Microsoft's Surface tablet is drawing raves for its sleek design and innovative features like the Touch Cover for typing.
iPad users still have have plenty of bragging rights including the Retina display and the seeming infinite variety of apps they have have to choose from. But the Surface is shaping up as the first credible challenger to Apple's market-leading tablet.
Here are seven Surface features that could make even an iPad user envious.
Let’s face it; the iPad is a fantastic tool that appeals to a wide variety of users. You can get an iPad with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of storage, and there's a lower cost model (the $399 iPad 2) if the newest iPad is bit beyond your budget, but essentially an iPad is an iPad.
Windows Surface is going to offer more expansion and connectivity options and separate consumer and business/professional models. There’s an ARM-powered Windows RT version with 32GB or 64GB of storage, but also an Intel Ivy-powered Pro version for data-hungry business users that offers either 64GB or 128GB of storage.
Full-sized USB ports
Remember when the first iPad was launched, and the furor around the lack of any sort of USB connection? Well, that may have died down since then, but the inclusion of a full-sized USB connection is a real feather in Microsoft’s cap.
Apple may have got around the USB problem with iCloud and third-party mobile cloud apps like Dropbox and Box, but the inclusion of a full-sized USB port (USB 2.0 for the Surface and the faster USB 3.0 for the Surface Pro) as well as a Mini DisplayPort connection makes this much more attractive to business folk for saving and collaborating on work.
A smarter keyboard case
Microsoft's innovative Touch Cover case is a nice freebie.
The case attaches to the Surface magnetically and essentially doubles up as a multi-touch keyboard with trackpad. Microsoft says the 12mm-thick case is made out of VaporMG, a strong yet light magnesium, while the keyboard’s integrated accelerometers cleverly tell the tablet that the keyboard is no longer required when the keyboard is folded back over the Surface.
iPad users can of course buy third party keyboard/cases, but they're an extra.
It’s not the biggest or best feature of the Windows Surface tablet, but the attached magnesium kickstand will be useful, certainly for watching videos or for business and sales folks presenting to clients.
A precise tablet stylus
‘A precise tablet stylus’ isn’t probably a term you would’ve heard too often before, but it could be if Microsoft delivers the good with its stylus for the Pro Surface tablet.
The firm says that the stylus accessory will help users annotate documents or fill in forms, and says the stylus will be able to ignore other touch-input from users’ hands when held close to the screen. The company also says that there will be a palm block to prevent your palm touching the screen when using the stylus which has certainly been something of a pain when using a stylus with select iPad applications.
As with the keyboard and kickstand, we haven't tested the stylus yet, but this could certainly be a strong selling point for the Surface if Microsoft gets it right.
It hasn't got a lot of mention, but Windows chief Steve Sinofsky said that the Microsoft Surface will have 2x2 MIMO antennas to give it the strongest WiFi capability of any tablet on the market. That claim can't be tested as of yet, but is potentially a big point in the Surface's favor when you consider the many iPad users who have experienced WiFi problems.
Office for Windows 8
Microsoft has already confirmed that Microsoft Office will be included with the Surface (as well as all other Windows RT tablets) for free.
Reports and rumors of ‘Office for iPad’ have come and gone in waves recently, and we don't really know if the product is ready or not. But the betting here is that Microsoft wants to be sure Windows 8 has first tablet dibs ahead of the iPad.