Business dilemma: Windows RT tablet or iPad?

Summary:If you're looking to buy tablets for your business, soon there will be a tough choice. Will the new Windows RT tablets be a better long-term choice than Apple's iPad?

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Windows RT tablets

or

The iPad

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Best Argument: The iPad

84%
16%

Audience Favored: Windows RT tablets (84%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Windows RT tablets are easy on developers

Increasingly, businesses are looking to deploy tablets to their organization as a "first class" platform to deliver solutions on.

If you're deploying tablets in the business you want your in-house teams and your partners to be able to develop software that runs on them. Most enterprises develop software in Java and .NET. Evolving skills and tooling over to Windows RT is straightforward. Going from Java and .NET to the relatively oddball programming model for iOS (Cocoa Touch, Xcode, and Objective-C), is not. You're going to need new developer workstations (can't use a PC to compile iOS software), and everyone's going to have to learn brand new skills.

So, if you're looking to buy hundreds or thousands of tablets and use them as a platform for delivery of enterprise solutions, you'll find it easier, cheaper, and less risky to develop software for Windows RT compared to iPad.

iPad features tons of apps and a track record

If you asked me last month which tablet one should buy for business I would have said the only real choice was the Apple iPad, largely due to the thousands of applications, solid platform support, and large user bas . Microsoft Surface/Windows RT appears to be a solid product, but there are a lot more questions than answers concerning the range of applications, durability and reliability of the device and OS, and the consumer appeal for BYOD.

Talkback

114 comments
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  • RT is the future

    Ipad is a good device in my opinion, but is limited for multimedia purpose..Navigation,online video, bunch of games...RT goes far beyond this, even as tablet limited to a metro UI and apps, you still have a option to run the desktop UI, and for sure you gonna be able to run specifics programs...Imitating a full desktop PC, and a full OS W8!
    Edson Nascimento
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Windows RT tablets
    • YOur confused

      Windows RT has no desktop at all. Windows 8 has both the desktop and the RT (aka interface formerly known as metro), but RT has just that... RT. There is no option to run a desktop, the closet thing you can do is run a desktop which being remoted from another system running VMware View or Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, but guess what the same can be achieved on an iPad. Your confused.
      MrTomahawk
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
      • Actually, Windows RT does support the Windows desktop ...

        ... but that desktop DOES NOT support legacy Windows applications. So what good is it? It offers the Windows RT user 100% compatibility with other Windows devices.

        The lack of compatibility is the biggest challenge for Windows notebook users who use the iPad as an auxiliary device.
        M Wagner
        Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
        • Nope

          The only reason to have classic desktop in Windows 8 RT, is to run MS Office. As it is only business application what you ever need and you ever can run on that Windows version.

          And as it is now a business, you don't need anything else than MS Office. Every game, every third party application are OUT. They are not needed, or wanted.

          Windows 8 RT + MS Office + Physical keyboard is the business tool. But only idiot buys Windows 8 RT tablet then, as notebook is MUCH better choice right away from that point, especially if you need MS Office for typing instead just presentations.
          Fri13
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
          • But why do I need MS-Office....

            ....when I have done just fine without it for years?
            bobjones2007
            Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • But what about Win8 apps>

          Aren't they going to be available for all Windows platforms? That should be happening fairly quickly.
          stano360
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Actually, Windows RT does support the Windows desktop

        But that desktop DOES NOT support legacy Windows applications. So what good is it? It offers the Windows RT user 100% compatibility with other Windows devices.

        The lack of compatibility is the biggest challenge for Windows notebook users who use the iPad as an auxiliary device.
        M Wagner
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • yes

          You're right it's not Windows 8 Pro but those tablets are coming and early pricing puts them around the same price as RT. Enterprises already have the tools and developer eco-system to support Windows RT and Win 8 Pro. It would be foolish to dump that for Apple when you already have a dev work force ready to develop METRO apps. Whether it RT or Win 8 Pro enterprises win.
          Rob.sharp
          Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
      • yes but

        "If you're deploying tablets in the business you want your in-house teams and your partners to be able to develop software that runs on them. Most enterprises develop software in Java and .NET. Evolving skills and tooling over to Windows RT is straightforward"

        that's the thing, you don't want your developers to learn/buy new stuff, etc, etc.
        ozinanoypi
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
        • ozinanoypi, What are you suggesting?

