Why Would Microsoft Choose to Compare the Surface Pro 3 to the 13” Macbook Air?

I’m actually starting to feel sorry for Microsoft. This week they had their big announcement of the Surface Pro 3, and it was actually kind of sad. I saw the big unveil and watched about 20 minutes of it. After 7 minutes they were still talking about the kickstand. I’m not saying a kickstand is a bad idea, on a tablet it might be kind of useful actually. I actually buy a case for my iPad that has a kickstand. But I wouldn’t do a keynote presentation about it. The first Surface had a kickstand as did the second, but the giant advancement they were so twitterpated about was that it now supports a lot of different angles. Think about the good lawn chair you bought with all the nice angles to relax. Sure it’s a cool lawn chair, but did you call your friends to tell them about it?
Another problem with the Surface 1 and 2 was that you couldn’t hold it in your lap easily. The vertical angle of the kickstand was the first issue but the magnetic snap on keyboard was kind of floopy, so even if the angle had been good you wouldn’t be able to type on your lap. They’ve redesigned the keyboard magnets so you can kind of fold it around the bottom of the tablet to hold it more firmly in place. So after all this, the Surface Pro can sit on a lap. It’s pretty long now though with the kickstand and the keyboard, looks like it might be impractical at that length.

They actually did have some cool stuff to announce but they spent so much time on kickstands and magnetic keyboards. Impressively the Surface Pro 3 comes in a Core i7 model that’s only 800 grams (1.76 lbs) and .36″ thick. That’s crazy light and thin. The screen on this device is crazy too – 2160 x 1440, or what Microsoft is calling Pixel Free (think way better than retina). Awesome screen.

They’ve decided to market the Surface Pro 3 as better than a Macbook Air. They point out how it’s thinner and lighter (even with the keyboard). They point out that it’s got a higher res display and that it comes with a stylus. They point out it’s got a touch screen. All of this is true. Remember though that while Microsoft Office is touch enabled on the iPad, it is not yet available on the Surface. But ok, all of this is true and a winning argument.

Until you price out the Surface Pro 3. Apple is always slammed for having high prices, but the Surface Pro 3 is WAY more expensive than the 13″ Macbook Air! It’s hard to believe, but Microsoft has priced this between $130 more and $330 more as you go up to the Core i7 model with a 512GB SSD and 8GB of RAM.

chart of prices showing Surface /> Air but $330 at the top end

Source: Microsoft.com and Apple.com

In the announcement Microsoft talked about how much they’d improved the battery life. I’m sure it is a lot better, but it’s 9 hours vs. 12 hours for the 13″ Macbook Air. So, yeah. I think Microsoft made progress with the Surface Pro 3 but they made a big tactical error in choosing to compare it to the Macbook Air.

30 thoughts on “Why Would Microsoft Choose to Compare the Surface Pro 3 to the 13” Macbook Air?

  1. Marcus - May 23, 2014

    Price chart is wrong. If you added the type cover to support your case why did you not add the iPad cost to the Mac side to satisfy the tablet requirement.

    Oh yeah ever so slight Macintosh bias.

  2. Evelyn - May 23, 2014

    I agree with Marcus on the pricing. Each product appeals to a consumer for a different reason.

    I have the MBA and Surface Pro 2. I will upgrade to the Surface 3 as it, as Allison would say, solves a business problem. I am a graphic artist and sadly Apple makes nothing that comes close to what I can do on the Surface 2 or now 3. I wish they had a pressure sensitive touch screen this good.

    As a user of the device I am most excited about the kickstand, however, I find the conversation about as interesting as Jony Ive talking about aluminum. I am sure someone loved the talk but like Allison I don’t care beyond the initial value I saw in the first 2 minutes.

    What I think is being missed here is the surface is not just and MBA but and MBA + iPad and the price when looked at that way is MUCH BETTER.

    Will I ditch my MBA. No as I already own it but I am in no rush to upgrade it.

