Bill Gates said iPad users are "frustrated" by the tablet's lack of functionality and productivity applications, and he's pitching Microsoft Surface as the cure for those ills.
In an interview with CNBC, Microsoft's founder and chairman criticized Apple's popular device and similar tablets and touted the capabilities of Microsoft's own Surface and Surface Pro tablets.
"With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device," Gates told CNBC. "But a lot of those users are frustrated. They can't type, they can't create documents, they don't have Office there."
Meanwhile, Gates said, Microsoft's Windows 8 tablets combine the benefits of the mobile form factor with the functionality users have come to expect in a PC. "If you have Surface [or] Surface Pro, you've got that portability of the tablet but the richness, in terms of the keyboard and Microsoft Office, of a PC," he said.
Gates also said it will be harder to distinguish between tablets and PCs as the form factors blend together and tablet functionality increases. Gates isn't alone in that view -- Intel's PC business chief, Kirk Skaugen, recently said he believes the 10-inch tablet form factor will "rapidly erode" this year and meld with notebook-tablet hybrids with convertible displays and detachable screens, leaving mini-tablets as the dominant category.
When it comes to comparing the Surface to the iPad, some solution providers agree with Gates -- even though they can't resell the Surface tablets, which are currently sold direct through Microsoft's online and retail stores.
Brian Goddard, owner of GTechserv in Charlotte, N.C., says the Surface Pro is a superior offering compared to Apple's tablet. "We look at the iPad as more of a secondary device rather than a primary device," he said. "The Surface Pro is definitely a good fit for businesses because it has the horsepower and the apps that a straight tablet doesn't have. So I'd agree with [Gates] -- the iPad is more of a consumption device rather than a productivity device."
But Goddard said he's frustrated by Microsoft's refusal to sell Surface through the channel and believes there's a significant opportunity for the Surface Pro in the commercial market.
PUBLISHED MAY 7, 2013