS will win over the enterprise market once more.

  6. None of the above matters… Enterprises are still waiting on proper management software. Yes plenty of third parties trying with MDM software. We only say iPhone as possibilities because of Microsoft ability to integrate AD and Active Sync polices which still fall short. Even ChromeOS manages better, this coming multiple user education and business environment experience. Sure reminds me of a donkey and Apple.

  7. >> Surface has just one advantage over the iPad Pro: its price.

    Well, if that’s all you can come up with, here are a few more to help you out.

    1. Productivity software. It exists on Mac and Windows. Not so much iOS. The best software in the world for getting things done is written for OS X and Windows.

    2. The top productivity software in every genre is written for the keyboard/mouse combo. No exceptions. The Surface supports that hardware, just like every other Mac and PC notebook. The iPad does not.

    3. Getting things done means handling files… lots of them. Handling files means copying them, moving them, backing them up, putting them on a network, etc. OS X and Windows are designed to make this simple. iOS is designed to hide this as much as possible.

    4. Productive people use scripts for managing files and automation, using scripting technologies designed exclusively for desktop OS’s.

    5. Enterprises like to design their own business apps for their employees, uniquely tuned for their business needs. That process is a lot simpler when you don’t have to go through Apple’s app distribution process every time you want to iterate on your software.

    6. The Surface is seen as an optional replacement for notebook computers, like PC and Mac notebooks. That’s its competition. So if you say the iPad Pro is competing with the Surface, then you’re also saying it’s competing with MacBooks. And that’s true. The only problem is that the MacBook shares many of the same advantages over the iPad Pro as the Surface does. And make no mistake – the more common choice people will be considering is between the MacBook and the iPad Pro, not the iPad Pro and the Surface. This will be an Apple community civil war. Microsoft stands only to gain, as its audience is quite separate, and Apple will only be drawing attention to the obvious value the Surface offers.

  8. Lloydinator

    “Surface has just one advantage over the iPad Pro: its price.”

    WTF!!! ONE advantage, and it’s the price? Nevermind the OS or the power of the devices?

    “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.”

    An even bigger WTF here. The Surface Pro 3 is a big hit for Microsoft. Which is exactly why Apple is making its own Pro line. Seriously though, WTF!!!

    This writer didn’t even TRY to be objective. WOW!

  9. Really thats your argument? The Enterprise Companies prefer apps over full runing programs? I don’t think so! By the way…did you know Surface Pro 4 is coming??? The “Pro” term in iPad doesn’t mean anything PRO comparing with Surface Pro.

  10. Ron Fleming

    And while I’m at it .. the Surface Pro’s ONLY advantage is price?

    How about:
    Core i7 processor, which blows ANY mobile processor out of the water by a wide margin
    USB 3
    Runs Windows 10 – Anything that will run on your laptop will run on the SP3
    Superior keyboard
    Superior security management

    I could go on … wouldn’t you agree that one or two of these might matter to a business user?

  11. Ron Fleming

    I’m at a loss here. I could type a 2 page list here of what the SP3 (and of course upcoming SP4) can do that the Ipad Pro cannot, but what exactly does the Ipad Pro do that the Surface can’t, that would justify a 6-7 figure IT expenditure on it in the current cost-conscious business economic environment?

  12. Hahaha what a totally BS story. Apple makes expensive toys. That is it. Microsoft owns the enterprise. The second the new surfaces came out I ditched my iPads. Apple has no place in business other than graphic design, and it even lost it’s edge there.

  13. wrtfreeman

    IT managers will opt for the Surface for many of the reasons other commenters have provided, as well as the fact that Dell and HP just entered distribution agreements with Microsoft to include the Surface in their (many) existing contracts. While individuals may prefer Apple products (certainly the author does as demonstrated by this biased and ill-informed article), large organizations use Microsoft, and have many legacy applications that run on it.

    Written on my 1st Gen Surface Pro. Two years to the punch with a full OS.

  14. Enterprise security through Windows platforms is stronger than IOS hands down. That will likely be the number one consideration of any large enterprise, especially with mobile devices. Furthermore, business class software is developed for windows. These machines will be integrating into enterprise systems for things like supply chain management, personnel and payroll systems, customer management and order management systems, etc. Total cost of ownership involves many factors beyond the price of tablets, which are NEGOTIATED by purchasing departments rather than purchased off the shelf at a vendor’s retail store. It doesn’t sound like author researched her article.

    • “Enterprise security through Windows platforms is stronger than IOS hands down” …if you believe this you know absolutely nothing about Enterprise security policies/solutions.

      “That will likely be the number one consideration of any large enterprise, especially with mobile devices.” …now this i do agree with :o) probably the many reasons that the Surface failed so hard.

      “Furthermore, business class software is developed for windows.” …Lol, the opposite of the truth I’m afraid, and probably the main reason that large organisations were able to adopt a non-windows tablet/smartphone strategy in the first place. The business world (or at least the successful ones) figured out a long, long time go that platform agnostic hosted software solutions were the future, hell even MS have figured this out by now. You do realise companies like SAP, Oracle, IBM have spent the last five years or so redesigning their enterprise offerings to better support iOS, while at the same time completely ignoring Win8/Surface? Doesn’t sound to me like you’ve researched anything at all.

    • Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!!!

      Somebody get some smelling salts for this person, Apparently needs something in addition to reality to see the writing on the wall.

      Two things apple never had in previous “enterpise” efforts. IBM AND Cisco

      Unprecedented partnerships along w/ the points made in article trump “purchasing department ” culture, as time go by..