          Businesses are going to pass on tablets altogether then? nuh uh. The win 8 pro tablet will be just what they want , but even RT is the smallest learning curve.
          Do you think businesses are going to decide, well since there is some learning, we might as well jump into cocoa and objective-C and buy Macs for the whole place?
          xuniL_z
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mic check: Are my debaters standing by?

    I'll be delivering my first question in our live rebuttal phase at 11am ET / 8am PT.

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    All set

    Rarin to go

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Side B is here, let's see if we can keep the Matt's straight today :)

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, first question:

    Aren’t these both consumer devices? What’s the angle for business here?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    BYOD rules

    For the business generally, or for employees? For employees the iPad has consistently made fantastic sense for nearly three years operating in BYOD mode.

    What we're seeing now is businesses wanting to use the iPad to deliver capability on devices that employees want to have with them anyway.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Yes, but consumers are bringing more of their gear to the office


    The iPad is popular with consumers and Microsoft has primarily showed how the new Surface is fun for kids and trendy people. However, there is some pretty compelling reasons to use the iPad at work, including working with Office documents, accessing files remotely, giving presentations, taking notes, capturing ideas, and much more. Businesses can purchase iPads for much less than a laptop and maintain control with a high level of security even easier than they can with a laptop.
    The Surface hasn't yet arrived, but Microsoft already seems to be confusing the business angle by providing a version of Office for Students without a compelling app story. Business people may want to use Surface for the few include apps, but there is not yet thousands of compelling apps for the new ARM-based platform.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Aren’t tablets still very niche products for business?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Tablets are taking over

    It's niche now, but my view is tablets will become as important as the desktop in a relatively short period of time.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Not anymore, usability is improving and people are "getting" it


    Last year tablets were niche products and tablets outside the iPad may still be considered niche if we don't count the Amazon Kindle Fire and other ebook focused tablets. However with over 84 million iPads sold in the last 2+ years I would say the iPad is not a niche product in the mobile market. I haven't seen the breakdown in sales for business users, but in my personal experience there are plenty of iPads in the workplace.
    Apple has an iPad for business website that has many different profiles and use cases showing some fairly compelling uses of the iPad in business.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What’s the stand-out enterprise feature of the iPad/Windows RT device?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Easy for developers

    For me, it's easier for people familiar with developing enterprise software for the Windows stack to move into developing for Windows RT compared to developing for iPad.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Apps for the iPad, but also iOS familiarity and the closed system


    The stand-out feature for the iPad is likely the apps, but the familiarity with iOS and the ease of app deployment may be even more important for the business world. Millions of people have the iPhone so extending that same experience on the iPad is natural and requires little training. There are many custom business apps developed in-house or by 3rd parties and Apple lets companies install these on employees tablets without putting them into the public App Store.

    Apple's iOS is also tightly controlled and while the uber geeks don't like that, enterprise customers may. An environment that can be made secure and be controlled by the IT department is attractive for businesses.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Tablets live and die by the quality of the apps available.

    Which is the winner here – the iPad or Windows RT?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Quality is what matters

    Quality vs. quantity? iPad has the edge on quantity. Windows RT enough core apps available for it not to be an embarrassment out of the gate in a business setting. Over time, I don't think we'll see a difference in the quality of apps for business.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Clearly the iPad wins here, Microsoft hasn't really even touched the app story yet


    There is no contest here that the iPad rules with apps, but that is largely due to the fact that the iPad has been out for more than 2 years. There are over 100,000 apps for the iPad, not counting the custom iPad solutions, and many of them are very high quality ones that help you get work done.
    I understand Microsoft is just getting started with Windows RT, but they haven't told us anything about what other apps we can expect.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    BYOD?

    Thanks to BYOD consumers have a big say in which devices enterprises adopt. Which is likely to capture the hearts (and money) of the man in the street?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    I'll be honest

    iPad. Without doubt.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    iPad has proven track record, Microsoft has a steep hill to climb and a story to tell


    I think it is pretty clear that the iPad has done that so far, but with so many people using Windows computers at the office there is an opportunity for Microsoft to step in here. With the Microsoft focus on showing how the keyboard is so integrated with the Surface, I am not sure consumers will see much of a difference between their Windows laptop and a Surface so there is lots of work to be done to convince buyers.
    Apple also has the iPhone association and Windows Phone has not yet shown any ability to gain much marketshare. If WP8 can do well, then I think there is more of a chance for Surface to succeed.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Which option do you think would be preferred by the IT department?

    Is that different to what the end users would prefer?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Tough question

    This one is tricky. We still don't know much about Microsoft's mobile device management (MDM) stuff by virtue of the fact that no one has Windows Phone or Windows RT devices and can't pilot it and try it.