  3. podfeet - May 23, 2014

    Marcus – Do you think the Surface Pro 3 is priced correctly? Do you think it will sell well at such an extraordinary premium? I suppose I could have added in the cost of an iPad but Microsoft is the one displaying the chart on their site comparing it to just a MacBook Air, not both. I was actually trying to stay consistent with their argument. I do of course admit to a Mac bias, so your point is VERY well taken!

  4. podfeet - May 23, 2014

    Evelyn – that is cool about the pressure sensitive pen. Does it matter to you that they didn’t go with Wacom technology this time? I’m not sure if that has any practical effect on how the applications work, but maybe you would know. You certainly know more bout it than I do!

  5. Kevin - May 23, 2014

    Allison – Why does it matter that MSFT chose not to use a Wacom digitizer? Its still a feature that neither your MBA or iPad has. And maybe you should consider the cost of multi-point touch display that still isn’t supported on the MBA. I know its a difficult pill to swallow, seeing how quickly MSFT is iterating on the Surface design to meet users request and needs, innovating with new hardware, while Apple has allowed the MBA to sit like stagnant water. So for the price of the SP3, you get a much more capable and versatile device. Hey, but I like the fact that the SP3 has your attention. 😉

  6. George FromTulsa - May 23, 2014

    The **** thing runs Widows. Leaving the typo in place, AND I own Microsoft stock, so don’t think I’m just Mac biased.

    Furthering that point, if you insist on adding a tablet to confuse the price point, buy a Nexus 7 like the one on which I’m tediously typing this post. Save hundreds. Still have to put up with tablet typing.

    My 2013 11″ MBAir was on sale for $850. Runs my 27″ desktop monitor just fine and best of all — no “Widows!”

  7. podfeet - May 23, 2014

    Kevin – if you read carefully what I wrote, I didn’t say it mattered that MS chose non-Wacom, I ASKED if it mattered because I actually have no idea! MS does make the point that they have a multi-touch display on the Surface which is awesome, but I think it’s value is diminished by the fact that MS doesn’t have a touch-enabled version of Office for their own device. It’s so odd that they do for iPad but not for themselves.

    The MBA does need a refresh but about the only thing I think it needs is a retina display. The wicked long battery life (12 hours vs. 9 hours on the SP3) plus that crazy fast SSD (1GB/sec reads) and being thin and light makes for a wicked machine. Now with the Surface pricing I think the price of the MBA will look like a steal!

  8. Steven Goetz - May 23, 2014

    Here’s the problem MSFT has, if the only difference with this devices was it had an Apple logo on the back of it, the press would love it.

    Isn’t a display, with much better resolution, touch sensitivity and Wacom-like technology worth an extra $130? I understand complaining about the price if there were no added features.

    A MacBook Air 13″ battery is 28% larger than the Surface Pro 3s, and it’s battery life is 33% better, but that’s with a much lower res screen, I wouldn’t be surprised if the the 5% increase is because it’s pumping 50% more pixels.

  9. Anonymous - May 23, 2014

    Do you own a Surface?

    “Another problem with the Surface 1 and 2 was that you couldn’t hold it in your lap easily.”

    I think this would be better said. The Surface 1 and 2 did not sit in your lap as well as a laptop. I frequently use it on my lap and it works but not as well as a laptop. That said it can easily go on your lap.

    All these tech companies Samsung, Google, HTC, and yes Apple talk about thinner and lighter. Not sure why the comparison bothered you other then it being the MBA as an example. Keep in mind the Apple Tech community loved the bold face lies of I’m a Mac/I’m a PC which over time have been proven to be false.

    Who said Apple is not a Church, I don’t recall but seriously stop acting like this is a cult. As a lover of tech it is what I hate more about Google fans like Robb from the SMRPodcast and most Apple bloggers. Then again Chris and any thing Microsoft is this bad.

    I listen to your show weekly but when your sermon starts, I fast forward.

    Sorry to sound rude but this roundup the wagons article is what I expect from the Verge or BGR. Not you.

