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Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now

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If you want the power and functionality of Apple’s top-end slate, but without the premium price or the toxic hellstew software that comes with it, you do have options.

Apple offers three different iPad lines: the iPad Mini 4, iPad 9.7, and iPad Pro (which you can get in either 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch sizes). In our review of the iPad Pro 10.5-inch model earlier this year, we said it totally replaced our MacBook. CNET called it a multitasking, file-sorting king and even named it the best tablet of 2018. As for the 12.9-inch model, it’s a dream for graphic designers, but it’s too large to be easily portable and costs as much as a laptop.


(Image: CNET)

While the smaller iPad Pro starts at around $570, the larger one begins at $880. And if you get it with the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil, you’re looking at close to $300 more in accessories. Clearly, the iPad Pro isn’t a whim purchase, and if Apple or iOS aren’t your thing, it’s definitely off the table for you. Luckily, as we said, there are alternatives you can buy right now. We’ve also included a couple that are coming soon.

Here are your best options running Android, Chrome OS, or Windows 10. Not all of them are cheaper, but they do provide a computer-like experience in a tablet or hybrid form factor.

Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives you can buy right now

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(Image: CNET)

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft offers five different Surface device lines, one of which is Surface Pro. And its latest model — the 12.3-inch Surface Pro 6 — launched Oct. 16. It still has a detachable keyboard, but now comes in a new matte black color and updated eighth-generation Intel Core CPUs.

It offers LTE and up to 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. And while it still has USB-A ports, its display is improved to 267ppi. There’s also an autofocusing 8MP camera for video-chatting and Windows Hello login. You can get the Surface Pro 6 with Microsoft’s Surface Pro Signature Type Cover ($159) and Surface Pen ($99), too. So, if you want an Apple Pencil-like experience, look no further. The Core i5 model with 128GB of RAM starts at $899.

Also: Microsoft Surface Pro 6 review: Racing ahead of last year’s model CNET | Microsoft Surface Pro 6 alternatives you can buy right now

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(Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Google Pixelbook

The $999 Pixelbook is another hybrid, meaning it can be used as a laptop or a tablet. This particular form factor doesn’t have a detachable keyboard, but the sturdy hinges easily rotate, so the screen sits flat on the Pixelbook’s body. But what’s most notable about 12.3-inch Pixelbook is the top-of-the-line model is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor. That’s a high-end Kaby Lake CPU designed for fanless, super-thin laptops.

ZDNet tested the device earlier this year and was able to have 257 tabs open at once and still have memory to spare. So, who should buy this? Anyone who needs a no-holds-barred, great 2-in-1. You also get, for buying it, a terabyte of Google Cloud storage for a year. And it works with an Apple Pencil-like Pixelbook Pen ($99). However, Pixelbook has no LTE and runs Chrome OS, so it won’t have every desktop-class app you may need. But, remember, it does run Android apps.

Also: Google Pixelbook review: The best Chromebook CNET | The Killer Chromebook: Google’s i7 Pixelbook

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(Image: CNET)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

The iPad may be the most popular tablet, and it is great for many people, but there are some key business features missing from the iPad, including limited keyboard and no mouse support. The $650 Galaxy Tab S4 is a better option that functions much more like a computer in a lighter, portable form factor. It’s an Android tablet, with the Book Cover keyboard designed for business use. You can use it for typing, storing the S Pen, and tablet protection.

What we like most about the 10.5-inch Tab S4 is it includes LTE, Samsung DeX integration, mouse support, S Pen functionality with Air Command utilities, and a multi-window capability. You can also use the tablet as a touch pad, digitizer, or touch keyboard when connected to an external monitor. The Wi-Fi model with 64GB internal storage starts at $650.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review: A premium tablet CNET | Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 review: An Android tablet built for business

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(Image: CNET)

Lenovo Yoga 920

The 13.9-inch Lenovo Yoga 920 is a top-end Windows 10 convertible. It improves on the company’s premium two-in-one ultraportable by adding active pen support and Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, and by throwing in an eighth-generation Intel Core i-series processor for better performance and a long battery life. CNET said the super-slim bezels around its display, all-metal chassis, and unique watchband 360-degree hinge make it seem like a premium laptop.

In our review, we said it’s a good convertible laptop with minor niggles, like the lack of LTE and an SD card reader, and its price. The Core i7 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $1,399.

