The iPad Pro is here – It is the Microsoft Surface 3!

The internet has been abuzz with rumours about Apple’s IPad Pro all year. The Surface 3 is already here, and is faster, far more capable, and cheaper than an iPad Air 2.

There is a particularly annoying advert on TV in the UK at the moment. It is for the Travelodge hotel chain, and blatantly rips off Andrew Lloyd-Webber. One line in the song is “If you sleep anywhere else you’ve got rocks in your head”. Anyone still lusting after the still elusive iPad Pro is similarly misguided.

I have already reviewed the Surface 3 before, and it is a great machine. It is faster than the Apple iPad Air 2, has a significantly larger screen (10.8” vs 9.7”), is £30 cheaper (price between £419-499), and has optional accessories such as a Type Cover with Trackpad, a Surface Pen, or a Docking Station with Ethernet and DisplayPort support. The iPad Pro probably won’t have these, Even without the docking station the Surface 3 also has a full-size USB 3.0 port, and a Mini DisplayPort, so there is no need to buy a £79 adapter from Apple, which is in any case not available on their UK Store yet. As Microsoft’s far more accurate and less annoying advert rightly says, the Surface 3 is indeed “The tablet that can replace your laptop”.

Editing Excel document with Surface 3 Type Cover
Editing Excel document with Surface 3 Type Cover

This is because Surface 3 runs a full version of Windows, so I can use Word 2016 Preview to write this article, as well as any of the millions of Windows desktop apps in existence. It also includes a one-year Office365 + OneDrive subscription, unlike Apple devices. And Microsoft currently have a promotion offering a three-month Sky NOW TV subscription as well. By the end of July at the latest, I will be able to use the touch version of Office that is available for free with Windows 10, if I want the best editing experience when I don’t have a physical keyboard attached. The non-touch version of Office is already plenty good enough for editing with the on-screen touch keyboard.

Edititng an Excel spreadsheet in portrait mode
Edititng an Excel spreadsheet in portrait mode

The Surface 3 runs the most graphically demanding tablet games like Asphalt 8 Airborne smoother and with better graphics than the iPad Air 2 or the fast-but-execrable Nexus 9.

Windows 10 is a great tablet operating system, far superior to the rotting carcass of iOS. Sure, Windows 8 Modern Apps left a lot to be desired, but the pre-release versions of Microsoft’s main Windows 10 Universal apps are already pretty impressive. They are better looking, faster and more functional than their iOS and Android equivalents.

By main apps, I mean Outlook Mail, Outlook Calendar, Photos, Music, Video, OneDrive, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, News, Money, Health & Fitness, most of which I have taken screenshots of and you can find in the gallery below. Bear in mind, these are pre-release versions, and they do already look even better in the leaked build 10147.

Windows 10 (released 29 July) has Universal Apps. This means they run equally well full or split-screen on a tablet, and windowed on an Ultrabook, laptop or my dual-monitor desktop. Universal Apps, as the gallery above demonstrate are vastly better and more flexible than the Modern apps in Windows 8.1, and by the time iOS 9 is finally released, there will be a huge number of Windows 10 Universal Apps out there made by Microsoft as well as third parties, going a long way towards addressing the largely justified complaint people had with Windows 8.1, that it’s Store was lacking in quality and quantity compared to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

If you doubt that iOS and OS X is a graveyard of dead UX, and that Apple have ceased being innovators and have become imitators, read my post summarizing their WWDC conference which they ludicrously proclaimed to be the Epicentre of Change.

If you believe the rumours about the iPad Pro, it is true that it will have a larger screen than the Surface 3 (12.9” rather than 10.8”), which would probably make it about the same weight as the 622 g Surface 3, still with no USB port support, still with an outdated tablet OS where the only way to be truly productive is to install Microsoft apps, which come free with the Surface 3, but cost at least an extra £50 a year if you want to use them on the iPad Air 2 or the elusive iPad Pro. Ars Technica agree that Microsoft Office is the way to go on iOS.

To further support my argument that the Surface 3 is a better iPad Pro, not only because it exists and is available to buy right now, I will summarize the most significant announcements regarding iOS 9, which should be released in September, possibly together with the iPad Pro. I will also tell you about some things that were not announced because Apple cannot deliver them, although Microsoft and Google already have, for an awful long time.

iOS 9 will support having two apps simultaneously on the screen. Windows as a tablet operating system has had that functionality since 2011, and as a desktop operating system since Windows 1.0 in 1982.

iOS9 Split-Screen Windows 10 Split-Screen

iOS 9 will probably have a case-sensitive touch keyboard (i.e. letters are displayed in lowercase when you are typing lowercase, which you are about 99% of the time). Given Apple’s morbid fear of change this is a major step! Apple might finally, reluctantly, have abandoned the mechanical typewriter metaphor they have insisted on inflicting on their users since 1995. Windows has had an on-screen keyboard for at least that long. It was admittedly terrible for an awfully long time, but at least it was case-sensitive.

On the topic of keyboards, iOS 9 still will not have a swipe keyboard. There are many on the App Store. When my co-blogger-cum-partner owned an iPad Air 2, he tried every one rated above 2 stars, and they were all pants. Windows Phone 8.1, as well as Windows 10 devices with a screen size of less than 8 inches will have a swipe keyboard built-in, as does Android. Both Google’s and Microsoft’s swipe implementations are great, although I prefer Windows because it has a better dictionary, better word suggestions, and has as an option when entering email addresses or URIs.

iOS 9 will not support multiple user accounts. The feature was planned, but was abandoned because Apple, the company with the biggest market cap in the world found it too difficult. Windows 10 has multiple user support. Indeed, it was first introduced with Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, in January 1992! Android has had multiple user support for at least a year and a half.

El Capitan, the next version of OS X will still not support touch screens. If you want touch support on a fully featured general-purpose operating system, Windows is your only choice, unless I have missed that Ubuntu has it. I use both, and can state that although Linux will never rival Windows on the desktop, I would say Ubuntu is better-looking and less dated than OS X.

Speaking of El Capitan, Apple obviously ran out of still-extant big cats to name their preserved corpse of an operating system after, and understandably did not want to name it after an extinct animal, no matter how apt others might have found it.

The body of Vladimir Lenin in the mausoleum on Red Square
The body of Vladimir Lenin in the mausoleum on Red Square

If you are still not convinced that the iPad Pro is here, and that it is called the Surface 3, why not go to a Microsoft Store, John Lewis or Curry’s PC World and try it out. I am sure after seeing and trying it you will be convinced it is the tablet that will replace your laptop, or certainly your iPad Air 2.

You can also buy it and get it delivered straight to your home from the Microsoft Store, or to your home or your supermarket from John Lewis. If you do that, you will support this web site, which will make us very happy.



DISCLOSURE We have not been paid or been given anything by Microsoft or any of their representatives to write this, or any other articles on this web site, however much we might wish it to be otherwise. The author pre-ordered and paid for the Surface 3 and has used it since he received it on May 7 2015.