Well it's been three days since we received our iPad "4", iPad mini and Microsoft Surface and I wanted to share a few observations from our perspective as a business deployer (as opposed to consumer end-user).
Although the most important changes are under the hood (dual core processors) the most immediately notable feature is the new lightning connector. The lightning connector is definitely a step up from the old 30 pin dock connector and the competing micro-usb connector found on android tablets. From a business deployer perspective it has three very compelling features;
1). It's orientation agnostic
This removes the problem of fumbling to engage the 30 pin connector "the right way up" simplifying problems related to untrained (or careless) employees plugging the iPad in to recharge and damaging the dock connector (fairly common problem in our experience).
2). It's tough.
The actual connector is a lot more robust being more resistant to damage and getting pocket lint trapped inside (believe it or not pocket lint is the most common problem we have with users "not connecting" to our credit card reader).
3). It's charges fast.
Apple designed it to support 12w charging in combination with the quietly upgraded charger on the new iPad "4". This is a big issue for us as we have seen some users who run iPad 3's 24/7 having to reduce brightness levels to 75% to keep their devices charged. Do a quick search on the web and you'll see keeping an iPad 3 charged while running is a common problem. We expect this to go away with the new lightning connector and the new charger.
This little tablet wipes the floor with the competing Android tablets from the perspective of build quality and user experience. They simply don't compare. It's size is just about perfect for hand-held use, we see a huge opportunity here for restaurant menu use, wine lists and anywhere a business needs to "hand-out" an iPad to a customer for temporary use.
In our estimation it's actually superior for "book-reading" and casual web-surfing compared to the full sized iPad.
We have some very interesting stuff planned for this little powerhouse, stay tuned.
Being a self-professed long-time Apple fan-boy you could have knocked me over with a feather when we received our Surface last week. It's build quality and screen is really very good, I'd even go so far as to say on par with the iPad (well ok the screen isn't quite a nice as the iPad 3/4 but it's close enough for most things). The kick stand on the back is actually very useful and the keyboard/ screen protector is way more useful than I had thought. If Microsoft can get their app store together I think they have a real contender here.
From a business perspective I would not hesitate to purchase a Microsoft Surface base on hardware or build quality, let's hope they can get their apps ecosystem up to snuff asap.
The only fly in the ointment from a kiosk perspective (and this is admittedly a minor quibble) is that for some reason Microsoft chose to have their charge cable permanently wired to the power adapter (Apple and android ones typically use a usb interface to the power adapter). This can cause problems when trying to remote the power adapter from the tablet. While most folks would never care about this it can matter for business deployers who need to charge multiple units at once in confined spaces and or install them in secure enclosures. In those instances having a removable power cable helps to resolve those thorny installation issues.