Also: Lenovo Yoga 920 review: One of the best 2-in-1 laptops CNET | Lenovo Yoga 920 review: A premium 2-in-1 convertible

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(Image: CNET)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (third-generation)

In our review of the latest generation, we said it’s designed to compete with Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro, as it brings tablet computing into the office without compromising on traditional laptop features. It should be the only laptop a mobile professional needs. The 13-inch tablet is very solid, and its durable kickstand hinge supports a wide range of angles. The keyboard is detachable, too, so you can get the full Windows 10 tablet experience.

Plus, there’s an LTE variant.

The only drawback is it isn’t cheap. The Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM starts at $1,290.

Also: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet review: A Surface-like tablet CNET | Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 3rd Gen review: A top-quality 2-in-1

Best Apple iPad Pro alternatives that are coming soon

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(Image: CNET)

Samsung Galaxy Book 2

We had to include this one — even though you can’t buy it until Nov. 2. Arriving as a successor to last year’s 12-inch Galaxy Book, the $1,000 Galaxy Book 2 runs Windows 10 S and comes with 128GB storage, 4GB RAM, an 8MP rear and 5MP front camera, two USB-C ports, and a microSD slot. An S Pen and keyboard come bundled together with purchase.

It’s also one of the first devices to use the Snapdragon 850 platform, which promises Gigabit LTE connectivity and a 20-hours battery life. While not a traditional tablet, the Galaxy Book 2 can be used as one, and CNET thinks it’ll be great for those of you who want to work anywhere, anytime.

Also: Samsung Galaxy Book (12-inch) review: A great Windows tablet CNET | Samsung unveils Always Connected Galaxy Book 2 PC

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(Image: CNET)

Google Pixel Slate

When CNET checked out the just-announced 12-inch Pixel Slate, it described the device as a convertible tablet-meets-Chromebook with detachable keyboard that’s basically the iPad keyboard we’ve all wanted for years: one with a touchpad, one that feels like a laptop, and one that adds front and back protection to the tablet when traveling. The Slate is clearly designed to go up against the Microsoft Surface and its workplace-meets-tablet design, but it also seems to come within striking distance of the iPad Pro, especially in terms of price.

The model with Core i5 and 16GB of RAM starts at $599 and will be available from November. It can be paired with the Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199) and Pixelbook Pen ($99). It’s honestly a perfect model for where Apple should take its iPad next. Our only problem with it is the lack of LTE and good desktop-class apps, which can make it a problematic purchase.

Also: Google Pixel Slate, hands-on: the keyboard’s the best feature CNET | Google’s Pixel Slate problem: The Android apps are awful


For more great deals on devices, gadgetry, and technology for your enterprise, business, or home office, see ZDNet’s Business Bargain Hunter blog. Affiliate disclosure: ZDNet earns commission from the products and services featured on this page.

Previous and related coverage:

Apple to hold iPad Pro event on Oct. 30 in New York

The company is expected to announce new iPad models and possibly update its MacBook lineup.

Here’s the next iPad Pro Apple should build: Specs and speculation

Apple’s third-generation iPad Pro is likely to have important but incremental improvements over its predecessor and include technologies introduced in the iPhone X.

New iPad Pro: Fantasy features list

I’ve not owned an iPad in years, but if Apple updated the iPad Pro and added the following features, I’d be the first in line to buy a new one.

Apple iPad Pro Review: A superb tablet waiting for its time to shine

It’s hard to review the new iPad Pro without peering into the future and thinking of its true potential once iOS 11 is released.

I tried to write this article on an iPad Pro. It didn’t go well

Apple keeps insisting an iPad Pro is a computer. So could I switch to it from a MacBook Air?

New iPad Pro 2018: All the rumors on specs, prices, and features CNET

Will the new iPad Pro show up at Apple’s upcoming event?

The iPad Pro 2018 models: 8 things the pros need TechRepublic

The iPad Pro is Apple’s effort to build a tablet for the enterprise, but it would be a better business tool with these features.

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VCs approached Facebook to fund a spinout of Workplace valued at over $1B, but Facebook declined – TechCrunch

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Workplace — the app originally built as a version of Facebook for employees to communicate with each other — now has more than 7 million users, carving out a place for itself as an app help companies communicate internally using essentially the same tools that have proven sticky in their lives with friends and family. That traction, it turns out, has been giving Workplace attention of another kind.

