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The Apple iPad undoubtedly made the tablet PC a mainstream device. Sleek, light, easy to use, a broad app ecosystem and Apple branding propelled the iPad to almost instant success. Yet despite all of its offerings and broad appeal, as a productivity device the iPad arguably has fallen short.

Microsoft’s Surface line, conversely with it’s duo identity traditional Desktop and its sleek and touch friendly Modern UI and Modern UI apps has been presented by the “services and devices” tech giant as the markets answer to the tablet PC’s productivity gap. With versatile hardware that incorporates standard PC options such as USB ports, expansion slots, keyboards and a built in kickstand for comfortable typing of that fiscal report or history term paper, Microsoft has positioned the Surface as a true mobile PC fully capable of all the productivity tasks we have grown comfortable with producing from our desktops and laptops. Now however being able to do so via the portability of a tablet. Added to this, the Surface’s(even the RT or “non-Pro” version’s) inclusion of the worlds most popular productivity suite, Microsoft Office, further solidifies the Surface as a true productivity tablet. Such productivity power combined with a unique and refreshed mobile user interface in Windows 8.1 and the newly introduced hardware versatility of blades positions the Surface as a true all-in -one device.

Microsoft, confident of it’s filling of an obvious gap in productivity options via tablet computers(one unanswered by both Apple and Android devices) has released a series of humorous and popular ads mocking the iPads shortcomings. So in light of such brazen mockery of the iPad, the tablet computer that defined a product category, what is a fruit named company to do? Well cover all bases of course.

Former Apple employee Jamie Ryan piqued the curiosity of the tech world on Saturday by blogging of Apples plans to create a Microsoft Surface-like touch cover for it’s iPad. Now he was clear to share that this may or may not make it to tomorrow’s big unveil given Apple’s practice of rejecting most ideas and accepting very few. Also, even if the project was given the green light, we don’t know what stage of development the project is in. Will it be ready for tomorrows, Tuesday October 22nd, 2013 event? If so, watch out Microsoft. It just got real.

Why would such a product pose a problem for Microsoft? Well, for one as great as the Surface is, it has yet to hit it’s stride in the market. Whereas the iPad is almost synonomous with tablet PC. So when many people decide to buy a tablet, they are thinking iPad before Surface(if they even get to the Surface). So the keyboards introduction to the line of  products with huge mindshare poses a problem to Microsoft’s offering, which currently has the edge, but little mindshare. Losing the advantage of an integrated keyboard as a differentiating factor will only make Microsoft’s uphill battle more difficult. Added to the fact that the keyboard may indeed be presented tomorrow, (if what the patents show are manifest) it one-ups, Microsoft’s extra power option(integrated in it’s keyboard) by including a solar panel. That’s cool. How it fares in real life will have to be tested. But it is a cool nonetheless.

Now if an integrated keyboard was the only big  productivity push offering on the iPad, Microsoft’s position might be a little more secure. The bigger threat, however has already been introduced. iWork is free on iOS devices and is compatible with Microsoft’s Office Suite. Now to be clear there are clear advantages of actually using Office. Office is Office. And converting from one program to another is never as good as using the real thing. But until Office really comes to the iPad(not the iphone version loaded on the iPad),  if your acclimated to the Apple ecosystem, and are already locked in with apps, devices and peripherals, sticking with the iPad, with free iWork and Office compatibility somewhat answers that nagging feeling of – “I sure wish I had Office.” Again only somewhat. But likely enough to dampen the appeal of switching platforms for some of the Apple faithful being drawn to the Surface’s superior productivity capabilities.

Additionally,  Apple has pretty much left the build of the iPad fairly consistent since it’s introduction. As a consumption device, it was kept simple. A home button, volume button, a couple of camera’s, you know – simple. But if Apple indeed is going to make a true foray into the productivity playground,  tomorrows unveil may very well include a USB port and an expansion slot for additional memory in the new iPads. This with the inclusion of the anticipated keyboard and combined with the already free, iWork productivity Suite could help to shorten that productivity  gap between Microsoft’s Surface and Apples iPad.

The Surface Pro and Pro 2 are compatible with millions of Legacy programs that have been in use since the early days of the Windows OS. So yes, virtually all of those Windows programs on the almost billion PCs in the homes and business around the globe will work on your Surface Pro and Pro 2. The Surface is a true PC in tablet form. The Desktop OS, is virtually just as familiar and powerful on the Surface as on the hundreds of millions of users PC’s and laptops already in use. The Modern UI and Modern apps give the surface versatility and strength as a mobile device. Microsoft has been modifying the PC to become more mobile, retaining it’s strength as a productivity tool while streamlining it go where the user go’s and being fun and easy to use. They have succeeded  with the Surface 2, Surface  Pro 2 and Windows 8.1. Apple is coming from the other end and is working to make a consumption and largely entertainment device into a productivity device. They have the added challenge of combating the image that the iPad, by and large is not the go to device when work, such as a term paper being typed needs to be done. With the potential introduction of a new keyboard cover, possible inclusion of a USB and expansion slot(this is pure speculation) and the already introduced free iWorks combined with these hardware additions – I believe Apple is confident that they’ve got their bases covered.

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