  10. BigChrisAshley - May 23, 2014

    There is no question that the touch enabled version of Office will be out soon and with the amount they sold on the iPad I can’t really argue that they should have waited to release it first. But I think Kevin’s point was not that the type of digitizer mattered but that either way the MBA doesn’t have one at all. Also let’s say you do choose to go with a Nexus 7 instead of an iPad you are still talking about two devices compared to one SP3.

    Getting back to the actual point of the article you wrote Allison, I think that it makes perfect sense to compare the MBA to the Surface 3. The fact that in your own article you have to include iPad features as well as MBA features to make your arguments is proof enough that what MS was saying makes sense and you are not calculating the value evenly. Remember they even took the time to point out that most laptop users carry a tablet too. And if you are going to put value on the longer battery life and the fast drive for the MBA then it’s not fair for you to leave out the tablet capabilities, digitizer and pen, and touch screen for the S3 as they have value too.

  11. Bart Busschots - May 23, 2014

    The problem with the Surface is that it can’t decide what it’s trying to be, either in hardware or software. Microsoft have gotten it into their heads that a finger and a mouse are interchangeable, and that what people want is one device that does everything passably, but nothing excellently. As a laptop, the MBA runs rings around the surface in software and hardware, and as a tablet the iPad runs rings around the surface in software and hardware.

    From a hardware design point of view, if I need a keyboard on the go, I’m never going to get a better experience with the surface than with a laptop, because you need a big enough surface to support the keyboard and the kickstand. I tend to use my laptop with my legs crossed and the laptop supported by the edges of my legs. You just can’t do that with the surface because supporting the keyboard doesn’t support the screen it needs separate support.

    From a software point of view, there is no doubt at all that iOS is a much better touch-OS than Windows 8, and likewise that OS X is a better PC OS than Windows 8. When I’m using my finger I want the best finger OS, and when I’m using a keyboard and mouse I want the best keyboard and mouse OS, and that’s never Windows 8.

    As the cloud finally begins to deliver on it’s promise of having your data magically follow you from device to device, my interest in a compromise device that does many things but none excellently is evaporating. I can now use the best device for each situation and my info is magically there.

    My vision for the future is still what I call the Stratrekification of tech, i.e. the right screen for the right environment with my data magically there. Tricorders, desktops, big massive touch screens, they all have their place in Star Trek, no one in the star trek world is interested in a compromise device!

    Bottom line – if you compare the Surface to an MBA AND and iPad then you will conclude that the surface is cheaper but not nearly as functional. If you choose to compare it to just the MBA then it is over-priced and compromised.

    The art of design is to make decisions, to say no, and Micorsoft have utterly failed to design the surface. They haven’t decided what problem they are trying to solve, and as such, have solved none.

  12. BigChrisAshley - May 23, 2014

    I’ll say two things, first if you are gonna trash Robb And Me then at least use your real name so we can have fun with it. We can take a good beating as anyone has listened to the SMRpodcast knows but there is no fun when there is no name it’s just mean. Not to mention Allison had me on to give Microsoft a good trashing when they deserved it i had t take extra blood pressure medication that week!

    My man Bart, I have to disagree with your whole premise because i think Microsoft is clear on what they want to be which is both a tablet and a PC. It is clear to most they are trying to create a new market. The greatest thing about a tablet is it’s portability and the Surface gives you that while the greatest thing about a laptop is it’s mobility which the Surface delivers on as well.

    I couldn’t help but laugh at your entire third paragraph because I don’t know anyone that would agree that OS X is a better PC OS. And there is definitely debate on weather ios is better than Windows 8 because Windows 8 is a PC iOS is not which is the whole point of what Microsoft is doing with the Surface and Windows 8. Sure you will have Mac fans who will swear by it and the same goes for Windows fans and apparently shills like me.

  13. podfeet - May 23, 2014

    We’re having fun now! Yes, Anonymous – while I take your comments seriously it is a bit weird these days to hide behind a non-name.

