Things I Prefer to do on my iPad versus my Surface

Last week, I covered areas and usage models where I preferred to use Microsoft Surface over my Apple iPad(s). I was actually surprised I would like Surface in so many areas given it is such a new device and ecosystem.   This week, I will reverse gears and discuss areas where I still prefer my iPad.


I prefer genres of games like action, shooter, and racing.  With the iPad, I get choices like Infinity Blade, Real Racing, Metal Storm, Modern Combat, Zombie Gunship, and Need for Speed.  The Windows Store is starting to have some decent titles like Hydro Thunder Hurricane that show the potential, but for right now that’s what it is, potential.  With the performance NVIDIA Tegra 3, I hope that the store starts to get filled with good games.


Since Apple added its own podcast app, they have been so simple and reliable.  On the iPad, I can simply subscribe and auto sync with the bare minimum toggles to manage everything.  Slapdash is a decent start for Surface, but it doesn’t auto sync and gets some nasty errors or crashes if I wasn’t connected.

Heavy Social Media

The iPad literally has a social media app for everything and more times than not, they offer the first native apps for a new service.  Also, the best apps like Tweetbot are on the iPad, too.

On Surface, the apps are OK for some casual social media, but not heavy duty.  They are a bit sluggish and lack key features.  One, for instance, is a very simple one, where you can pin a Twitter list to your start screen.  I can do this on multiple Android and iOS apps but not a single Windows RT app.

Viewing Photos 

I still prefer viewing and editing photos on the iPad.  It’s fast to open the app, open pictures, view and edit.  The editing tools are more sophisticated, too, with auto enhance and redeye.  While the Surface display is nice, I do notice a big improvement on the Retina display on the iPad 3.  One other pet-peeve I had with the Surface was when I wanted to sync photos.  It never asked me if I wanted to delete the photos on the iPhone.  Therefore, to delete the photos off the iPhone, I needed to add one more step.

Taking Notes

I take a ton of notes with my iPads using Evernote, unless it becomes unreliable and crashy where I then switch to the Notes app. The Evernote on Windows RT is the biggest disappointment of any app I have used so far.  I consider it Alpha as it either won’t sync, is slow to sync, or cannot view attachments without being connected.  Even though the app has access to the file system, you cannot add attachments other than photos.  Emailing notes works have the time and the other time crashes or displays the following error: “We’re having problems connecting to verify your info. Try signing in again.”  I tried OneNote for the tenth time. Incredibly confusing. OneNote then notes are displayed as “Personal (Web)>Quick Notes”. I’m sure if I used OneNote for years I would know what all that meant but I don’t.

Business Collaboration

While the iPad is primarily a consumer device, it has support for tools like Webex and GoToMeeting.  As an industry analyst, I get briefed a lot and these tools are invaluable for doing these.  Unfortunately, Surface does not currently have support for these and does not support them via the web browser, either.

Wireless Video Mirroring

This may sound uber-geeky, but I routinely mirror my iPad to my Apple TV to my HDTV.  I do this for many reasons, including to show off a web site, play a game, show off a new or funny app.  While the PlayTo functionality for non-DRMd video and audio is appreciated over the Xbox, it does not currently mirror the entire device.

Managing Contacts

I can very quickly and accurately view, open and edit contacts with my iPad.  I really do appreciate the linking of contacts on the Surface, but unfortunately, it is excruciatingly slow.  If I need to edit over 5 contacts, I usually just give up and go use Outlook instead.

Cloud Storage

iCloud storage for Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for the iPad is nothing short of awesome.  Now, if the apps were more compatible with Office, I’d switch over right now.  Surface does not make it easy to automatically store and update Office documents.  You see, there is no SkyDrive for Windows Desktop, only for Metro.  There is an Office Upload utility in Desktop, but it only works if you pulled the document from SkyDrive or created a document or saved once to SkyDrive.  Therefore, if you created a document offline, there is no way to have it autosave once you are connected again.  Neither Box nor SugarSync have Windows RT desktop handlers, either, which is very disappointing.

Where does this Leave Us?

Surface and the iPad are very good tablets.  What is most surprising is that Surface is brand new and it can do many things better than the iPad, now on its fourth generation.   I was surprised just how well Surface did “tablet-only” usages like video playback and even surfing the web.There is room for both these devices as they take two very different tacks.  Surface is a PC that’s also wanting to be a tablet.  The iPad is trying to be a tablet, not a PC (or Mac).   Surface will be good for those consumers like me who want it all and are willing to deal with the idiosyncrasies of the PC or have another tablet for 100% content consumption.   This battle is just getting started at a time when many pundits thought it was a closed and shut case for Apple.

Published by

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.

12 thoughts on “Things I Prefer to do on my iPad versus my Surface”

  1. “Surface is a PC that’s also wanting to be a tablet.”

    Four additional thoughts to add to your own.

    First, Ben Bajarin mentioned in one of his articles that people who use a PC and go directly to the Surface seem to like it. That makes sense to me. And since there are a LOT of PC users, that may be a significant market segment.

    Second, I was listening to Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley talk about the Surface on the Windows Weekly podcast. I couldn’t help but be struck at how they kept saying that the Surface was a true PC (meaning, it was a Windows device) and kept pointing out that it was designed for use with a keyboard. While I took these as weaknesses in a tablet, they kept emphasizing how these were strengths.

    Third, it seems to me that Surface isn’t even trying to compete with the iPad in certain areas. For example, the Surface would be awkward to use as a device for doctors to carry from room to room and patient to patient. The Surface does not need to compete with the ipad in every arena, but I think that its not competing at all in the arenas where the tablet works best.

    Fourth and finally, in my article on the subject, I opined that the Surface was less than a tablet, less than a notebook and less than ideal. I continue to feel that way.

    The Surface may well carve out a large and profitable niche for itself. But that niche may well be PC users and those who want a notebook that can occasionally be used as a tablet rather than those who want to use the device for what tablet’s do best. It will be interesting to see how this market unfolds.

    1. When you make a device that tries to do too many things at once, you end up with a product that is less than a tablet, less than a notebook, and – maybe – less than popular.

  2. How close to “1-to1” is the touch to action ratio on the Surface? Whenever I’ve used iOS, the immediacy of the touch interface is what gives that great feel. I’ve read that Surface falls short in this regard, but mostly from the Cool Apple Kids bloggers. What is your take on it? To me, it is like the jerky mouse that Windows had for years. I hated it, it was such a small thing, but every time I used a Windows machine I noticed how bad cursor tracking was compared to the Mac. And, I would never buy a machine that failed to get such a basic user interaction wrong.

  3. I am not particularly excited about the Surface not because I consider the iPad superior, but simply because I just received my new iPad Mini and I won’t be looking to buying another tablet – it’s all about timing.

    All that being said, I must say that managing notes on the iPad with the native app is nothing short of hideous and syncing my iPad contacts with multiple accounts at the same time is impossible. One must use third-party apps and tools such as:

    For both managing one’s iPad notes and contacts. In addition, I am not a huge fan of playing music on my iPad but my business life requires me to record voice memos apart from taking notes all the time. Now try transferring voice memos to your computer without using iTunes’ deleterious sync…

    Al in all, however, with additional non-native gear, the iPad is a wonderful business tool and I rather enjoy working with it than without the device.

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