Asian CIOs see potential in Surface tablet

Pricing, biz software integration, and compatibility with Office will be key factors in Microsoft's ability to snatch crown from iPad, but for others, Android tablets already provide viable alternative.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Asian CIOs deem Microsoft's upcoming Surface tablet to be a true competitor to current market leader, the Apple iPad.

Redmond last month unveiled two 10.6-inch tablets under the Surface brand, with one running Windows 8 while the other on Windows RT. No details on pricing or availability were provided, although Microsoft did say in its media release: "Suggested retail pricing will be announced closer to availability and is expected to be competitive with a comparable ARM tablet or Intel Ultrabook-class PC." 


Meanwhile, speculations are rife over whether the Surface tablets will be able to grab consumers' attention from the iPad.

We sought the opinions of ZDNet's Asia CIO Jury, asking this question:

Will Microsoft's Surface tablet provide a real alternative to the Apple iPad?

Of the first 12 CIOs who replied, 7 said yes while 5 said no.

Steve Lee, CIO and senior vice president of technology for Changi Airport Group, agreed Microsoft's latest initiative will make a viable iPad alternative.

"Technically, from what I've read, it does plug a gap in the corporate space. With a full 'suite' of device OS, hardware alternatives, office productivity, games and with their recent social media acquisition [of Yammer], I think Microsoft does stand a fair chance," Lee noted. "Besides, they have lots of $$$."

Hood Abu Bakar, CIO of MISC--a subsidiary of Malaysia's Petronas Group--also saw potential in the Surface tablet which could also be a replacement for the notebook. However, Hood noted it would be interesting to see if Microsoft will see acceptance in this space without support from its hardware partners.

Ramesh Kumar B., CTO of Eduquity Career Technologies in Bangalore, India, believes Redmond had an edge since it could assess where iPad had succeeded and understand what it would need to build to beat Apple. These features are "in the open" and Microsoft just needs to focus on providing the value-add, he said.

"All Microsoft has to do is price it better in terms of the tablet as well as the software and apps," Ramesh said.

Tony Wong, general manager of group IT at IGB, believes Microsoft's footprint in the software market--specifically Windows 8 and Office--will prove valuable in its tablet success.

Wong, who is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, underscored the importance of ensuring compatibility with current Office documents, noting that while iPad or the Apple Mac computers "emulate" the functions of these Microsoft documents, on the Surface tablet, these would run native.

Android already viable alternative
However, Bernard Chew, CIO of NTUC Fairprice Co-operative in Singapore, said devices running Google Android already provide a good alternative to the iPad.

In particular, organizations not keen on being tied to the Apple ecosystem and prefer the open development environment of Android would unlikely turn to Surface, Chew explained.

Glen Francis, vice president and head of group IT at Global Logistic Properties, was also unimpressed: "[Surface] lacks the oomph factor in design."

Jean-Luc Creppy, partner and CIO of EPC Partners, however, believes Microsoft Surface could prove a viable option for enterprises.

Creppy, who was not on the jury for this question, pointed to end-user familiarity with Microsoft's software and Windows OS interfaces, as well the integration with an organization's infrastructure. He also highlighted the portability of existing business applications libraries, making them ready for the new tablet.

A big thank you to ZDNet Asia CIO jurors who participated. This question's jury comprised:

  • Hood Abu Bakar -- CIO, MISC (A Petronas Group subsidiary)

  • Ramesh Kumar B. -- CTO, Eduquity Career Technologies

  • Bernard Chew -- CIO, NTUC Fairprice Co-operative

  • Jean-Luc Creppy -- partner and CIO, EPC Partners

  • Glen Francis -- vice president and head of group IT, Global Logistic Properties

  • Lee Siew Kit -- Assistant vice president of IT services, Singapore Airport Terminal Services

  • Steve Lee -- CIO and senior vice president of technology, Changi Airport Group

  • Lim Kuo Siong -- head of central operations and IT, Maybank

  • Roger Lim -- Asia business technology officer, Zegna Trading (Shanghai)

  • Christophe Niellez -- CIO for Asia-Pacific, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

  • Tony Wong -- general manager of group IT, IGB 

  • James Woo -- CIO, The Farrer Park Company 

This question also was posed to CIOs in other regions and compared the results in a follow-up piece. Do read it to find out whether they agreed with the ZDNet Asian CIO Jury.

Editorial standards