    Chris – in your comment you said, “it’s not fair for you to leave out the tablet capabilities, digitizer and pen, and touch screen for the S3”. I know you’re not a fan of reading, but I DID mention ALL of those things! You can argue with a lot of what I said but not with that!

    As far as Bart’s comment about OSX being a better PC OS – I 100% agree with him on that. Every minute I used Windows at work I wanted to hang myself. This is PURELY a matter of opinion so I’m not saying anyone is wrong who prefers Windows, but you couldn’t be more wrong that a heck of a lot of people like OSX a lot better than Windows. But it’s _opinion_.

    I’ll disagree with Bart on one side here, though. I think for a lot of people (not übergeeks like us) the compromise device WILL be right for them. I think even the Surface Pro 3 will be the right device for a lot of folks. What will kill this product is the price point though. Microsoft has made it’s huge success based on the 3rd party market selling PCs for dirt cheap so their mainstream audience is going to have a lot more trouble swallowing higher prices than even Apple sells. Apple lemmings like me are used to it but your typical PC owner is not.

  14. Steven Goetz - May 23, 2014

    I agree with Allison that the price is more than most PC people will pay.

    But I don’t agree that it’s not worth the extra cash. I’m a Mac guy, but I see why this is appealing, it’s one less (maybe two less) devices in a bag when travelling. It’s got “good enough” battery life, will be just as fast as a MBA, and has a beautiful display.

    As Chris Ashley said on his show, you can’t really comment how well it works on your lap, until you’ve tried the 3rd gen device.

    Although I’m sure the new, larger device won’t fit on a seat back tray in coach as well as the first and second gen Surface did.

  15. Steven Goetz - May 23, 2014

    I also wanted to say that IMO Mac OS X is better than Windows 8, but they’re not as far apart as some would have us believe. And which is better is purely subjective.

  16. George FromTulsa - May 23, 2014

    Ah, Steven, the first time your MSFT OS refuses to run because it can’t phone home to verify it is Genuine Windows, or your system is pwned by malware, remember, that is just subjective.

  17. Allister - May 23, 2014

    A couple of quick things jump out at me.

    1. The Surface is not a laptop. Sure, it’s a “real” computer you can use on a desk with a grown up* OS, and it’s a tablet that you can use on the couch, but it is not a laptop in the sense of using a real computer on your lap – on the go. Kick stands and floppy keyboards are for desks, not laps.

    2. Bart’s point about the two different (physical) interfaces is important. Maybe that’s why Microsoft built Windows 8 as the weird hybrid that it is, and maybe that’s OK. That being the case, however, it’s less plastic to carry around but gives the same experience of two different devices that you get with a MBA and iPad. Some strong synergies, but ultimately two different experiences. Try gluing an iPad to the back of a MBA and turn on iCloud. 🙂

    *But it’s Windows (TM). Which leads me to my biggest beef with the Surface.

    I have used, in my work and play, 3.1, 95, 98, NT4, XP and 7 over however many years that is. I’ve also used OS X (10.4 and later), Acorn RISC OS and IBM OS/2. I’m not sure quite where to put OS/2 on my list, but the clear winner for best OS has to go to RISC OS with OS X a close second. All of the Windows versions come last.

    Why? Because there is no [i]care[/i] in Windows. It’s that simple. And it’s true of all of the Microsoft software I have used. I am stuck using Win 7, Office 2013 (incl. Outlook) and SharePoint in my day job and any of my colleagues will tell you I swear at this stuff every day because the creators don’t care. Stupid things happen all the time. They don’t care about me, the user. Apple ]do care about their users. And it shows because OS X does not p*** me off on a regular basis with stupid little actions that show a lack of care and attention from developers. Sure it has problems, bugs, the odd crazy thing, but it’s not based on an imbued ethos of “good enough” like Windows. Acorn had this same principle at heart, but won over Apple in my books with some smarter thinking about the user interface.

    So for me, the Surface is an instant loser because it runs only Windows. Barring some miraculous rethinking of their corporate ethos, I will never choose to use Windows ever again, regardless of the hardware. Because I care and they don’t.

