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Tablet Wars: Microsoft Surface RT v. Apple iPad

Heavyweight champ and upstart newcomer battle to a draw

By Wayne Rash, Network World
March 04, 2013 06:02 AM ET

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The same is true for network storage and other network devices. If a server is visible on your network, then it's visible and usable to the Surface RT. You can get photos, music, documents or pretty much anything else, and you can back up your Surface to your local network. While the iPad can use some networked media, you can't actually browse the network.

The fact is that behind that tiled interface, this is still Windows. If you select the Desktop tile, you get the familiar Windows Desktop, complete with icons and a taskbar. Just as in Windows 8, the Start button has been replaced by a Charm Bar on the right side of the screen.

And one very nice touch is that the Surface RT supports true multi-tasking. You can have two apps open and running on the screen at one time, and you can rotate between several apps by sliding them in from the left side of the screen. The only multi-tasking the iPad does is to play music while you do something else.

The app issue

Microsoft claims something like 80,000 apps for Windows RT in the Microsoft store. Many of those apps are familiar, including things like Evernote and the Weather Channel. There's a movie service and a music service. You can get Amazon's Kindle app.

But there are a lot of gaps, including things like Pandora Radio. On the other hand, the Surface RT comes with Microsoft Office already installed, which is something you can't get for the iPad.

How useful is Office on the Surface RT? With the Type Cover, we could see writing a Word document. With the Touch Cover it would be slow going, but better than using the on-screen keyboard on either device.

Right now, there are huge gaps in the software offerings for the Surface RT. Many industry specific vertical apps are unlikely to appear, since those users will probably choose the Surface Pro, which has something like 4 million applications available, anyway. So it pays to check the app choices to make sure the Surface has what you think you'll need.

The iPad has no such app shortage with well over 200,000 apps currently available.

Conclusion

There are no winners here, and there are no losers. The Apple iPad and the Microsoft Surface RT are designed to perform different tasks for users, and either one performs its intended purpose well. If you need your tablet to be part of a larger network and use network assets, then the Surface is your only choice.

If you need the Retina Display, then you need the iPad. While there's some overlap between these devices, it's not inconceivable that you could need both.

Rash is a freelance writer. He can be reached at wrash@mindspring.com.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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