Ann Arbor Area Business Monthly
Small Business and the Internet

Take Two Tablets

December 2015

By Mike Gould

Mike Gould at the Briarwood Apple Store trying out an iPad Pro

Last month we (well, I) discussed the new Microsoft Surface Book (MSB), the new Windows-running, touch-sensitive, screen-detaching wonder from our friends in Redmond. Last week a challenger appeared in the form of the iPad Pro (iPP), Apple’s latest iteration of their popular tablet/media device/laptop replacement. Today’s musings will ponder the relative benefits of both, sort of a computer cook-off.

In the words of the Iron Chef, whose cuisine will reign supreme?

Have Geek, Will Travel
I actually left my basement HQ the Saturday after the iPP appeared to get some quality hands-on time with the beast. This was mostly because I have been wanting one of these ever since they were announced last September. I am a major iPad II user, after wearing out my original iPad after 2 years of heavy use. Well, I didn’t really wear it out – it still runs fine, but the pitiful amount of RAM in the original model isn’t up to the demands of modern websites. Cruising my favorite graphics-intensive sites would slow this to a crawl, so I got the rev. 2 a couple of years ago.

To illustrate what a total iPad nerd I am, a bit of history: I signed up at the Apple Store in Briarwood to receive the brand new iPad soon after it was announced way back in 2010. The day before they were due to arrive at the store, I got a call from a manager telling me that they recognized my name on the list, and since I am such a celebrity (!), I was told to just hang out by the door and they would let me in first, ahead of the expected crowd. Which I did and they did and as a result I think I was the very first person in Ann Arbor to buy one. I guess it pays to crank out these articles every month – some people actually read them (who knew?) and confuse authorship with fame. I wrote about my first iPad back in the day, URL below.

On a side note, concerning the continuing popularity of the iPad: when they first came out, as I related above, there was a line of people around the block waiting since six in the morning to buy them. When I visited last Saturday (five years later), no line, and I didn’t have to fight a crowd to gets hands-on. I also haven’t read any reports of big crowds fighting to get a MSB; I guess the thrill has gone from the tablet marketplace; a portable computer is just another tool in the belt these days.

Size Matters
Anyway, back to the iPad Pro. It’s like someone took a regular iPad and grabbed it by the corners and yanked it out a bit bigger. Regular iPad: 9.4 x 6.6inches - iPad Pro: 12 x 8.7inches, and it weighs just a little bit more than the original.

Like the Microsoft Surface Book, it has a stylus and keypad. Unlike the MSB, you have to pay extra for them. The price of the iPP, stylus, and keypad is very close to that for the MSB, so they are comparably priced.

De Profundis
I don’t want to get too deep into comparing the MSB and iPP technical details; there are tons of sites on the web where this can be found. So here is a shallow comparison of a couple of salient features.

Operating systems: The MSB runs Windows 10, the iPP runs iOS 9, just like the iPhone and earlier iPads. This is sorta interesting in that anything that runs on a desktop computer can theoretically run on the MSB. Microsoft believes, like Frodo, one ring should rule them all. Apple thinks desktops work best with a robust OS like OSX, and tablets and phones run best with the more stripped-down iOS. There is a lot to be said for both strategies, but I’ll let other pundits say it. Suffice it to say that iOS is pretty robust these days – want to run MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) on your iPP? Yeah, there’s an app for that on iOS.

Pencil Me In
Apple used to make fun of portable systems with styli, and now they manufacture one, the Apple Pencil. I tried it out, as you can see in the photo above, and it worked nicely. The MSB comes with a stylus that magnetically attaches to the unit for transport – the Apple Pencil has nothing like this, and I can see it being lost a lot as a result.

I think the major category of buyers for the iPad Pro will be artists, using the Apple Pencil to do all sorts of interesting design that used to call for a separate tablet (usually made by a company called Wacom) attached to a desktop Mac. Here you no longer need a separate computer; you have an easily portable system you can take anywhere.

The Apple iPad Smart Keyboard feels nice and worked well during my brief test. It is also part of a cover for the unit, which adds a bit of clunkiness to the design. Last month I criticized the MSB for not closing elegantly – there is a big gap when the lid is closed. Well, the Smart Keyboard is also less than handsome in the way it wraps up the iPP.

There is a lot of discussion on the blogosphere as to just who these products are designed for. My take is pretty much everybody. Just how popular they are will be revealed after the holiday season, but I think both will do well.

Suffice it to say, if you are a Windows user, you will probably like your MSB; Apple user, you will almost certainly like your iPP. I don’t think many Win folks will jump ship to get an iPP, and I’m sure not a lot of iOS users will snatch up a MSB. People like what they’re used to.

Me, I still want an iPad Pro. I would love to get used to it.

Apple iPad Pro website: My article: iPadding:

Mike Gould is still in lust with the iPad Pro. He was a mouse wrangler for the U of M for 20 years, runs the MondoDyne Web Works/Macintosh Training/Digital Photography mega-mall, is a laser artist, performs with the Illuminatus 3.0 Laser Lightshow, and welcomes comments addressed to

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