Surface Pros, iPads, keyboards and tablets

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 launch has triggered discussion about the nature of tablets, laptops and what ever spaces exist between these categories.

It’s a discussion worth having. We need to think more about why we make certain decisions about the technologies we buy and use.

Technically a Surface is a tablet. That’s how Microsoft pitches them in its marketing. Yet at a guess I’d say most Surfaces leave a shop or an online store along with a keyboard. At this point they become something else, something closer to laptop.

If you have any numbers on this I’d be interested to hear what proportion sells with or without a keyboard.

When I got my first iPad, I ordered a keyboard within days of receiving the tablet. At the time I saw a keyboard as the route to productivity. Since then my iPAD keyboard has sat in a cupboard gathering dust. It still gets used occasionally, but rarely with the iPad and not in the last six months.

I’m writing this on my iPad while sitting on the sofa. I often write stories on the iPad in cafés. The on-screen keyboard isn’t perfect, but that’s not important. What I lose from not being able to touch type, I gain in portability and mobility from working with a pure tablet. It has become natural.

On the other hand, I find working on a Surface without a keyboard is unnatural. As unnatural as working on a laptop without using a keyboard.

Of course that may change over time, just as the way I work with an iPad has changed. But I don’t think so, I think the Surface belongs in a different niche to the iPad. The distinction between the two may be slight, but it’s real.