  18. Bob Corea - May 23, 2014

    IMHO OS X is superior to Windows. It just is.

    The great thing about Microsoft’s efforts on Surface is they are developing a compelling product that provides choice for consumers. They are innovating and given the response here, in a good way that’s grabbing attention.

    The price is an issue for sure. There are so many lower cost cheap clones and people will buy those if they want a Windows tablet.

    MSFT is driving hardware developement at least with their new hardware. GOOG has been successful doing the same thing. They developed hardware like Nexux that sells a lot but not a market leader. But wait…they have Android! So Google influences hardware development with their hardware offerings and moves more Android OS. Microsoft has Windows. Windows is ubiquitous, it runs on practically anything. Apple has chosen to not license it’s OSs. Consumers have to want the Apple hardware and thus the software that comes with.

    I don’t mind having an Apple laptop and Apple tablet and even needing to travel with them both at times. I don’t have the expectation that the two should blend intro one tool. There are experiences and circomestances that make each the best and or most enjoyable tool for the job at hand.

    Do you need a truck or small car, maybe both? It just depends, right? If you can afford both, great, if you can’t, do you compromise with an SUV? An SUV is expensive and kind of acts as both. And, many people pick the SUV because that’s just what they want.

    New markets have been created before.

  19. Bob DeGrande - May 24, 2014

    I am an Apple fan but not an uncritcal one (there was a time when I didn’t use Macs for almost a decade and I don’t hate Windows, I rather like the Metro UI and I own a Surface RT and a Windows Phone). I ran a PC support area and know Windows quite well.

    I don’t like the Pro 3 much at all. The main reason is that it is simply too big and unwieldy to be used as a tablet. A tablet is meant to actually be carried, if you are only going to move it from place to place in a car, a laptop will do that just fine and fare less expensively. As a result, I think comparing it to the Macbook Air is the right comparison but even though Microsoft chose to compare it to the more expensive 13″ Air, the comparison still doesn’t look good. At the high end (i7/8GB/512GB), the Surface is over $2000 with the type cover and the 13″ Air is $1749. The Air has a bigger screen, a better keyboard, a better trackpad, better bundled software, and a Thunderbolt port, although it lacks the Surface’s touchscreen. Also, Unix based OSs like OS X and Linux are far less resource hungry, as the attempt to put modern versions of Windows on netbooks demonstrated, you can do an awful lot more with 8 GB on a Mac than on a Windows computer.

    Another potential problem is heat. The more powerful Intel processors run pretty hot. I do some video post production work, and my i7 Air runs a lot botter than a previous Core 2 Duo model, and this will be more of an issue with a less power efficient OS like Windows. I have always thought that for a full version of Windows to really succeed on a tablet (not that this is really a tablet), it needs more power efficient processors or a more efficient OS (Windows 9?) or both. I think that Windows 8, if they were going to take the abuse anyway for changing the UI, should have blown up the OS, starting with a small, fast, secure core and running old software by virtualization That there is still a registry in Windows 8 is absurd.

    At any rate, I think that 99% of those who would consider this would actually be better served by an ultrabook.

  20. Kenny Lee - May 24, 2014

    I have never seen the SP 3, other than on video reviews. I’ve seen quite a few Macbook Airs, but never owned one. I am pretty much an Apple fanboy. I own 4 Macs, 3 iPads, 4 iPods, and an Apple TV. I also have a windows laptop issued by my company.

    To be honest, I’ve digested a lot of the comments posted above. Many to most seem legit, but too many are just rants by fanboys or detractors. To be honest, since becoming a Mac user in 2006, the differences between OS X and WIndows, significant then, have narrowed significantly. In fact, to be brutally honest, my Windows 7 machine NEVER “blue screens” or freezes up. But I do get the occasional kernel panic on my windows machines. Not often enough to be significant, but it does happen.

    The awful windows experiences alluded to by some (including Allison) are just not something I have dealt with since upgrading from WIN XP. I am not a “power user” at work….just the usual stuff. Outlook, Office Suite, Web applications/browsing, Sharepoint, blah blah. Quite honestly, “it just works”.

