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Will iPad Scratch the Surface, or Vice Versa?

Will iPad Scratch the Surface, or Vice Versa?

With Microsoft's upcoming line of Surface devices, buyers will get a new version of a familiar OS built into one of the hottest form factors on the market. But Surface skeptics question how much of a threat the Windows tablets will pose to iPads, considering the latter's ecosystem, which Apple has been building for years.

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
06/20/12 5:00 AM PT

Despite Android device makers' best efforts, Apple has ruled the tablet market for years with its iPad line. But one of the company's oldest rivals will soon come knocking, and this week it showed off just how it plans to enter the tablet scene.

Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system will be built with tablets in mind -- that much has been known for many months. However, Microsoft on Monday revealed it's also going to fight on the hardware front, producing both a thin and light tablet as well as a thicker, heavier version running a full desktop edition of Windows 8.

Microsoft's Surface tablets have compelling features and could appear attractive to enterprise users, but the iPad and Apple's brand still appear to win out when considering the big picture, according to Gabelli analyst Hendi Susanto.

"The Surface looks appealing for personal use within a business environment," he told MacNewsWorld. "But it still lacks the ecosystem that Apple has over the whole market. It's a competitive offering, but the iPad still can be marketed towards a greater group."

Microsoft didn't release a price point for the Surface. Without knowing that, said Susanto, it's difficult to know exactly how competitive it will be. But Microsoft should know its limits when setting that price, said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst at Gartner.

"They haven't really discussed pricing yet, but they really only have the one option," Tuong Nguyen, analyst at Gartner, told MacNewsWorld. "They can't price it above the iPad, because as much as people use Windows- and PC-related applications, a new tablet buyer isn't going to dole out more money for something that isn't an iPad, that comes with all kinds of integrated apps, games and uses."

Pondering Podcasts

In the aftermath of last week's Worldwide Developers Conference, new details are emerging about some of the features of Apple's upcoming mobile operating system, iOS 6.

A new Maps app, new call-answering features and sharper Siri abilities are all on the list, but iOS might also change the way it manages podcasts, according to information from AllThingsD.

Currently, iTunes users can access podcasts from inside iTunes, where they can browse, search, sample and download any podcast of their choosing. iTunes also highlights popular podcasts and gives recommendations based on previous downloads. With iOS 6, though, Apple might switch podcasts over to their own app. With the app, iPhone and iPad users will be able to discover and download podcasts without having to enter iTunes. Users that access iTunes via a laptop or desktop would still have podcasts within that version of the online store.

The company made a similar move when it switched iBooks to a separate e-reader app when it launched the iPad.

Good or Bad? Depends on Apple

Whether users find the new arrangement elegant or irritating depends entirely on how Apple makes the switch, said podcast consultant Adam Weiss. A new app could better promote new podcasts and give a bigger spotlight to lesser-known ones. Users are usually excited about any type of free app, he said, and might be willing to try a podcast for the first time.

However, "you have to download it," he said. "While this could introduce new people to podcasts, it is one more hurdle to getting them on your phone. I don't see this as a big deal for anyone who is at all tech-savvy, but there are a significant number of people who never add any apps to their phones, so that group will lose access to podcasts -- unless Apple does a pop-up download prompt, like you get for iBooks the first time you use a new iOS device."

Given Apple's success with podcasts in the iTunes store, though, the company will hopefully want to keep momentum alive he said. Without an initial bump from Apple, podcasts might not even enjoy the popularity that they do today, said Weiss, and a continued Apple promotion might be necessary to keep the medium going at the rate it is now.

"Apple's promotion of podcasts as a feature of iPhones, iPods, iPads and Macs has been a huge boost to the field," he said. "I think the popularity of podcasts would definitely have suffered without Apple's support up to this point, including the oft-forgotten step of building podcasts creation into GarageBand. I think it would suffer if Apple were to abandon that support for some reason."

Apple didn't respond to our request for comment.


Rachelle Dragani is a freelance reporter based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys staying on top of e-commerce deals, reporting on what new gadget is coming your way, and keeping tabs on anyone trying to hack into your info. Feel free to e-mail her at rachelle.dragani@newsroom.ectnews.com.


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