Microsoft Surface: How it stacks up against the iPad

by Ray Aguilera

June 20 2012

Surface may be the iPad's most worthy challenger yet. But how does it stack up against Apple's third-gen iPad?

Microsoft's recent announcement of their forthcoming Surface tablets was a surprise, but even after the big reveal in Los Angeles on Monday, the big question is: How will Surface fare against the category-leading iPad? We'll have to wait until at least the Fall to test Surface versus an iPad in the real world, but here's what we know now.

Surface for Windows RT: Nvidia ARM processor
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Intel Ivy Bridge
iPad (3rd-gen): Dual-core A5

Surface for Windows RT: 10.6 inches, resolution unknown, but Microsoft calls it an HD display, so 1280 x 720 is possible
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: 10.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 HD
iPad (3rd-gen): 9.7 inches, 2048x1536 Retina display

Surface for Windows RT: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort Video
iPad (3rd-gen): Dock connector

Surface for Windows RT:
32/64 GB
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: 64/128 GB
iPad (3rd-gen): 16/32/64 GB

Surface for Windows RT: No dimensions given, besides thickness of 9.3mm
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: No dimensions given, besides thickness of .53 inches
iPad (3rd-gen): 9.5 x 7.3 x .37 in

Surface for Windows RT: 31.5 Watt-hours
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: 42 Watt-hours
iPad (3rd-gen): 42.5 Watt-hours

Surface for Windows RT: Microsoft Office, plus Metro apps from the Windows store
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Microsoft Office, plus Metro apps and Windows 8 applications
iPad (3rd-gen): No official Office apps, but lots of compatible third-party options amongst the 500,000+ apps in the App Store

Surface for Windows RT: Touch Cover & Type Cover 
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Touch Cover & Type Cover
iPad (3rd-gen): Compatible with Bluetooth keyboards

4G Connectivity
Surface for Windows RT: ?
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: ?
iPad (3rd-gen): Optional

Release Date
Surface for Windows RT: Fall 2012
Surface for Windows 8 Pro: Early 2013
iPad (3rd-gen): Out now, with likely update in early 2013

With so much about Surface still up in the air, there are more questions than answers. Microsoft didn't mention any pricing details, a key concern for both consumer and business users. With third-gen iPads starting at $499, and the iPad 2  still on shelves at $399, analysts agree that the Surface RT model would have to come in near that price-point to gain much traction. And with Apple's commanding lead in the the mobile app space, it remains to be seen how Microsoft plans to stock its virtual shelves, particularly for Surface RT buyers, who will be limited to Metro apps from Windows Store.

Ray Aguilera is the Technology Editor of TabTimes and is based in San Francisco

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  • Xennex1170
    2 years 5 months ago

    Hmm.. So if the price for Surface is comparable to a similar Memory capacity iPad + keyboard cover, it may just end up as a choice between the software and prior OS investment.

  • bfrench
    2 years 5 months ago


    I read the article your comment links to.

    "... MS Excel: Boom, Bust and Echo Segments data analysis will be possible on the Surface."

    I do that today with iPad 2 (and 3) using CloudOn. I've been doing complex Excel spreadsheets on iPad since July 2010.

    "... just a means to consume online content ..."

    Really. I'm not sure which rock you're living under up there in Canada, but my clients are using iPad (2) to measure restaurant quality across 17,500 stores globally. iPad is the key delivery infrastructure for another client's entire workforce health and benefits management plan. Oh, and I almost forget to mention one of the top three telco's here in the US use iPad (and iPhone) for document sharing across the enterprise (12,700 employees). This commenting system will not scale high enough to record the real business cases iPad is playing key roles in enterprises.

    If Balmer was truly in touch with the reality of iPad's enterprise penetration and use cases, he would release [mobile] Office for iOS immediately so that they'd have a chance of defending at least that turf. Today, Microsoft's best bet for getting mobile Office into the enterprise and solidifying its Office future is with iPad - yeah, the one that's only good for consuming online content. ;-)

    Waiting in the wings is an assault by Google (however messed up it may be) to leverage QuickOffice for iPad in the enterprise which already has a few million users. Even if Google completely goofs this play in the enterprise, it will continue to erode Microsoft's mobile Office opportunity.

    Sure, Surface looks good on paper, but read this before you double down on Microsoft shares. ;-)

  • Tom Wolfer
    2 years 5 months ago

    The Tablet has become an office and home productivity computer - not just a means to consume online content - with Microsoft's Surface. In Canada, at least, expect to see Canadians doing taxes, writing letters and maintaining contacts on a Microsoft Surface Tablet PC: using Microsoft Office software apps.

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