    We (finally) have a BYOD program at work, and I have a macbook pro (purchased this past January) that I’m using for work. It works well enough, but I do have some problems with incompatible web sites that require IE and so forth. And, of course, we have a few home made apps that absolutely require windows, so having a windows VM available is still a must.

    Now, back to the matter at hand….it seems to me that the macbook air and SP3 are both very fine devices. Its very hard to bash either. But of all the arguments advanced here, the most credible one is the fact that the SP 3 is a laptop replacement and an iPad replacement. And everyone I know who has a Macbook Air also has an iPad. So, that taken into account makes the SP 3 cheaper …. as long as you consider the SP 3 to be an acceptably functioning tablet. I can’t say either way, because as I stated earlier, I’ve never had my hands on an SP3.

    These religious wars seem silly. If you buy the arguments advanced here and elsewhere by others, buy accordingly. My bet is you’d be happy either way.

  21. Kenny Lee - May 24, 2014

    Obviously, I meant to say “kernel panics on my macs”

    KL

  22. Joel Rushworth - May 24, 2014

    Just a couple of comments from one of the Minions.

    You tweeted a few days ago about the difference in the graphics processing between the MBA and the SP3. 5000 vs. 4400. You’ll be happy to know the SP3 has 4200, 4400 AND 5000, depending on whether you choose the Core i3, i5 or i7 model.

    Also, you might have overlooked one of the main points of the SP3 event, when you choose to go by Microsoft’s chart comparing the SP3 vs. the MBA. They stated that 96% of laptop owners also carry a tablet, and further emphasized the point by placing an iPad atop the MBA already weighing down the scale they had on stage. Perhaps MS was just trying to keep the chart concise.

    And finally, one thing that might further balance your cost comparison charts.
    Apple Care for the MBA: $250
    MS Complete for the Surface: $100

    See, fixed it!

    Looking forward to hearing you back on the SMR Podcast…. Say at the end of June 🙂

  23. Joel Rushworth - May 25, 2014

    Just to correct my post, Allison has pointed out that Apple Care is TWO years for the MBA, and MS Complete is $100 PER Year. MS Complete however covers damage replacement.

  24. podfeet - May 25, 2014

    The Minions are here! I’m glad you corrected me on the graphics cards, Joel. I was bummed that MS didn’t show more comparison stuff on their site to show exactly what the models are. For all I know, the Mac models might be lower speed processors for example, all we know is i3/5/7.

    I’m also glad you brought up that stat about the laptop users who own tablets, because that stat really sounded wrong to me when I saw it originally. I did some research and it turns out it was quoted backwards of what they said and much less specifically than what they said. They actually said that 96% of iPad owners also own a laptop. That’s a whole different story and very believable. The other way around is most certainly not true. The stat as they said it does support the argument that people may want a tool that does both.

  25. Bob DeGrande - May 25, 2014

    I missed Chris’ comment about nobody thinking that OS X is a better PC OS than Windows. I couldn’t disagree more. This opinion is not just held by Apple fanboys, it has been awarded best OS awards by the leading PC (NOT Mac) magazines. It is smaller, faster, more stable, more secure, more powerful, better in pretty much every respect. There are things Apple does horribly, like pretty much anything to do with the cloud. Operating systems are what Apple does best. Windows is to Microsoft what iTunes is to Apple, something that was designed to do a few basic tasks, and has had every function in the world grafted onto it over the years, making it slow and bloated. Windows should have been blown up and restarted from scratch 10 years ago, as Apple did when they switched to OS X, but, thanks to Ballmer, it never happened, it has been putting lipstick on the pig over and over again. Microsoft has done some good things which will serve them well in the future – OneDrive, OneNote – but Windows is holding them back.

