Forrester Research, a technology research firm, polled 9,766 information workers and found that 32% of them want a Microsoft Surface Pro, while only 26% would prefer the Apple iPad. This sample size reflects a pent-up demand for an alternative to the iPad, which has dominated the tablet market since it was first launched in April 2010.
This is good news for Microsoft, which has seen a steady decline in brand and consumer loyalty over the last decade. The Surface Pro has not received outstanding reviews, with Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg summarizing it as heavy and expensive, and likening it to a lightweight laptop more than a usable tablet. However, the results of the study are more of an indicator that the iOS ecosystem may finally be slipping from the title of most desired.
The iPad's dominance has been mostly fueled by the 300,000+ third party applications developed for the robust iTunes App Store; however Apple has always stalled the technology features in the iPad. For instance, Apple introduced the front-facing camera on the iPhone 4 in June, 2010, only two months after launching the first generation of the iPad, which indicates that they already possessed the basic design and hardware capabilities, but have staggered innovation with every model to keep prices high. Nonetheless, the iPad remains the leader in the tablet market, and the study also showed that 33% of the polled workers will be buying an iPhone next.
Comparatively, Microsoft has struggled to engage third party developers to build a similarly attractive app ecosystem, even fumbling during the launch of the Surface by only allowing 10,000 third party applications, of which only 5,000 were in the U.S. One of the casualties of this problem is the Nokia Lumia, which runs on Windows 8, has been ranked a better phone than the iPhone, but has stagnated due to the lack of applications developed for it. Apart from the historic nature of the Surface — the first computing device built entirely by Microsoft — it has a far way to go before it can credibly start chipping away at Apple's market dominance.
With the growing prominence of mobile computing, enterprise sales will be the final frontier of the Surface versus iPad war. Apple has been aggressively pursuing the enterprise market, and Surface will have to catch up territory. Luckily, Surface has the productivity software of MS Office that has been the business standard for almost 20 years now, but Windows 8 and Surface's biggest obstacle is the unfamiliarity of the completely overhauled design.
The sampled tech workers may be yearning for a new, design-centric approach to mobile computing, and it remains to be seen whether Microsoft's foray into hardware production and painstaking rehashing of Windows 8 will finally provide a real competitor to the iPad.