    • maybe because of the many ‘features’ the Galaxy note is missing, you know like actual software designed to run on it (and not just scaled up phone apps), a proven track record in enterprise (iOS practically owns the enterprise tablet and smartphone market these days), the most secure app ecosystem, or huge comittment from companies like Atlassian, Oracle, SAP, IBM to name a few.

    • What people don’t get, is that the iPad, was NOT made to replace your laptop. You think apple is trying to replace their Mac books? Comon now. Neither are they trying to steel surface pro three users away from Microsoft. Many many people already primarily use ipads for work & school, rather than laptops. So they took what people were already using, and made it faster, stronger, prettier, and more productive. This is for those employees or students who wish the iPad had a pen, or wish the iPad were bigger, or faster, and ran more desktop apps. This is for that iPad user who (before the event) was feeling tempted to switch to a surface or galaxy note pro for more productivity. Now they have a reason to stay. If only apple would do something about those prices / :

    • Because the the $Ib ‘revenue’ you quote is entirely meaningless (could be skus sat in a sales channel waiting to be returned), especially as it also ignores the $8b writedown on previous inventory and earlier models. Deceptive figures (wonder where from? lol) designed to make a failed product seem somehow less of a failure. Truth is MS can barely give these things away, so for you to quote their shilling in order to accuse this writer of the same thing, is somewhat bizarre don’t you think? Just remember there are very few businesses on the planet with cash reserves large enough to even survive a failure like the Surface/Win8 debacle, but I’m guessing that deep down you know that already :o) mark my words MS will dump the entire Surface line just as soon as they have cleared as much inventory as they possibly can. Do you honestly think that MS would be standing on stage at an apple launch to show off Office on iPad if they seriously though the Surface tablets had a future?

  15. A $200 price difference multiplied by several thousand employees, is a major investment for any enterprise CIO to evaluate. Little was talked about device or security management. Ultimately, I don’t think MSFT cares what platform it’s services are on – windows, mac OS, iOS or Android – in fact the more the better. That’s the Nadella factor sure- you may lose some windows licensing revenue but you’re massively increasing office, CRM, ERP, etc services – all beter when managed through azure. That’s why MSFT was presenting office. Don’t be surprised if you see office 365 (at a minimum) bundled in with the iPad pro. The surface was only ever a way for MSFT to show OEMs what they could be building. And how they’ve followed – incl. Apple!

    • “A $200 price difference multiplied by several thousand employees, is a major investment for any enterprise CIO to evaluate” …what a load of strawman BS. If a $200 price difference for what is in effect many peoples primary work tool, then I doubt you would see the total domination that Lenovo and Apple seem to enjoy at pretty much any successful enterprise organisation you care to name. Also, I would not say that MS do not care what platform their stuff runs on, much more like they have blown billions on failure such as the Win8/Surface/Windows Phone debacles and finally realised that they are no longer in a position to be be able to buy their success the way they have since the late 80’s. The idea that Apple are somehow ‘following’ MS is quite bizarre, but gave me a chuckle nonetheless.

  16. DaveLondon

    Hmmm, the Surface runs a full OS that can do file management (via the USB ports), can multitask properly and can run scripts etc. The iPad Pro has a tiny app repertoire compared to the full Windows offering and can’t even run full versions of anything, only iOS apps. Of course MS like it, it will drive people to subscribe to Office 365 and then migrate to a full on computer. I’m getting a Surface, the iPad Poo doesn’t even get a look in because even my £95 Win 10 tablet can run more apps…

    • You have no clue what you’re talking about. There are practically no apps designed for a Windows tablet, which is probably because very few people are buying them, much less businesses. All major enterprise vendors (not just IBM) are continuing to invest very heavily in iOS, while at the same time completely ignoring the Surface/Windows alternative. Face it, if people want WIndows a Windows laptop is a way better solution than an awkward, overpriced, underpowerd, and unsupported hybrid flop like the Surface. I assure you MS will ditch the Surface as soon as they possibly can, and it will go the way of practically all MS hardware ventures (they will probably continue to throw money at propping up the Xbox, at least for now).

      • Raynor106

        A butt hard, sad apple fan boy :))))))))))))))))))))))) keep talking….. “no app designed for windows tablet” :)))) dude windows table is a windows pc. By iPad Pro apple is simply catching up and is failing since there is no full os and there is no enterprise standard processor… GET USED TO IT

      • Raynor106

        I have the cheapest surface pro 3 and I’m already beating my cousin(using the best macbook pro) in many ways… even hardware. I know my words won’t change anything in your fanboy mind but do some research.

      • Interesting, Ipad and surface aside. Lets take a look at the MacBook, iMac Pro, MacBook Pro. Now that is running a full version OS. Hmmm… Lets walk into any business or large corporation. Just imagine in your head as you turn and look around what do you see? PC! Wait wait, Somewhere along the line a Apple user has to use a PC to do something. Hmmm… I wonder why?

        Business 101 – a company must save money and be more efficient. It is simply not cost effective to purchase and IPad Pro that runs entertainment apps that really don’t do anything. Also it isn’t really cost efficient to hire new developers to rewrite code to run on them.

  17. I am a complete Apple fanboy. But despite that, I think your article lacks any true substance. It is no more than click bait, congratulations you achieved what you set out to do. I see no compelling reason for the Enterprise to choose an iPad Pro over a Surface or for that matter any decent Windows based laptop or convertible.

  18. Matt Born

    “Apple isn’t trying to sell a new product to the enterprise customers it so obviously wants to attract with the iPad Pro…..Microsoft tried to establish something new”. Huh? Is this insight what the article is based on? The Surface Pro is a PC. Last I checked those are pretty common in the Enterprise customer segment. I am lost at what the author tries to argue.