The days of the computing market being dominated by desktops and basic laptops are long gone. Not only has the last few years seen the rise of tablet computing, often cited as being the fastest growing technology in history, but the big consumer electronics manufacturers are always looking to satisfy ever potential niche in the market with new computing products.

12-inch MacBook Air Apple

Thus, one of the big battles out there at the moment is between the Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Pro 3, representing the traditional Windows market, and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) MacBook Air. The latter is a 13-inch laptop, which is generally characterized and categorized as being ‘ultraportable’ – a fair description given how light and wafer thin it is – and the former is a large tablet machine, particularly designed to be utilized with an attendant screen.

Apple vs Microsoft: Tablet evolution

While tablets are nifty little devices that have revolutionized the computing market, given millions of people the opportunity to surf, shop and work on the go, and opened up new revenue streams for giant corporations such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:0059935), there is no doubting their limitations. This is best underlined by the fact that the notion that a future iPad will enable users to open two windows at the same time was considered big news among Apple fans.

By contrast, both the Surface Pro 3 and the MacBook Air are marketed as being fully-fledged computers, capable of running demanding applications and providing all the computing power you need to get you through your working day. But do they deliver in this department, and which one if the better bet for consumers?

There’s no doubt that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has, as usual, pulled out all the stops with the appearance of the MacBook Air. No dowdy designs or unimaginative presentation is going to be allowed to dent the Apple brand at this point in time, but the MacBook Air is a particularly attractive machine. That’s not to dismiss the edifice of the Surface Pro 3, which features an optional detachable cover, but as of yet no-one has matched Apple’s design aesthetics in the mass market.

Microsoft surface pro 3 2

Divergent capabilities

The price gulf between the two gives some indication that the devices are likely to have divergent capabilities and even slightly different target markets. Thus, the Surface Pro 3 is equipped with more power under its bonnet, and is obviously intended to be a direct replacement for your existing laptop. This necessitates a faster processor than the Apple machine, and the Surface Pro 3 also embraces touchscreen technology, which is a welcome inclusion.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) clearly views the MacBook Air as a device which delivers some of the functionality of a laptop, greater processing power than a tablet, but with the convenience and a relatively similar price point to the latter. It’s a device for anyone who has fancied purchasing a tablet, but found the lack of a native keyboard to be a bit off-putting.

If you’re looking for a really mobile productivity device, then the Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface Pro 3 would be the obvious choice. But if the tasks you’re likely to be carrying out are less processor intensive, then the MacBook Air delivers a sleek, stylish and speedy computing experience.