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Compare the iPad Pro vs. Surface Pro 4 for business use

With built-in Office and a keyboard, Microsoft's Surface tablet is geared toward the enterprise. Now, the Apple iPad Pro stands up to the latest version of Microsoft's device, the Surface Pro 4.

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.

Since Surface Pro 4 runs full Windows, admins can manage it like a laptop.

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.

Next Steps

How iPad Pro compares to the Surface tablet

Will the iPad Pro find a place in the enterprise?

Will 2-in-1 devices replace PCs?

Dig Deeper on Enterprise mobility strategy and policy

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Apple iPad Pro versus Surface Pro 4: Which would you choose for enterprise users?

For us, what this is going to ultimately come down to is security, so it would be interesting to hear from other Users how they have locked down these devices to meet their Data Security Department's requirements.

Following that is how well MS Office works on these tablets. I've tried the MS Office apps on my iPad Air and there is no comparison to how it works on my 2in1 laptop running Win 8. 

I would recommend the Surface Pro 4, as a user of the device. And have worked on the iPad Pro, I found the surface gave a more computer/laptop feel. Were as the iPad it felt more like tablet requesting computer mode. Those that I have introduced the Surface Pro to has been amazed of the design and what it can do. Even though at work we have a mini tower I find myself still working on my Surface. While in meeting or office to office and it feels so comfortable and easy to walk with. 
These products are nothing alike except in form-factor. One is a tablet with a vast library of touch tablet software, the other is simply a Windows PC which looks like a tablet and won't sit in your lap when running its software.
The decision is as simple as its always been for decades; if you want a product which helps you do business, choose Apple, if you want a product which gets in your way, choose Microsoft. Same as its always been.
@McDave: Apple has made products that help you do business for decades? I really don't think that's the case. I love Apple products, but they have always been primarily consumer devices. Only now with the iPad Pro is that starting to change.
@Colin. Actually we were using Macs for business before businesses would install Windows on their DOS PCs. Microsoft & Adobe thrashed out the designs and released their flagship products on MacOS before Windows. Mac-based businesses have enjoyed higher ROI (indeed any ROI) and lower TCO than Windows-based ones since day one. Windows just isn't that effective.
Mcdave: "if you want a product which helps you do business, choose Apple"

I can't stop laughing!
Its very simple one is a full blown OS for all types of productivity (win 10)and other is a mobile os (ios) with heavy limitations. There is no comparison other than the aesthetics.