  26. Avro - May 28, 2014

    “Remember they even took the time to point out that most laptop users carry a tablet too.” Actually what MS claimed was that 96% of iPad users ‘owned’ a laptop too, not ‘carried one’. That is a massive difference. Most of have bought laptops over the years. To conclude that they ‘carry’ a laptop and an iPad requires considerable mental gymnastics and is not supported by any facts. I actually have never used my laptop since I bought my iPad two years ago. The other thing to note is that about 80% of laptops and tablets are never used outside the home. They are ‘portable’ devices rather than ‘mobile’ devices. Of those that are used as mobile devices, the iPad and MacBook Air are two of the most popular. What advantage does the Surface Pro 3 have over the MacBook Air? The MacBook Air has a better keyboard, trackpad and battery life. It is a better computer. Battery life is essential on this type of device and that is one of the reasons it does not have a retina display. If you wanted a retina display, go for a MacBook Pro. If the MacBook Air had a retina display it’s battery life would be worse? True, but that is like saying ‘If my uncle were a woman, he would be my aunt’. However, he has no desire for a sex change. A retina display at the expense of battery life isn’t on the cards as that would make the MacBook Air a less useful mobile computer.

    “I don’t know anyone that would agree that OS X is a better PC OS.” Either Chris is trying to be a stand-up comedian or he doesn’t know many people. Millions of people each year are willing to pay 3 times the cost of a Windows PC to get OS X on a Mac. Windows is common place with office workers who have a corporate IT team to keep the whole ball of wax running. OS X and Macs are popular with Academics, Students, Writers, Journalists, Photographers, Musicians and Graphic Artists. These are people who have to work long hours to tight deadlines with little in the way of technical support. I have never had a BSOD, but I have had Windows computers hang so badly that I have had to remove the battery to start them again. I have had frequent issues with Windows not connecting to the internet or refusing to print. In short I would never ‘depend’ on Windows for anything that was time critical. They are subject to ‘mysterious behaviour’.

    For my computing needs I use a Mac Pro for the heavy lifting, an iPad when I am on the road or doing some light work at home and an iPhone as my SmartPhone. I have no need for the Surface Pro 3. The digitizer certainly will appeal to a niche market of artists. But who uses a pen and paper for notes these days? The Stylus is so circa 2000. The Surface Pro 3 certainly has some interesting features, but interesting in the way that being able to have a photo of a birthday cake on your head. Interesting, but not very useful.

    The Surface Pro 3? As Bart said ‘As a laptop, the MBA runs rings around the surface in software and hardware, and as a tablet the iPad runs rings around the surface in software and hardware.’ I couldn’t agree more.

  27. Bart Busschots - May 29, 2014

    I seem to have started something with my simply observation about OS X -v- Windows.

    It’s certainly not a joke, and it’s certainly not jus an opinion, it’s as close to a fact as you can get when comparing big complex things.

    There is only one criteria by which Windows can be judged ‘better’ and that’s the fact that it’s more ubiquitous, but that’s not a measure of quality or of ability, it’s just a demonstration of lock-in in action.

    On the usability front, Apple is the clear winner. They have a simpler more consistent interface that puts less cognitive load on users. The best example of this is the absolute maze that is the Windows control panel. There are 20 ways to get to the same setting, and even a seasoned IT pro pro like myself can get lost for ages trying to change a simple setting. When you start to get to more advanced stuff you find that you are taken back three generations of control panel interface because MS only ever updated the skin, they never actually re-designed their control panel from the ground up.

    On the features front again, OS X wins hands-down. If you look at it from the average user’s point of view you have everything Windows has, and every OS X user gets all the features, not a different subset depending on which flavour of the OS you ended up with. You also have a much easier to use integrated backup system. You plug in an external Drive, OS X asks you if you’d like to back up to it, and that’s it, setup done, and you have a full versioned backup that you can restore from straight within the installer should the worst happen.

    If you get more advanced you soon discover that OS X has more, and more consistent keyboard shortcuts, and that you can drag and drop many more things to save you much more time. You’ll also discover that Windows has nothing to compete with proxy icons. That PDF icon at the top of a PDF document, it’s not just decoration on the Mac, it’s a representation of the file that can be used to to drag-and-drop the file to any target that accepts files – your mail client, a thumb drive, a network file store, a terminal window, what ever. Windows can’t compete with that.

