iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro 3: Opposite Approaches to the Tablet OS

This past Wednesday, Apple announced the iPad Pro—a 12.9-inch tablet with optional keyboard and pencil (stylus). People immediately began commenting on its similarities to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and it’s obvious why. These devices look very similar. If you’re interested in the details, The VergeMashable and TechCrunch all wrote comparison articles. 

It’s fun to talk about the similarities and differences in hardware, but I believe there’s a more important battle going on. These devices, although very similar in appearance, represent opposite approaches to the tablet OS.

Microsoft’s Approach: From Click to Tap

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft’s Windows has been the dominant laptop and desktop OS for years, and they’ve made ridiculous amounts of money doing it. 

With Windows 10 and the Surface, Microsoft is continuing to morph their mouse-centered, PC operating system toward mobility and touchscreens. 


  • The familiarity of Windows for millions (billions?) of users
  • The massive selection of professional productivity apps already available for developers, designers, videographers, managers, accountants, etc.
  • The support of legacy software


  • The plethora of Windows apps not built with a touchscreen in mind
  • The low quality and number of apps in the Windows Store when compared to the iOS App Store
  • The lack of incentive for developers to redesign Windows apps for a touchscreen because the vast majority of Windows users are still using a mouse or touchpad

Apple’s Approach: From Mobility to Productivity

Apple has dominated mobile devices. Yes, there are more Android devices out there, but at the moment, Apple is the only company making serious money on them. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple earned 92% of smartphone profits in Q1 of this year (WSJ). 

Their tablets haven’t been producing nearly those types of numbers, but they’re still considered the market leader. 

As a way to jumpstart their declining iPad sales, Apple is trying to transition the iPad from being primarily a consumption device for the consumer market into a productivity machine used by professionals. 


  • The familiarity of iOS for millions of users
  • The success of the iOS App Store
  • Apple controls approval and distribution of apps


  • The huge lack of professional productivity apps compared to Windows
  • The absence of support for legacy software
  • Apple controls approval and distribution of apps

Who do you think will win?

Surface photo from Microsoft Press Kit. iPad photo from Apple Press Kit.

TechnologyTimothy BuckGeneral