Microsoft Releases a Faster Horse

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

The Surface Pro 4 was just released, and the PC world is basically losing its mind over it. It’s fast, has a nice screen, can be packed with RAM and storage (up to 16GB RAM and 1TB hard drive), and looks relatively nice. On paper, this looks like it blows Apple’s soon to be released iPad Pro out of the water. And while it is kid of crazy that you can get a tablet with those type of specs ($2,699 for those specs), it fails at doing what makes the iPad Pro so special.

Microsoft is continuing down it “one Windows” strategy with the Surface Pro 4, as it just runs Windows 10. It’s not a stripped down version of Windows like some earlier models, it’s the real deal. So if you ever wanted a desktop-optimized operating system on your tablet, you’re probably going to like this quite a bit.

On the other end, we have Apple’s iPad Pro, which is thinner, lighter, less expensive, has better battery life, and runs a better mobile operating system. Yeah that’s right, I’m saying iOS 9 is better than Windows 10 on tablets.

How you feel about that last statement will determine how you feel about this entire tablet war between Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft believes that tablets are just desktops with bigger touch targets. Apple believes tablets are something new and should have an operating system built for them.

I shouldn’t have to ever CTL+ALT+DEL on my tablet, but that’s what I’ll have to do when an app freezes and drags all of Windows to a halt. I shouldn’t have to install any antivirus software on my tablet. These are remnants of the past that we should be moving beyond, not dragging with us for another 30 years.

I’ll never forget the 2010 iPad announcement event when Steve Jobs got on stage, nestled himself into a chair, and showed off the original iPad for the first time. I was mesmerized. Looking back, iOS (then called iPhone OS) was incredibly rudimentary and pales in comparison to what it can do today, but the feeling of using an iPad remains the same. It can’t do everything that my desktop can, but what it does do, it does far better.

iOS 9 is a fantastic release for the iPad. Split screen apps, picture-in-picture, QuickType cursor controls, and many more updates make the iPad a whole new beast when it comes to “getting stuff done.” I have shifted more and more of my computing time to the iPad because it is a more enjoyable experience. It’s different, and I have had to change some of my long-held habits, but now that I have changed, I can’t imagine going back.

But Microsoft thinks that there is no need to change. They are throwing faster hardware at the same old operating system we’ve always had. They say that Windows 10 is a “no compromises” OS, but that’s not true. They can make live tiles show a little data and they can make buttons a little bigger so your fingers can touch them, but that doesn't change the fact that Windows 10 is a desktop operating system at heart, and it comes with all the baggage of a desktop OS.

There was a time when DOS was king and operating systems with a graphical user interface were looked down on for not doing as much as the traditional console-based systems of the time.
“Who needs icons when I can type C> copy a:myfile.txt b: and do the same thing?” I feel that iOS is a better operating system for most people than Windows and OS X ever will be again, and Apple is right to focus on evolving that product on their mobile devices.

Steve Jobs famously said that PCs/Macs were trucks and smartphones/tablets were cars. They can both exist, but most people will just get a car. Microsoft is pursuing a strategy of making all of their devices trucks. That may be a good move in the short term to get old people and “power users” on their side, but that’s a market that is only going to shrink.