Bill Gates Is Wrong on Surface vs. iPad Tablet Claims: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-05-08

Bill Gates Is Wrong on Surface vs. iPad Tablet Claims: 10 Reasons Why

Bill Gates is at it again. The Microsoft co-founder and former chief executive recently spoke in an interview, saying he believes that Apple's iPad owners would truly be happiest with Microsoft's Surface tablet.

Sure, the sales and responses from consumers don't necessarily match that, but if they took an objective view of the marketplace, Gates argued, they'd find that the Surface tablet would scratch their itch, and not leave them "frustrated" like the iPad.

Gates obviously has a vested interest in seeing Microsoft succeed. He is also arguably the most important public figure still connected to the software giant, and his words have a significant impact in the media. But there is no question that Gates' claims regarding the iPad and Surface tablets were over the top and were sure to be discounted as self-serving in the market. When it comes to comparing the iPad and the Surface tablet, he's just plain wrong.

Here is why Bill Gates' comments about the Surface tablet and iPad couldn't be any more wrong.

1. The Surface RT is already obsolete

Interestingly, Gates didn't compare just the Surface Pro and the iPad. Instead, he included the Surface RT, as well. What a mistake. The Surface RT is an obsolete device that has been ignored by today's consumers and enterprise users. The device hardly works with any applications that corporate users want, and the software installed on the device is limited. It's a joke of a tablet. And Gates shouldn't compare it to the iPad.

2. What doesn't the iPad do?

Gates made the fascinating remark that the Surface tablet can do what the iPad cannot. However, it's not quite clear what he was talking about. The iPad is essentially a lightweight computer with all of the functionality of such a device. There are some limitations related to file management, but that's not nearly enough to drive customers from an iPad to a Surface.

3. Customers can make decisions with their wallets

Gates doesn't seem to understand that customers tend to make decisions with their wallets. And if they truly believed that the Surface was a better product, they would have gone out of their way to dump the iPad for Microsoft's offering. Instead, the Surface owns an extremely small portion of the tablet market. Meanwhile, the iPad is dominant.

4. The Surface keyboard isn't a differentiator

One of the ways the Surface differentiates itself from the iPad, Gates argues, is with the tablet's cover, which doubles as a keyboard. That, he says, makes it a more useful product than the iPad. Perhaps he forgot that Apple sells a physical keyboard equipped with a stand for a tablet and that one works best.

Bill Gates Is Wrong on Surface vs. iPad Tablet Claims: 10 Reasons Why

5. The iPad's virtual keyboard works

Gates also took a swipe at the iPad's virtual keyboard, saying that it makes it very difficult to type on the device. However, he failed to point out that the Surface's virtual keyboard hasn't exactly scored the highest grades. The iPad's virtual keyboard actually works quite well.

6. The iPad is more portable

Looking at the Surface and the iPad, it's hard to see how the former can be regarded as more portable. Microsoft's Surface has a larger, 11.6-inch screen, and thanks to its magnesium finish, is slightly thicker and heavier. In the tablet world, portability is a key selling point. And on that front, the iPad wins out.

7. Pricing is a huge concern

Pricing is a major concern for consumers and enterprise users. Once again, it's hard to see how the Surface tablet actually stacks up against Apple's iPad. Microsoft's Surface Pro—the only device that truly stacks up against Apple's larger iPad—starts at $899 for a 64GB option. Apple's 64GB version starts at $699. And for $829, users can get 4G LTE.  And all of that ignores the fact that Apple sells low-priced iPad Minis. On price, Microsoft is behind.

8. The enterprise isn't biting

The corporate world should have been central to Microsoft's plans in the tablet market. Instead, it's proving to be its downfall. The vast majority of major companies around the world are using or testing iPads. In addition, smaller companies are using them as lightweight notebook replacements. The enterprise just isn't biting on the Surface, and its sales are hurting because of it.

9. The data doesn't follow his thesis

Gates indicated in his interview that customers are finding that the iPad is frustrating and they're turning elsewhere for their tablet needs. However, the data doesn't support that claim. Apple's iPad sales have reached 141 million since April 2010 out of the 253 million sold over that period. What's more, the rate of Apple's iPad sales is only increasing. It's hard to see where Gates is getting his facts.

10. Desktop operating systems are not the tablet panacea

Finally, Gates says that the secret to Microsoft winning the tablet market will be its ability to deliver a PC-like experience on tablets. But as the past year has shown, there's no indication that customers want that. Tablets need lightweight, speedy and highly mobile operating systems that can handle simple tasks as well as more complex processes with ease. Windows doesn't exactly fit that bill, Bill.

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