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Microsoft beat Apple in tablet satisfaction

Microsoft takes home the centerpiece: A J.D. Power award for U.S. Tablet Satisfaction.

Seven years into the tablet wars (which have arguably diminished to a skirmish) launched by Apple and its iPad and six years into J.D. Power’s tablet survey, Microsoft inched by Apple with an aggregate score of 855 to 849 (out of 1,000) to win the top honor, J.D. Power announced on Friday.

J.D. Power, which surveys several industries and sectors for satisfaction, surveyed tablet owners late last year. Microsoft Surface tablet owners reported higher overall satisfaction with features and “styling and design factors.”

“These [Microsoft] tablet devices are just as capable as many laptops, yet they can still function as standard tablets. This versatility is central to their appeal and success.” said Jeff Conklin, vice president of service industries at J.D. Power in a release.

Microsoft’s tablets, which most people use with the optional $129 Type Cover and included Surface Pen, earned high marks for internet connectivity, availability of supported accessories, input/output options and internal storage. Those surveyed also praised the pre-installed software, which may be good news for Windows 10, the Surface’s operating system.

“It’s an accomplishment to beat Apple at any satisfaction metric, and this just reinforces that Microsoft Surface is the real deal,” said Patrick Moorhead, President and Principal Analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy.

Apple and the iPad were not far behind in the survey. Its overall score gave Apple a “Better than most” rating (Microsoft’s is “Among the best”). Last year, Apple won best overall satisfaction for U.S. tablets, narrowly beating out Microsoft.

The company has struggled in recent years to maintain the tablet sales momentum it had in the early days of the iPad. Last month Apple introduced a more affordable iPad 9.7-inch, hoping to attract upgraders (from previous versions) and the education market (which has switched over to Chromebooks).

Close behind was Samsung, which sells the Galaxy Tab line of tablets, with 847 (like Microsoft and Apple, it landed above the survey average).

Acer and Asus were at the bottom of the survey. Around the middle, just below the average, was LG, not much of a player in the U.S. tablet market, and Amazon, which came in with an overall score of 834 (“About the average”). Amazon has sold a lot of cheap Android tablets over the last few years (remember the six pack?) but is not exactly impressing U.S. tablet consumers.

There were some other tablet trends highlighted by the survey, including U.S. consumer interest in larger tablet screens and the fact that those who opt for cellular plans (32%) are generally happier with their tablets.

The survey is interesting on many fronts, especially because people do not often pit, say, a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet against Apple’s latest iPad. They might compare it to an iPad Pro, which is built to support a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. It’s unclear which models the survey respondents own and how long the owned them.

Clearly, though, those lauding Microsoft’s Surface put a premium on productivity. J.D. Power reported that survey respondents rated their tablets “very important” to their jobs. Tablets as productivity devices is a fairly new phenomenon, but certainly Microsoft’s sweet spot. The company only started to succeed on the tablet front when it gave up on the mobile ARM CPU version of the Surface (and Windows RT) and focused on a model that could run Windows and the desktop operating system as well as a tablet.

“The areas that Surface did well in make sense as the device supports a full-sized keyboard, Windows desktop and Store apps, and USB peripherals like mice and even external displays. Surface also scored the best in styling and design which can’t make Apple very happy,” said Moorhead.

Somewhere in the halls of Microsoft, CEO Satya Nadella may be smiling, but when contacted for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson would only say, “Building products that deliver the power, versatility, and dependability that allows our customers to create their best work in any setting is fundamental to everything the team does.”

We have contacted Apple for comment and will update this story with its response.

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