Tablet Wars: The iPad Mini and the Surface enter the fray

Computer titans Apple and Microsoft both introduced new tablet computers within the last two weeks and I think both devices are very interesting. I have now had a chance to play with both tablets. At the Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego the Apple Store and Microsoft Store are within a 100 yards of each other, so it was very easy for me to see both devices during a recent trip I made to the mall. I’ve got to say that I was impressed by both tablets and I could see myself owning one of each in the future.

Basic Spec’s:

iPad Mini

Height: 7.87 inches
Width: 5.3 inches
Depth: 0.28 inches
Weight: 0.69 pound

Storage: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB

Display: 1024 x 768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch

Cameras: Front Camera 1.2 MP photo, 720p HD video – Rear Camera 5 MP photo, 1080p HD Video

Battery: 10 hours

Impressions: The Mini was actually a little larger than I expected it be and that was a pleasant surprise. I like the smaller size, but it still provides plenty of screen space and I found the quality of the display quite good. I took a look at some pictures on iPhoto and they were beautiful. Does it match a Retina screen? No, but it is still very good imo. I don’t know why some of the fan boys are so wee wee’d up about the resolution of the display. The build quality of the iPad Mini was excellent. It is incredibly thin, yet it feels very sturdy, thanks to a very solid aluminum enclosure.

Many critics seem think the iPad Mini is overpriced, starting at $329 for the 16 GB model, but I still think it will sell very well because it is significantly better than any of the other 7″ tablets on the market today. I wish it was a little cheaper, but it is not prohibitively expensive in my opinion. The Mini delivers all the functionality of a regular iPad and better portability. You give up a little screen space and of course, as I mentioned earlier, no Retina display, but I think the trade offs for prices that start at $170 less than the regular iPad are acceptable. It will be interesting to see to what degree the iPad Mini cannibalizes the regular iPad market share. I read that some analysts made initial estimates of up to 20% cannibalization and now I’m reading that some analysts think that the iPad Mini will ultimately become the best selling iPad. After seeing the iPad Mini in person I think it will indeed become the best iPad within 2 years.

I’m pretty sure the iPad Mini will be my next iPad.

Microsoft Surface:

Height: 6.77 inches
Width: 10.81 inches
Depth: 0.37 inches
Weight: 1.5 lbs

Storage: 32GB, 64GB

Display: 10.6 inch ClearType HD Display, 1366x768b pixels

Cameras: Front and Rear 720p HD LifeCams, with two microphones and Stereo Speakers

CPU: Quad-core NVIDA Tegra 3, 2GB RAM

Impressions: The overall build quality, including a very high quality display, is what I first took note of when I took a close look at the Surface. The design of the black tablet is very elegant and it feels very solid. The fold out kickstand is very useful. The one hardware feature that found a little disappointing was the physical keyboard. Maybe it just takes a little practice, but I just didn’t think it offered any great advantages over a virtual keyboard. Fortunately, the Surface does have a virtual keyboard that is very good and customizable as well. You can select different types of virtual keyboards, including both one with a conventional layout and one with a split keyboard layout.

The OS on the Surface is a lightweight version of the new Windows 8 called RT. I found it to be an attractive new interface, that looks clean and modern. The new OS does have a learning curve, because it is different than anything that has come before it and it doesn’t seem quite a intuitive as Mac OS X or iOS and it is very different from Windows 7, but it is logically organized and I’m it becomes easier to use with a little practice.

The Surface is not inexpensive, with the bottom of the line RT model starting at $499.00 and the soon to be released Pro model will go north of $800 for some models, but I think the Surface can carve out a significant niche in the tablet market. It may take a few years, but I think the Surface will slowly grow market share. The question is which tablets will lose market share as a result of Surface growth? I think Surface will end up stealing more market share from Android tablets than Apple, although I expect the Surface to remain well behind both in market share for at least the next few years. That said, I do think that the Surface can attract a loyal following and if Microsoft is fully committed to supporting this tablet for the next 5 years (I think they are) then it may capture a large segment of tablet market share.

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