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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 that Apple’s marketing bowed to the inevitable. The company admitted tablets are also useful for creating content and as business tools. Even now that’s not Apple’s 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 Pro — productivity tablet first

That’s not how Microsoft views tablets.

Even before CEO Satya Nadella told the world Microsoft is a ‘productivity and platform’ company, it called the Surface a business tool.

This explains why Surface evolved fast. It had three generations in 18 months and went from tablet to tablet-cum-laptop. Microsoft’s marketing says the new Surface Pro 3 is a “PC when you need it and a tablet when you want one”. That speaks volumes.

The message is “you need a laptop to do real work, but tablets have a place too. 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?

Surface is a tablet for corporate buyers

You could argue the Surface, particularly the Surface Pro 3, is the tablet corporate technology buyers always wanted. That’s 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. It explains hence all the hand-wringing you hear about BYOD, bring your own device. I’ve no evidence, but suspect companies buy most Surfaces. They give them to staff as productivity tools. The other market people 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 could be 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.