These devices are so similar when it comes to specs that the iPad Pro versus Surface Pro 4 battle comes down to accessories, productivity requirements, and compatibility with your existing environment and management model.
The release of Apple's iPad Pro was a major step for the potential of tablets to replace desktops in the enterprise. And with the debut of Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, it is even clearer that these types of devices will start eliminating traditional laptops and desktops. Competing with the vision of Surface tablets replacing laptops -- and confusingly for buyers -- Microsoft also rolled out the Surface Book, a high-performance laptop that's essentially a detachable tablet.
Both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4 have an impressive technology list. The Surface Pro has a slight edge in specs, but the main differences are that the Surface tablet comes with a pen, stylus, keyboard and several ports, whereas the iPad Pro is a bit lighter, offers Apple's extensive App Store, and still includes Microsoft's Office productivity suite.
If you're an IT admin considering replacing laptops or you're a user that works at a company with a BYOD policy, it's worth a look at the factors that differentiate these two devices.
Compatibility and management
The first factor is the mobile OS and how it relates to what OS the organization supports on desktops. If your company has migrated to Windows 10, the Surface Pro 4 is the way to go. If your company is using Mac OS 10 El Capitan as the primary OS, then it makes sense to consider the iPad Pro. Still, it's not that easy. Most organizations have a mix of different operating systems and usually do not upgrade to the most recent version until admins have thoroughly tested it with their set of software packages and apps.
Another issue is that organizations running Windows 7 -- or the few running Windows 8 -- may not allow mobile devices to have access to the corporate network. Perhaps they have customized their version of the Windows OS, or the apps on the Surface Pro do not work with Windows 7 or 8. One benefit of the iPad Pro, on the other hand, is that once the iOS connection has been made, it is easier to set up to the network.
Many organizations have some difficulty determining how to manage tablets. Luckily, most EMM providers are starting to offer one administration tool for many types of endpoints and OSes. For organizations that will not have traditional desktops and laptops in the future, chances are they do not want to have several different operating models to manage devices. One advantage of the Surface Pro 4 is that since it runs full Windows, admins can manage it like a laptop.
From a productivity standpoint, comparing these two devices is even more difficult. The playing field is even regarding the keyboard and stylus, given that both devices provide those options. That means that there is really no advantage from a designer standpoint; it may come down to which stylus the user prefers. Both devices run a version of Office, so that is mostly a wash.
For the enterprise, it comes down to a few other factors. Consider whether your meeting rooms are hooked up with Apple TVs, or will it be difficult to project presentations with an iPad Pro? The Surface tablet has several outputs that support most projector devices, so take that into account. Also, how many other Apple devices do employees bring to work? If your BYOD program supports mainly iPhones, there may be a distinct advantage to implementing iPad Pros. Employees could easily share content across Apple devices through AirDrop, and they will already be familiar with the user interface.
Each device has its advantages and disadvantages, so it's up to the company's individual requirements to determine whether the Surface Pro or iPad Pro is the right fit. When it comes to the iPad Pro versus Surface Pro 4, base your decision on what apps users need, what ports and accessories they require, and how the device will integrate with your existing systems and management structure.
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