What Apple Can Learn from Microsoft’s Windows 8 Surface Tablets

As Microsoft makes its foray into the tablet market with its own line of self-branded tablets aptly titled Surface, the company’s much-needed innovations make for evolutionary steps that Apple should be taking note of for future iPad designs. Microsoft makes splashes in not only a new realm of hardware-central functionality, but also with creative, meticulously-designed accessories that can transform Surface into something that remains new whilst retaining a sense of familiarity.

Perhaps one of the biggest vices and virtues of Microsoft’s Surface line is that it comes in two flavors: a Windows RT as well as a Windows 8 Pro variant. While the familiar branding will certainly invoke confusionĀ in general consumers (RT is a tablet-optimized version of Windows designed around ARM architecture – a redesigned Windows that cannot run practically all current Windows applications; Windows 8 Pro is the Windows customers have come to know andĀ love), Microsoft does have one aspect of this right – it provides users with choice. Although two products could have fared better with unique branding customized for each and more glaring contrasting name since they are just that, something the iPad lacks for better or worse: distinction.

When Apple set out to release so many different iPad models, their line of tablets only vary by storage space, color, and whether they can work on a cellular network. Under these, they all have the same hardware running atop a completely identical operating system. This system creates a sense of simplicity, preventing fragmentation that would break up the market – especially applications.

However, what about the power users that want more out of their tablet? With the onslaught of Windows tablets coming out, manufacturers are giving customers the choice of typical, lower-powered tablet hardware in the form of ARM chips (which is also the processor family utilized in the iPad since its inception) or the option of more full-blown computer hardware. While the hardware is an expensive Ultrabook-grade (think MacBook Air), it is in fact capable of running a full version of Windows, trading some processing power for its ultra-low voltage architecture that allows it to fit in such small form factors.

While the iPad is certainly quite capable, it is still a far cry from the multi-tasking that Windows and Mac OS X provides. Applications are coming a long way in reaching heights close to that of a full application or surpassing the experience, but there are still a lot of uses for having both available to you. At this time, nobody with actual use for a computer will totally devote themselves to an iPad. For that to change, Apple would need to embrace offering a more complete experience on iPad – even if that means releasing a model with more powerful hardware.

Sure, Apple has the MacBook Air as its portable Ultrabook-grade computing platform but a user would need to carry around both an iPad and a MacBook Air to get the full experience that the spectrum of electronic devices can provide today. In a way, it is self-contradictory to have to rely on both as the operating systems are combining to become more singular and unified.

Perfecting the aggregation would be accessories such as what Microsoft is offering: two unique sets of keyboards complete with touch-pads (coming in multiple colors) that can be purchased in a thinner multi-touch variety or a tactile feedback variant. Effectively, these fully transform the experience into one that is near complete.

In retrospect, Apple does not need to pay too much attention to Windows 8 Surface tablets at this time although they should start taking notes on the things Windows 8 may potentially do right.

Teaser…: Those interested in complete (even more complete than either Apple or Microsoft’s devices can provide even with Ultrabook-grade hardware, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves) computing experiences, keep an eye on iPhone Alley as details of a new product created by a start-up founded by myself are announced.