Earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off its smallest, cheapest, and lightest Surface model to date, a new device that the company launched to help expand its hardware portfolio and at the same time, offer customers more choices in terms of devices.
Technically, until now Microsoft has been all about premium models. The Surface Pro, which was the cheapest model that the company was selling before the newly-launched Surface Go, was available from $799 in the base configuration.
Needless to say, it wasn’t a device that everyone would buy, not because they wouldn’t like it, but because it was a pricey option that forced most of them to look somewhere else.
This approach actually made sense. Microsoft has always been the pioneer of new product categories, like the 2-in-1 form factor, choosing to focus exclusively on premium devices. Its partners, on the other hand, were responsible for expanding these categories with models of all sizes and prices.
The $399 Surface Go made many believe that from a consumer perspective, Microsoft finally has a true competitor for the iPad. Running on an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y chip and powered by Windows 10, the Surface Go is considered the eagerly-anticipated iPad killer.
And yet, this isn’t the case. Not because the Surface Go doesn’t have what it takes to compete against the iPad but because they’re two completely different devices which although they are supposed to be aimed at the same markets, offer different capabilities.
The Surface Go does nothing more than to align with the trend that the rest of the Surface brand started in 2012 and continued with every new generation. It’s a productivity machine that can be used as a tablet and, when needed, to become a laptop by attaching a keyboard.
But as compared to the iPad, the full version of Windows 10 is once again what makes the difference. By running full Windows 10, Surface Go is a PC in all regards, as it’s basically capable of running pretty much any piece of software that also runs on a desktop computer.
On the other hand, Apple’s iPad has the same limitations as before. iOS only runs apps from the App Store, and it obviously comes with a set of restrictions that should make it the second option when compared even to macOS.
Many people have described the iPad as a toy, and at some level, they were right. Despite Apple trying to convert the iPad to a more productive device, this effort has barely advanced with the release of the iPad Pro. iOS, however, didn’t allow Apple’s product to evolve in this new direction and instead made the Surface the undisputed leader in the premium productivity market.
Apple is well aware of all these setbacks, and the company is taking the necessary steps to address them. In the future, Cupertino wants to work together with partners on bringing full software capabilities to the iPad in an attempt to reduce the discrepancy between a fully-featured software product for macOS or Windows 10 and its iOS sibling. Adobe’s Photoshop is likely to be the first big name to support this approach, and it’s believed that many more would follow.
But in the end, Microsoft’s Surface Go can’t be considered an Apple iPad killer simply because they’re not even rivals. They’re completely different devices offering capabilities which customers may or may not find useful for their daily tasks. Choosing the better one of the two is clearly a subjective process, but if you’re betting big on productivity, it’s pretty clear that the iPad can’t even be positioned as an alternative to the Surface Go.