Both Apple’s third-generation iPad and the new Microsoft (MS) Surface RT are in the same price range ($500-800), weigh about 1.5 pounds and run a touch-based OS. The Surface Pro model, on sale in early 2013, will run Windows 8 desktop software on x86 processors with full-fledged laptop power at the expense of battery life—it’s more like a hybrid between a tablet and an ultrabook.
Therefore, the only fair iPad comparison is against the RT—at least until the fourth-generation iPad, already on sale in India, appears in the U.S. next year.
RT: The RT includes a unique version of Office, but you need a business license to use it for work—and the keyboard/cover is an extra $100. For companies now using tablet PC rentals, the RT can integrate (somewhat) with enterprise-level users on Windows 7/8, giving it a slight edge with the IT crowd.
iPad: You can use third-party Bluetooth keyboards with our iPad rental, plus Office-compatible apps and honest-to-Office web services from MS licensees like CloudOn. All that’s a chore for IT folks to “harmonize.”
RT: This is not your office’s Office—the RT version has Excel, PowerPoint, Word and OneNote, but no Outlook. For now you may need to rent laptops with Windows 7/8 to use some ”real PC” programs such as Outlook, as RT uses only specified Windows Store apps.
iPad: Apple’s App Store is heading toward a million apps (700,000+ as of October), while Windows apps are just getting going. For now the iPad has a huge advantage.
RT: MS’s cloud-based tool, Intune, will soon offer secure device management, while Exchange ActiveSync empowers synchronized messaging. Modern office computers, like our desktop PC computer rentals, will thereby maintain a degree of intra-office and -system interoperability with Surface devices.
iPad: Apple’s iOS supports Exchange ActiveSync, too, and third-party mobile device management platforms that even monitor corporate compliance. OS X Server on our Xserve units does all this, too, but properly licensing iPads for corporate use is complicated however you try it.
The RT owes its superior security to (1) a hardware-level “secure boot” that checks for tampering and (2) anti-malware that loads first. The RT’s hardware security module also does smartcard duty for authentication, and supports full disk encryption.
iPad: Although iOS provides disk encryption, as Mac OS X does for MacBook Pro rentals, the iPad’s boot routine uses read-only memory and offers no smartcard abilities.
Neither the iPad nor the RT are particularly strong candidates yet for an enterprise workforce. The Surface Pro may be, but depending on configuration a tricked-out Pro could top $1,350. The Apple comparison at that price is a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook.
As iPads and the Surface Pro both support virtual desktops, using PC/Mac software will sooner or later be possible. But hosted virtual desktops (HVDs) are expensive, says Gartner Research, increasing retail cost “by more than $600″ per device. We’ll keep you posted as it all shakes out.