Apple, Microsoft — two tablet visions

When Steve Jobs took the wraps off Apple’s first iPad, he showed a new class of device. The iPad was neither a new type of PC nor was it a giant smartphone. The iPad opened new territory.

Apple sold the original iPad as a personal digital media device. It stuck with that approach for the first three tablet generations.

It wasn’t until the iPad Air arrived that Apple’s marketing bowed to the inevitable and admitted tablets are also useful for creating content and as business tools. Even now that’s not the main sales pitch.

Google doesn’t sell its own tablets. When partners began selling Android tablets they followed Apple’s lead. Samsung took pains to emphasis the entertainment and media aspects of its Galaxy Tab S. Business takes a back seat.

Microsoft Surface — productivity first

That’s not how Microsoft views tablets.

Even before CEO Satya Nadella told the world Microsoft is now a ‘productivity and platform’ company, Microsoft emphasised the Surface range are business tools.

This explains why Surface evolved quickly in just 18 months and three generations from tablets to tablet-cum-laptops. The way Microsoft’s marketing says the new Surface Pro 3 is a “PC when you need it and a tablet when you want one” speaks volumes.

The message is “you need a laptop to do real work, but tablets have a place too, so here’s something covering both bases”. It’s no accident that almost every Surface buyer picks up a keyboard along with their tablet.

How does this play out in business?

You could argue the Surface, particularly the Surface Pro 3, is the kind of tablet corporate technology buyers always wanted. That’s clearly the market Microsoft wants.

And yet, Apple does a great job selling iPads to large companies. Walk into any CBD glass tower you’ll see people using iPads.

The iPad took root in business from the bottom up. People who bought iPads for personal use took them to the office and found new ways to be productive. In some cases using third-party add-ons and apps from the iTunes store.

Companies had little choice but to adapt to this trend, hence all the hand-wringing you hear about BYOD, bring your own device. I’ve no evidence, but I suspect most Surfaces are bought either by companies who give them to staff as productivity tools or by people who are deeply committed to Microsoft products and services. I also suspect many Surfaces replaced PCs.

One device or two?

Microsoft thinks you need only one device to do two jobs. The Surface Pro 3 is quite possibly the best Windows laptop. It’s a good tablet, but not fabulous and it is expensive.

In Apple’s world, there are two jobs needing two tools. The tablet is a consumption device. If you are serious about creating content, buy a MacBook. You are, of course, welcome to buy both. Apple is doing something right. While iPad sales have hiccupped, sales of Apple laptops continue to rise. Windows laptop sales are falling, attacked from above by Apple and from below by the Chromebook.

How Microsoft changed mobile editing with iPad Office

Before Microsoft delivered an iPad version of Word my cross-device writing tool of choice was Information Architect’s iA Writer.

iA Writer scores on several fronts. Above all its simple design and its use of Apple’s iCloud means seamlessly moving from MacBook to iPad and back.

Recently Apple updated Pages word processor and delivered a decent iPad version. Like iA Writer, the iCloud integration makes for a smooth transition between the iPad and Mac.

Pages and iA Writer are fine mobile writing choices. They were better than Word. That’s no longer true.

Microsoft Word is the gold standard in my work as a journalist. Editors expect, even demand, Word format copy.

While it’s easy to write in Pages, iA Writer or any of a dozen other tools then convert to Word before sending, that’s not the best way of working. Some things get lost in translation. And anyway, my work often means dealing with incoming Word documents.

Sticking with Word makes sense even if you never leave the Apple world. Once you step outside Apple’s walled garden, it’s an even better decision.

Microsoft Word’s main rival is Google Docs. It works with every device and comes with its own cloud integration. It’s good for basic document creation and is wonderful for people wanting to co-operate on writing projects while working remotely.

Until now Microsoft Word dominated the old static, disconnected way of working while Google Docs was making the running in mobile, connected editing. There was a feeling in some tech circles that Microsoft Office was doomed because the software giant was becoming a dinosaur.

That’s changed.