    Speaking of versions – you have a versioned file system that remembers the state of your file before, and lets you turn back time right within apps. Also, imagine being able to re-name and move files with nothing more than the title bar of a window – Mac users can do that, Windows user can’t. Would you like to tag your files? No problem on a Mac, no go on windows.

    If you get geekier still, you find that OS X has a full BASH shell under the hood. Sure, PowerShell is a nice step up from DOS, but it’s still playing catchup with the full Unix POSIX environment you get on a Mac. You then also find that all apps on OS X are scriptable thanks to the magic of Apple Script, if you can do it on a Mac, you can script it with Apple script – Windows has nothing like that. Services are worth mentioning again, because as well as being able to use services that come with apps throughout the OS, you can also write your own very easily, either using the drag-and-drop Automator GUI, or, using the scripting language of your choice. Oh – and of course Windows has no GUI for creating your own automations, let alone the ability to tie those automations into applications or to folders.

    OS X is without doubt a more powerful OS, and the more of a power user you are, the bigger the gap between the two gets. I can’t use Windows because to me, it’s a toy.

    Like I say, whether you care about a consistent experience, whether you care about a simple but powerful UI, or whether you want advanced features, you can’t argue Windows wins in any of these categories.

    Yes, Windows is ubiquitous, and there are numerically more apps out there, but, from a practical point of view, that does’t matter because what I’ve found is that while there might be less apps to choose from in total on a Mac, the quality of those apps tends to be higher than you’ll find on Windows.

    The only joke to me is to pretend that Windows is even half the OS OS X is.

  28. podfeet - May 29, 2014

    I can’t believe I’m going to argue against Bart about OSX being better than Windows. Bart, this is definitely opinion. You may have stated some facts (some correctly, some not) but you have inserted your opinion into what’s important to you. Absolutely for what you do, the things you state (most correctly) are important and OSX is better for you. My caveat is because you evidently don’t know that Microsoft Windows 8 has File History Backup which works just like Time Machine. Plug in a drive, Windows asks you if you want to back up, and it does time snapshot backups that allow you to go back and grab a file from a specific time, just like Time Machine.

    I say you’re voicing an opinion because you’re ignoring things that are very important to other people. Microsoft still has better tools for managing giant (10K+) networks of computers, allowing upgrades to be pushed out to keep the computers secure. If that’s not important to you, I get it, you work in a much smaller environment. But that sways your opinion.

    Gaming isn’t important to you, so you ignore the vast number and quality of games for Windows. Sure developers have started supporting the Mac more and more, but it’s still much better on Windows, and you can tailor your computer to be better at gaming.

    I can’t believe you include the use of the proxy icon in this level of discussion. You’ve showed it to me, and I probably take advantage of it once every couple of weeks, I certainly wouldn’t put it in this discussion any more than I would have put a 9 minute discussion of a kickstand into a Surface announcement.

    I AGREE with your opinion that OSX is easier to use, less confusing for the user. I agree with your facts that Windows doesn’t have the BASH shell, and doesn’t have Scripting, but it’s your frame of reference that makes these things stand out as why you like OSX better than Windows, normal people don’t care.. I disagree with your opinion that versioning in an application is a good thing – the few times I’ve wanted it, it has failed me, and the rest of the time it annoys the crud out of me that I don’t have save as.

    You have stated an opinion, and your opinion is valid, but it is, indeed opinion.

  29. Steve Sheridan - May 29, 2014

    Quality Control Director Steve weighing in here, just to note this post officially has the highest number of comments of all NosillaCast posts. After all these years, the Microsoft vs. Apple discussion still evokes fervent responses.

  30. […] great advice on how to approach password management for unsophisticated users. I ask the question why Microsoft would choose to compare the Surface Pro 3 to the 13″ Macbook Air. Fun challenges with learning to screencast using Screenflow on the Mac, using SwitchResX from […]

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