Microsoft fired the first volley in the war on laptops. With the Surface, it aimed squarely at the MacBook Air, calling the Surface “the tablet that can replace your laptop,” while running side-by-side ads denigrating the MacBook Air.

The Surface Book, released last month, is literally a tablet/laptop hybrid designed specifically to replace a laptop, running a full version of Windows 10 (which, for enterprises, is a big selling point over the iPad Pro because employees can run the full version of Microsoft’s productivity and Office suite, as well as full versions of any other mission critical software).

Apple has fired back, releasing the 12.9” iPad Pro. It too is designed as a hybrid tablet/laptop aimed squarely at the enterprise market (that’s not the only audience to which the iPad Pro is appealing, but there’s no doubt the tablet was designed with much enterprise functionality in mind).

The reviews of the iPad Pro are a mixed bag, with many professing its great iPad-ness, but poor laptop replacement.

That’s sub-optimal for Apple, given CEO Tim Cook’s proclamation that it can replace your laptop. And the full Windows 10 operating system on the Surface Book seems to give it the nod in the enterprise tablet battle underway. But, Apple has some secret sauce the Surface Book can’t match — the app store.

Apps have baked-in enterprise advantages over full desktop software. From Business Insider:

  • Apps run in isolation from each other, meaning that no app can affect another app’s data. It means there isn’t a lot of bloatware, like the infamous Yahoo search bar, to slow a machine down.
  • Apps automatically update in the background, which is good for security and better for developers to make sure that all their users have the latest data.
  • Apps are easy to install. And since the App Store handles payment, it means that it keeps track of what software you do and don’t own, so upgrading to another device is easy.
  • Apps let the App Store handle the payment and tie it to an account. Developers love this because it makes apps, especially iPhone apps, harder to pirate.
  • For enterprises, it’s easy to use management features to control which devices get which apps installed from a central point.

 

There are distinct advantages to both approaches to enterprise productivity. You have to decide what matters most to your enterprise before choosing one of the options (if you are indeed outfitting employees with tablets). But, the takeaway from each new product launch is that the tablets are coming.

It will not be too long before tablets make a full-throttle run at the laptop market for enterprises. Both hardware companies, with their intentions laid bare, are clearly making moves in that direction. It might only be a matter of time before tablets really do replace laptops in the enterprise space.

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