Microsoft's forthcoming Surface tablet is the iPad rival that businesses have been waiting for, according to CIOs around the world polled by ZDNet and TechRepublic.
The CIO Jury groups from Asia, Australia and the UK and US all voted 'yes' to the question: "Will Microsoft’s Surface tablet provide a real alternative to the iPad?"
The CIO Jury is ZDNet and TechRepublic's quick response panel of tech leaders around the globe. The first 12 CIOs from the pool to respond to a yes or no question become the 'jury' for that question.
All three groups voted yes, albeit by different margins, reflecting the Surface tablet could be a genuine challenger to the iPad, Apple's hugely successful tablet that has not faced much serious competition until now.
TechRepublic's CIO Jury (which covers the UK, Europe and the US) was the most bullish on the Surface, voting yes by a margin of 10 to two.
Tim Stiles, CIO at Bremerton Housing Authority, said Microsoft’s entry into the market represents "tremendous promise" for corporate IT. "The buzz, even among corporate iPad users, is very strong," he said. Meanwhile, Jeff Canon, CIO of Fire and Life Safety America, said he is getting as many requests for the Surface as he got for the iPad when it first came out.
ZDNet's Australian CIO Jury was also very positive about the enterprise prospects for the tablet, agreeing it would be a real alternative to the iPad by a margin of eight to four.
Andrew Paton, group manager of IT services at Rondo Building Services, agreed that features like the USB port are a must for Microsoft's tablet to come out on top, and that its integration with other Microsoft products might help the device win the day.
"Coming from a Microsoft-based environment, it will certainly have to be considered as a potential laptop replacement for the likes of sales representatives in the field," he said.
ZDNet's Asian CIOs also consider Surface to be a true competitor to Apple's current market leader, voting yes by a margin of seven to five.
Steve Lee, CIO and senior vice president of technology for Changi Airport Group, said: "Technically, from what I've read, it does plug a gap in the corporate space."
However, not all CIOs were convinced: Peter Smith, group manager of information systems at Quick Service Restaurant Holdings, part of the Australian jury, argued that Microsoft has missed the boat.
"I am not sure [Microsoft] can make up the lost ground to iOS or Android devices. It is not really apparent whether Microsoft is trying to position the product as a tablet or an ultra-light laptop. Reviews on the intuitiveness of the interface are not particularly positive, so it sounds like Microsoft still has some work to do," he said.
Similary Tom Galbraith, director of IT at the US District Court Southern District of Illinois, said unseating the iPad is a formidable challenge: "Even if there is a compelling differentiating factor that Surface offers, Apple's first-mover advantage and their position as the standard by which all others are measured certainly tilts the odds in Apple’s direction."
On ZDNet's Asian CIO Jury, Glen Francis, vice president and head of group IT at Global Logistic Properties, was also unimpressed, saying: "[Surface] lacks the oomph factor in design."
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