Microsoft Surface vs. Google Nexus: The numbers don't tell the whole story

Despite some recently released data comparing the two tablets, a fairer comparison would pit the Surface against the Nexus 10.

The tablet market is often viewed as a two-horse race, with Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms fighting it out for domination. But there's a new player in the arena that could stir things up, Microsoft's Surface tablet, and it is far too early to start focusing on usage numbers.

Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika advertising network, examined a sample of tens of millions of tablet impressions drawn from the U.S. and Canada between November 12 to November 18, and compared Web traffic from Google's Nexus family of tablets and Microsoft's Surface tablet. 

After crunching the numbers, Chitika Insights found that Google Nexus tablet users are generating more than seven times the Web traffic compared to Microsoft Surface users. The data gives the impression that things aren't good for Microsoft and its Surface tablet.

While I don't doubt Chitika Insight's numbers, comparing the Nexus to the Surface is a little like comparing apples and oranges because there's a lot more to this story than can be conveyed by the numbers.

First, it is important to note that the there are significant pricing differences between the two tablets that result in a very uneven playing field.

See also: Best Android-powered tablets (December 2012 edition)

While both Microsoft and Google both offer a $499 version of their tablet which comes with 32GB storage, Google offers the Nexus 10 with 16GB of storage for $100 less, which appeals to those on a budget. The Nexus 7 isn't even in the same class as the Surface, with prices starting at $199.

Putting a $199 tablet in the same category as a $499 tablet will skew the data significantly, especially where price-sensitive buyers are concerned. People in the market for a $199 tablet are unlikely to give one with a $499 price tag a second thought.

The $300 difference is a lot.

Another factor to consider is that the Nexus 7 has a significant head start on the Surface. The Nexus 7 was first released in July, while Surface tablets didn't make an appearance until late October, and its launch was buried in the general Windows 8 fanfare.

Another factor to account for is the ecosystem. Android is an established and well-known platform, and people who own Android handsets are already familiar with the platform and know how it works. Microsoft's Windows RT platform is, despite the Windows branding, new and relatively unknown, and brings with is a new ecosystem and a new way of doing things.

Finally, Surface tablets running the full Windows 8 Pro operating system hasn't yet been released, and  despite the price tag  and  poor battery life , it could still be a game changer. A tablet that brings all the features of Windows 8 on the desktop is going to be far more attractive than one that only brings a whiff of the desktop experience.

A fairer comparison would pit the Surface against the Nexus 10. The form factors are similar, and the difference in price isn't as great.

Image source: Chitika Insights.