Apple just lost a talking point for their next press conference. Customer satisfaction gurus J.D. Power just released the results of its look at the tablet market for 2017, and found that Microsoft is now leading the way with its Surface hybrids.
Microsoft shouldn’t get too comfortable — out of a possible 1,000 points, Microsoft scored 855 to Apple’s 849. Of the seven brands in the study, Asus brought up the rear at 812, just a bit behind Acer at 814.
Where’s Microsoft winning? The J.D. Power report keys in on three areas where they’re ahead — preloaded apps, internet connectivity, and availability of accessories. That seems to suggest that Windows 10 is giving Microsoft a big advantage over the iPad — having a full desktop OS instead of the more limited iOS could be opening up more possibilities for people who want to use tablets for work. Windows 10 also has the advantage of desktop versions of Office, along with new programs like Windows Hello, which allows users to log in using facial recognition.
The lead in accessories also makes sense — Microsoft has long made good wireless mice, and their cover keyboards and styluses made for the Surface have gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially from digital artists.
But, there are two more points that should be particularly concerning for Apple. The first is a real stunner — Microsoft scored higher on styling and design, which includes aesthetics and materials used. This is an area that Apple has dominated for at least a decade, but it looks like maybe, just maybe, Microsoft is slowly becoming the cool brand.
The other thing that should be sounding alarm bells in Cupertino is heavily related to that cool factor — Surface users skew younger. That suggests Microsoft is winning hearts and minds among young adults, another thing that helped pave the way to success for Apple over the last decade.
Granted, there’s cause for Apple alarmism every year, and it’s almost always overblown. But, more and more in recent years, that alarmism has been tied to hard numbers, be it slowing iPad sales or plateauing iPhone sales. Now we’ve got evidence that says Apple is going out of style, which is compounded by a set of longtime professional users who feel iced out by a lack of progress on the Mac front and the new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar.
The comparison here could be seen as flawed — with Windows 10, the Surface line is closer to a laptop than a tablet. But, that could also be seen as an indictment of Apple’s approach to the tablet — if hybrid devices like the Surface are coming to be seen as more useful, it’s fair to wonder how long Apple can continue to not invest in making some of their own.