Microsoft has raked Apple’s Mac, and to a certain extent, the iPad, over the coals of critical opinion thanks to the Surface devices which run full-on Windows and come with a touchscreen. Some critics argue that Microsoft’s new Surface Studio– a giant iPad-like device with a 28-inch touchscreen display tethered to a stand and box that houses the computer itself– means Apple has lost its innovation edge and creative and multi-media professionals will flock to the $2,999 Windows computer.
Surface Studio is a daring new computer that pushes Microsoft’s stock to ever higher levels but will it really take customers away from the Mac.
A few. But not many. Why not? In a word, gravity. If not gravity, then bursitis. Apple seems to think that a touchscreen requires a mostly handheld device, hence the iPad Pro vs. a MacBook Pro or iMac. Not only are the interfaces different between the iPad’s iOS and the Mac’s macOS Sierra (the latest Mac OS) the number of apps available for each platform have a serious gap. The iPad wins.
I live within walking distance of an Apple Store, in the large open-air Ala Moana Center mall (two other Apple retail stores are within a few minutes drive), which is about 30-seconds from a nearby Microsoft Store. The differences between the two locations are striking. Most of the time the Apple Store is packed with customers, while most of the time the Microsoft Store is packed with more employees than customers. But Microsoft has a Surface Studio on display even though the device won’t ship until early 2017.
What’s the difference between Photoshop or Illustrator on an iMac vs. a Surface Studio? Either nothing– both iMac and Studio can use Adobe Creative Cloud apps with a mouse– or everything, especially if you like to draw with your fingers or a stylus on very, very large touchscreen.
If you like doing exactly that then you may like the Surface Studio because the screen can be angled backwards to become what amounts to a very, very large iPad screen, but one which runs full-on Windows, and that includes Photoshop and other apps for creative professionals; in Windows mode and in iPad-like touchscreen mode.
Compare that touchscreen experience with a 27-inch iMac at $1,799 vs. the Surface Studio comparably equipped at $2,999. A equipped 12.9-inch iPad Pro retails for $1,167 with Smart Keyboard and Pencil, so for about the same price could get an iPad and a 27-inch iMac with Retina 5k display that also runs Adobe Creative Cloud apps.
I suspect the problem with Surface Studio will be the same as the problem with Surface touchscreen notebook tablet hybrids in the marketplace. Those devices seldom are used as tablets. They’re basically notebooks with a touchscreen option. Some creative users love the touchscreen but the rest of us prefer a tablet to do touchscreen-enabled work.
Microsoft hasn’t started a revolution, despite the Surface Studio’s attractive ads and Microsoft’s many touchscreen commercials pitting devices against the Mac. Different strokes for different folks applies to tools, too. If you need to draw, then a drawing surface in the form of a touchscreen makes sense. If you don’t need to draw, then $2,999 for a 28-inch desktop computer is expensive since a comparably equipped iMac is $1,000 less.
The difference between the two can be summed up in a single word. Commercials. TV commercials for touchscreen PCs vs. a Mac or an iPad, individually or together, present a compelling argument to go with a Microsoft Surface-whatever. But that’s in a TV commercial, which is not representative of an example in real life for the rest of us who slave over a hot keyboard and choose which mouse we use with care.
Surface Studio, like the Surface touchscreen notebooks, look nice and may work well for certain customers, but Apple is in no danger of losing the Mac business to Microsoft.
Why not? Because arms and shoulders require much more effort to navigate a screen than a mouse or trackpad.
I do like Microsoft’s use of magnets to hold the pencil to the edge of the screen, though. That’s innovation.