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Could I use a 64-bit iPad 5 or a Surface 2 as my main work computer?
As we get ready for the next batch of Apple announcements (most likely the iPad 5 and a new iPad mini) on October 22, there's been some discussion about whether the iPad 5 (which will likely sport a 64-bit processor) can do the heavy lifting of a main work computer.
To be fair, we've covered the iPad (and tablets in general) as work computers before, and — depending on what you do for work — the answer has been generally positive.
But I wanted to see if I could use an iPad as my work machine. Could it handle the breath of tasks my current Windows laptop does easily, or would I be left out in the cold, unable to get the job done?
To sweeten the story a bit, I decided it would be fun to compare the expected new iPad with the newly announced Surface 2 Pro (which runs full Windows) and Surface 2 RT (which runs Office, and not much else).
Oh, and one last note: I'm not considering a jailbroken system. I want to know if it's possible to do my job, not take on a new job in addition to all I do.
Stay tuned. At the very end, I'll rank the winners and losers. You might be surprised by the results.
Image: GraphicStock and Microsoft
Can it be used to grade my classes?
I teach an object-oriented programming course at UC Berkeley extension and we use the ANGEL learning management system. ANGEL requires the availability of both Flash and Java, as well as — in some places — Windows media.
64-bit iPad 5: No way. iOS does not support Flash or Java.
Surface 2 RT: No, although not necessarily well. Surface RT originally only whitelisted a few sites for Flash, but now just blacklists those sites it doesn't trust. But it doesn't run Java.
Surface 2 Pro: Yep. It's Windows on Intel.
Can it be used to run virtual machines?
I use virtual machines a lot. Before Windows 8 Pro, my go-to VM was VirtualBox, but I'm doing more and more with the built-in Hyper-V now. In either case, though, I need to run VMs.
Because I teach programming, students have to program. They're all using Visual Studio, but some use Visual Studio 2010, some 2012, and some are tinkering with VS2013. Each version of Visual Studio lives in its own virtual machine.
I also run VMs for testing questionable software and I run a number of Linux VMs to stage my websites before uploading them to servers. Additionally, I field a VM for whatever interesting new virtual appliance or application comes my way that I don't want to test on my main machine.
Now, before I put the three machines to the test, note that I'm not talking about hidden VMs that come as part of provided solutions. I'm talking about the ability to spin up my own VM and run it, with whatever OS inside I choose.
64-bit iPad 5: This is where a 64-bit iPad gets interesting, because you might be able to support a lot of RAM. That said, it's unlikely we'll see iPads that come with 8, 16, or 32GB of RAM that will let you run three or four VMs at once. In fact, the iPad doesn't have a way (other than remotely connecting to a real desktop) of supporting VMs at all.
Surface 2 RT: No. No good news here at all.
Surface 2 Pro: Yes. This supports Windows 8.1 Pro, and that includes native HyperV support. You can also run VirtualBox if you want. You can order a Surface 2 Pro with as much as 8GB, so you can quite nicely run a VM or two. My current laptop has 32GB, but while that's nice, the Surface 2 Pro would do nicely.