    My instinct would be that Microsoft's MDM story will be better coming out of the gate, but they're is already some maturity in this market on the iOS side.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    IT seems to favor Microsoft, but iPad apps are nearly there


    My small business IT department head is a major fan of the Windows ecosystem and is already planning next year's laptop updates that will likely be replaced by Windows 8 Pro devices. At this time though, they are not planning to get Surface devices since there are limitations on the engineering apps we run and it isn't clear what apps employees will use with the Surface.
    There are plenty of iPhone owners in my company and several iPad owners who use apps for CAD, engineering spreadsheets, and more. So the apps are there now on the iPad, but IT hasn't embraced Apple products so there may be an IT vs. end user debate ahead.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Smartphone influence?

    How does the existence of iPhones and Windows Phone 8 smartphones change the calculation around which tablets to invest in?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    No, No

    Not for me, no. For me tablets and smartphones are used very differently. Smartphones are a "glance" device - something you look at to quickly grab information or shoot off an email. Tablets are something you actually work with. I think we'll find people who are happy to mix and match the platforms.

    Of course, we already know about the halo effect for Apple. I can see a similar halo effect for Windows - thus is someone is in love with their Windows tablet, they'll be inclined to buy into Windows Phone.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Application cost savings in iOS, along with familiarity of the UI


    I think smartphones associated with tablets are important, especially when Apple lets you purchase apps to use on both the iPad and iPhone that helps save the company money. It currently appears that Windows owners will have to purchase separate apps for Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8.
    Windows Phone is still only at around 3% of the smartphone market, even after two years, and it is not clear whether or not WP8 will change that trend. On the other hand, employees continue to buy the iPhone by the millions and this will likely be reflected in the type of tablet they buy for familiarity.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Does the excitement around the iPad mini change the calculation at all?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Apple's halo effect

    Not for me, no. For me tablets and smartphones are used very differently. Smartphones are a "glance" device - something you look at to quickly grab information or shoot off an email. Tablets are something you actually work with. I think we'll find people who are happy to mix and match the platforms.

    Of course, we already know about the halo effect for Apple. I can see a similar halo effect for Windows - thus is someone is in love with their Windows tablet, they'll be inclined to buy into Windows Phone. We'll see about the iPad mini very soon.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Smaller may work well for field workers, lower price may be attractive for enterprise


    If the rumored iPad mini comes in at a very low price, as believed, then I can see companies buying them and deploying them even more than the iPad. If the display is larger than other 7 inch tablets then it may be quite useful with the iPad apps. The smaller size may also make it a more attractive portable solution for workers, especially those field workers who find the full size iPad too large.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows RT won’t run a lot of legacy apps. Is that going to be a sticking point?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Won't be missed

    It'll trip people up, but I don't think it'll be a big problem in business. (It'll lead to returns in consumer-land, and some embarrassment in corporates.)

    People will expect a tablet to behave like a tablet. I think it'll be rare that people will have a desire to run Old Windows classic desktop apps on a tablet, even on x86 tablets that can actually do it.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Yes, and Apple should capitalize on that

    I think there is still a lot of confusion about Windows RT and Windows 8 and believe we will see many buyers return RT devices once they realize they cannot run their Windows apps. Microsoft needs to tell the app story around RT if it wants to succeed in the enterprise with this platform. Apple already has thousands of apps that people use in business and should show the stark contrast between the iPad and Windows RT.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Does the keyboard give Surface the edge?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    They're clunky

    On the face of it, yes. But I personally don't believe in keyboards on tablets. A tablet is designed to transcend traditional usage patterns. But a keyboard on it, it's heavier, and you need a desk to use it. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wrote a great article on this.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    May actually take the edge off as people view it as just another laptop


    The keyboard looks like a good idea, but I haven't yet used one to see how functional it is. Companies like ZAGG have been refining iPad keyboards for a couple of years and their current generation is fantastic. I don't think there is much of an edge with plenty of keyboard solutions available for the iPad.
    The keyboard may actually deter from the Surface a bit and give people the impression that it is a laptop replacement, when it clearly is not.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Familiar with Windows?

