Ever since Apple showed the iPad Pro with a keyboard and a stylus, the Internet has gone mad with statements and claims about how the company from Cupertino had in a manner of sorts conceded that Microsoft had been on the dot with its concept of the Surface – a tablet with a keyboard, and if need be, a stylus. And well, these gained additional momentum when Google showed off its Pixel C tablet with a keyboard, there was yet another session of “Microsoft was right with the Surface” online.


We would beg to disagree.

For, there is a fundamental difference between the iPad Pro and the Pixel C, and the Surface. While the Surface is basically a tablet that can turn into a fully functional notebook with the additional of a keyboard, the iPad Pro and the Pixel C are tablets for whom the keyboard is an add on, that adds some functionality to them but does not alter them fundamentally.

Expressed mathematically:
Surface + Keyboard = Notebook
iPad Pro (or Pixel C) + Keyboard = Tablet with a keyboard

Yes, the iPad Pro and the Google Pixel will attain a certain level of “notebookhood” (if we could coin the term) with keyboards, but at the end of the day, for developers and users alike, they will mainly be tablets. And the reason for that is the software that runs on them – Android and iOS are designed primarily for a touch experience. Yes, we do get to see our share of people hammering away at keyboards attached to iPads and Android tablets – and the “tablet keyboard” accessory segment is doing very well indeed, with devices from the likes of Logitech and Microsoft itself – but their number is dwarfed by those who use the tablets as well, tablets: for simple reading and viewing or as the punditry refers to it, “information and data consumption.”

The Surface on the other hand is a very contrary beast. Yes, the fact that it was announced in the wake of the iPad made many see it as a rival, but it is also true that even though sold separately (which we think is a mistake), the keyboard is an integral part of the Surface. And unlike the iPad or the Google Pixel, the Surface runs an OS that has been designed keeping keyboards in mind – Windows. For even in its tiled Windows 8 avatar, Microsoft (to its immense credit), never lost sight of the fact that there would be people who would not like to touch the screen at all. The result: you can actually use a Surface with a keyboard and without touching the screen at any stage, whereas doing the same is next to impossible in an iPad or an Android tablet. In fact, both Apple and Google actually have alternative platforms that are more suited to keyboards – Mac OS and Chrome OS.

The stark fact is that notwithstanding all the talk of the iPad vs Surface rivalry, the Surface actually seemed a greater threat to existing Windows notebooks than the iPad, because it actually shrunk the conventional notebook into something that was sleeker than the ultrabook and actually very versatile. It was the sort of device that could double up as a tablet and a notebook, but just as the iPad would always be more tablet and less notebook no matter what you attached to it, the Surface was always more notebook than tablet (Windows Desktop mode assured us of that, alas, and even on Windows 10, apps like MS Office are more type than touch).

Which is why we could not help but smile wryly when we heard that the iPad Pro and the Pixel had proved that the Surface was the right way to go. They have not – they have just added extremely expensive accessories to their devices (the keyboards for the iPad Pro from Apple and the Pixel C from Google, ironically cost more than the Surface keyboard from Microsoft), not as integral parts to them, but for those moments when one does need to type and has no notebook handy. Neither the iPad Pro nor the Pixel C is likely to be hampered much by the absence of a keyboard, but using a Surface without a keyboard is a very different cup of tea.

And very different cups of tea are what the Surface, the iPad Pro and the Pixel C are. They will each learn from the other, but unless there is a radical makeover in iOS and Android, they are unlikely to converge.

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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.


10 thoughts on “Google Pixel C, iPad Pro Proof of Microsoft Being Right about the Surface? Not Quite…

  1. Article is missing the point. The driving factor here is not technology but market need. The point is that the consumer wants a richer tablet experience increasingly as enterprise becomes important. And the iPad and the pixel are the response to that clear emerging need. They are attempting to respond to the same market need as the surface, the only and biggest differentiator being that they are limited OS devices, which goes against the need in the first place. In my opinion that is what will cause them problems.

    Oh one other thing – your point that using the iPad or the pixel without a keyboard works fine, but the surface is a very different experience is Simply not true. I use a Windows tablet every day without a keyboard and I get around it just as easily as I would the iPad I used to use.

  2. Do you ever just wake up and think “I’m an idiot”? Cause I would confirm your suspicions.

  3. What do you think the “Pro” in the new iPad is targeting? This is for professionals looking to achieve productivity on a tablet. Same with the Pixel C. That is precisely the market that Surface was created for. This trend is also being followed by PC makers. It is an absolute, undeniable affirmation that Microsoft was money.

  4. Though the gist of the article is different, forcefully made to prove the title. Maybe the 3 are different because of their current weakness, but they indeed would like to address the same customer base.

  5. Hilarious comments so far. Surface is an out and out notebook in a much more portable form factor (more portable than ultrabooks). It is aimed at professionals who like to have their work done ‘on the go’. And by work, we are talking about Office stuff – Word, Excel, Powerpoint, heavy software like Photoshop, Auto CAD and more. It’s meant to replace laptops (as shown in the ad below). iPad Pro or Pixel C are very much just tablets meant for professionals with particular use cases – and that’s mostly designing and artistic work. If you still don’t get it, then forget it.


    • I find the article and your comment more hilarious than ours. because they keep making the tired laptop/tablet dichotomy that increasingly is irrelevant. People don’t care about labels. They care about use cases, as you alluded to. Now that use cases are not just personal consumerism but also professional productivity, a significant number of people will likely be looking for a mobile form factor that can do it all for them. That’s the clear emerging market that everyone’s gunning for now. The surface can do it all for them. The iPad pro and pixel c cannot.

      The only justification for a same-priced iPad pro or pixel c is so one can convince themselves they still have a “tablet”, not a “laptop”. Whatever. The rest of the world is getting increasingly wise to this label game-playing tirade.

      • “The rest of the world is getting increasingly wise to this label game-playing tirade” Yeah right! How many Surfaces Microsoft has managed to sell? Wait for iPad Pro numbers and we shall see, how wise you are.

        • And..there’s the real motive behind the comments folks: brand loyalty. Boy that’s another tired mantra.

          So I guess to you, past performance is a guaranteed indicator of future growth in a market. Ok, but you may want to consider tut when market need fundamentally shifts, so does demand

          • Did you see how Panos Panoy said “let’s not compare with any Pad or tablet, but with something which is truly comparable – Macbook Air”.

            As I mentioned, everyone at Microsoft knows what Surface is all about. It’s meant to replace Macbook Air. iPad Pro isn;t meant to replace MBA or Pixel C isn;t meant to replace Chromebook.

            Over and out.

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