By Patrick Boberg
Literally every year since the personal computer was introduced, the mountain of business software and hardware has grown at an exponential rate. Some of these new tools can quickly be tossed aside as trivial, but others require much more research. The most vexing of these innovations may be the tablet, or to be specific, the iPad. Initial viewed as a the technological fulcrum point between business and entertainment device, IT departments have been scratching their heads for six years over whether the iPad is a necessity or a luxury.
The iPad is a Swiss army knife of computing. It can be used to shoot video, take pictures, build spreadsheets, send emails, draft invoices, create presentations, give presentations, video conference, read books or documents, surf the internet, and hundreds of other computing necessities, all while untethering the user from a desk.
Walking into a meeting, sales opportunity or informal brainstorming session with a tablet is flashy and provides a unique manner to offer and gather information. Still, what makes the tablet essential?
Smart phones do everything iPads do, and an iPad is not a carbon copy surrogate for desktop computing. Microsoft Office, video editing suites, Outlook, photo editing software, and even Internet browsers come with a completely different user interface than a desktop experience. Truth be told, unless you need to share or produce visuals quickly, iPads are not the proper tool for mobile computing.
For business purposes, the true mobile necessity is the Microsoft Surface Pro. It seems odd to think Microsoft is offering a more intuitive product than Apple, but the Surface line of tablets delivers everything you are searching for in a desktop replicated environment. Any program you can install on your laptop or desktop can be placed on a Surface and operate exactly as it would on those legacy platforms. For users looking for an iPad-like tablet interface, Surface delivers that as well by simply removing the flexible keyboard. So while the iPad is a dedicated mobile device that requires users modify their computing style to the restrained mobile environment, the Surface will transform its platform to user expectations.
Cost is where the two really differ. An entry level, 32 gigabyte, Wi-Fi only iPad costs $600 while the bottom level, 128GB Surface Pro 4 costs $900. The question you need to ask is if you want you or your staff to have a limited computerized fashion accessory or work in a mobile manner with a device that delivers a computing environment of which they’re already proficient.
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.