    Enterprises are familiar with supporting and developing for Windows. Isn’t that a big selling point for RT based devices, especially from a cost point of view?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Look at Microsoft's track record

    Yes, presuming the tools end up fitting what the market needs. To be fair, that's something Microsoft usually gets right, especially in the enterprise space.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    May be helpful thanks to core similarity in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8


    Not in my opinion. Windows RT is a bit different beast and will require development efforts to get apps on Surface devices. I understand that core behind Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8 is the same which should help all platforms in the long run, but developers are going to have to see success by Microsoft with RT. After over two years of the iPad in the market, we see plenty of examples of companies developing and rolling out apps for the tablet.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    OK, 2 more questions...quickly...

    Plenty of enterprises have already invested in the iPad. Is that a factor to consider here?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    That's my biggest fear

    Yes. That's my main concern about the Windows tablets. Has the iPad got past a tipping point where it becomes the de facto standard and enterprises will "look weird" for deploying Windows rather than iPad as their tablet strategy.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Yes, two years of investment is nothing to shake a stick at

    Yes, the iPad is a proven product and enterprise customers can trust that Apple will continue to develop the iPad and support it for years. Microsoft doesn't necessarily have a proven track record in the mobile space and has shown they can kill a project quickly if they want.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Last question:

    Surface RT is being aimed at the consumer market, lacking elements such as Outlook. Wouldn’t enterprises be better waiting for Surface Pro?

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Vote for Windows RT!

    Surface Pro, and devices from the other OEM partners that are x86 based are really just laptops with touch capability. There appears to be a "x86 tax", adding about 50% to the weight. (So a 600g unit ends up being nearly 1kg.) That's a big problem for a tablet. They also lose out heavily in that being "normal Windows" they have to be managed in terms of malware, whereas ARM tablets don't.

    My advice is that if you really think you need an x86, ultraportable laptop with touch, go ahead and get that sort of device. If you want a tablet-tablet, choose iPad or a Windows RT device.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for Windows RT tablets

    Definitely, what's compelling enough about RT not to wait for Windows 8?


    Definitely, when I talk with people the first thing they say is that they cannot wait to run their Windows apps on a high powered tablet with long battery life and new form factor. I haven't yet seen a compelling reason why a business customer would purchase a Surface RT device over a Surface Pro and Microsoft isn't helping by telling a confusing story about Office on Surface RT. Also, the commercial we have seen so far shows younger people dancing around with the Surface, not working on it doing anything productive.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Thanks for a Great Debate, Matt and Matt!

    And readers, be sure to check back here tomorrow for the two Matts' closing arguments and Thursday for my final verdict.

    Posted by Steve Ranger

    Thanks Steve and Matt

    It is an interesting time as people start to fit in tablets to their work and home environments. There is a long way to go and I look forward to the competition.

    Matthew Miller

    I am for The iPad

Closing Statements

All the pieces are in place for Windows RT

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Windows RT should have a great showing in the enterprise space. This is in Microsoft's DNA - all this consumer-centric stuff is something that they're learning to do, although they've had amazing success with the iPad. Questions remain about how good the MDM story is, and how practicable managing sideloading apps it, but it should make a good showing. All the pieces are in place, the only question for me is whether iPad has got too big of a head start of Windows 8 and Windows RT and that iPad will become the de facto enterprise tablet.

Right now iPad is the best choice

Matthew Miller

While readers have overwhelming voted in favor of Windows RT over the iPad, I still think at this time the iPad is the clear winner for the enterprise customer. Windows RT has the potential to be a valid choice, but Microsoft has to provide more than Office (limited as it is), a keyboard, and attractive hardware. Apple owns the consumer market and is working hard to secure a role in the enterprise. Visit the Apple iPad for business site and you will see numerous testimonies of using the iPad at work. The iPad has proven to be reliable, desired by employees, has over 250,000 tablet apps, and is the device for IT departments to seriously consider.

And now, the winner is...

Steve Ranger

This is a tough one. There’s a lot of excitement about Windows RT and some great – and not so great - reviews of the Windows RT model of Surface. Mostly they seem to like the hardware but consider the OS to be a bit undercooked. Assuming that becomes the general perception of RT devices it is likely the majority will stick with the iPad for business right now, especially as so much tablet usage in enterprise is being driven by bring your own device rather than enterprise procurement.

Still, there is plenty of pent-up demand within enterprise for Windows tablets - and once Windows RT gets past any teething troubles it might have, it will be a real contender. Something like Surface Pro, with a full version of Windows 8, could be an even more powerful proposition and is only a few months away.

So in the short term Matthew is the winner – although long term Matt’s arguments will become more compelling.

Topics: Great Debate

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic, and has been writing about technology, business and culture for more than a decade. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.

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