Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the iPad. Today, the electronic slabs are a staple feature on everyone's desk, from young hipsters to silver surfers, and they have spawned a generation of alternative makes and brands. After almost a decade of performance and feature improvements, are they ready to take over from tradtional notebooks?
When it comes to speed, there's no doubt that an iPad Pro with its custom chip architecture can often outperform MacBooks for administrative office tasks. The tablet's FaceID feature works seamlessly as a security mechanism to unlock your device, making it a possible tool for multi-factor authentication. It is also now available in a 13in size that matches those of smaller notebooks, making it realistic for workers who want mobility without hunching over a device and wearing a permanent squint. It also has an optional pencil, which can be useful if you like to take written notes in meetings.
On the memory side, the device features up to 1Tb of storage, which is plenty for all but the most media-happy users. It will certainly satisfy the average executive, especially if they're accessing cloud storage.
The sticking point for most users will be the software. The iPad Pro doesn't run macOS, which is the staple operating system on Macs. Until recently, it ran iOS, which is the same operating system that runs on the iPhone. This left most people trying to do serious work on it with the same experience they had trying to work on an iPhone; you can do it - kind of - but expect yourself for a clipped-wings feeling.
The latest iteration of the iPad's software is iPadOS, which still has iOS under the hood but features some productivity improvements. For example, its Safari browser now displays the desktop version of websites by default rather than the often-limited mobile ones. It features new multi-tasking functionality, which builds on the Split View, Picture in Picture, and Slide Over modes that Apple first introducted in iOS 9. Now, you can have multiple windows from the same app open at the same time. The windowing systme is counter-intuitive, though - you never know exactly what will happen when you poke at an icon and drag it. The biggest drawback is that there's still no traditional desktop interface.
The Files app built into the iPad now makes it possible to connect to removable storage for the first time, and you can still access cloud services like Dropbox as before.
The upshot of all this is that C-suite execs with a focus on tech chic and compact power can technically use the iPad as a laptop replacement, but you'll want to let them test it out for a week first to see if they can make the cognitive adjustment. It takes some getting used to.
The alternative is to take the Windows route and opt for a Surface Pro. This series of machines uses the Windows desktop operating system you're used to, and although Microsoft sells its add-on keyboard separately to the tablet (as Apple does) this is really more of a 2-in-1 hybrid device; You'll rarely see anyone using a Surface Pro without the keyboard.
With Windows the mainstay OS in most businesses today, the Surface Pro is probably the ideal device for many executives. Those that want to keep up with the latest options can choose between the Surface Pro 7, which runs on traditional Intel chips, and the Surface Pro X, which runs on a custom Snapdragon chipset but which serves mobile workers who want basic productivity apps. For that market, there's also a dizzying array of third-party Chromebook apps that give you online functionality via Google's ecosystem.
You can replace a dedicated laptop with a tablet today, but your mileage may vary depending on the brand you choose. For power workers, it's a Windows tablet first, while those who prefer style over substance and don't mind being locked into Apple's gilded cage could work with an iPad. Chromebooks are for those that want no-nonsense browser-based productivity and are happy to live in Google's world. Whichever your executives choose, their bags will certainly be a lot lighter.