We’ve learned that Facebook (before it was rebranded as Meta) was approached by enterprise investors offering the social network a proposition: spin off the organization, they said, and let us back it as a startup. A deal would have valued a newly independent Workplace as a “unicorn” (at least at $1 billion) according to the source.

A source tells us that conversations didn’t progress, primarily because Facebook (and now Meta) saw Workplace as a “strategic asset” — not because Workplace generates sales anywhere close to the billions Meta makes from advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but important rather for presenting a more diverse face to the market. For regulators, it shows that Facebook/Meta is more than just a too-powerful social network; and for organizations, that Facebook can do more for them than just sell ads.

“It helps make Facebook [and Meta] look like an adult,” the source said.

Spokespeople from Meta and Workplace said that they had nothing to share and declined to comment for this article.

It’s not clear which investors were involved, but a source says that they were among those focused on late-stage, growth round investments with a view to injecting capital specifically in enterprise opportunities.

Their approach to fund a spun-out Workplace last year would have come at a time when late-stage and private equity investors were (and still are) ramping up their activities to snap up big, mature tech businesses. Thoma Bravo last year was reported to be raising $35 billion to hone in on more acquisition opportunities in the space (and it’s been making a wide number of investments and acquisitions to that end). Bloomberg estimates that private equity acquisitions totaled more some $80 billion in 2021, up more than 140% compared to 2020.

That pace does not look like it is slowing down this year, and it includes PE firms approaching larger technology behemoths to spin out operations as they look to streamline and realise more capital from less core, or possibly unprofitable, or more generally lagging, assets. Just earlier today, Francisco Partners announced a deal to snap up IBM’s Watson Health business, reportedly for around $1 billion.

Building a SaaS beachhead

For Meta, an approach to spin out Workplace highlights developments on two fronts.

On the corporate side, there have been calls to break up the company — the latest development on that front from earlier this month is that the courts ruled that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission can proceed with a lawsuit mandating a sale of WhatsApp and Instagram, alongside, reportedly, a separate probe of its VR division for antitrust violations. It’s a situation that some investors and shareholders will see as an opportunity, a tension that Meta might increasingly need to weigh up as it justifies holding on to its various assets.

For Workplace, the division has found itself at a key crossroads in the last several months.

On one side, Workplace has seen a number of key departures, including no less than its top two executives, Karandeep Anand (who this month was named chief product officer at Brex) and Julien Codorniou, who left to become a partner at London VC Felix Capital. A number of others have also left the building to move on other opportunities elsewhere.

The logic behind some of that movement was described to me, charitably, not as a response to the bad PR that Meta has faced, but natural attrition: here was a group of people assembled to create and build Workplace from the ground up, and now that it’s a more mature product with a clearer focus, it’s the right time for new people to come in and work on the next stage. (My personal opinion: Workplace’s new head, Ujjwal Singh, feels like a solid choice to lead it right now.)

But even if there has been reporting contradicting that workers might feel worn down by Meta constantly being bashed in the court of public opinion, Workplace has not been immune to it, either. We understand that Workplace signed a huge deal with a major chain of restaurants, one of the biggest, but the customer asked to hold off on announcing the win last autumn because of the bad news cycle and “reputation issues.”

“That shit doesn’t happen to other SaaS companies,” one person said.

That, it seems, would have been one argument in favor of distancing Workplace further from its parent, perhaps by way of a spinout, but it seems that Meta has the opposite idea.

Workplace has actually changed a lot over the years since it was first rolled out as a product.

Founded originally as a “work” version of Facebook — expanding how Facebook employees were already using Facebook to communicate to each other in private groups — Workplace was launched as a response to the rise of Slack and other chat apps for the workplace. Workplace’s logic was that it had a natural advantage since billions were already using Facebook. And, bringing in a new service targeting a different kind of user, with a different business model — paid, not ad-supported — opened the door to new business possibilities for the company.

That’s largely remained the strategy for the company even as the focus has changed for Workplace. Originally it introduced a number of integrations with other workplace productivity tools aimed at knowledge workers, part of a bigger effort to compete more directly against the likes of Slack and Teams. But over time, almost on accident, Workplace found an audience with deskless workers who communicated with their employers mainly by mobile. So what has emerged as the sweet spot for Workplace is being a communications app for both categories of workers simultaneously.

“We realised that instead of asking our customers to choose between Teams or Slack and Workplace, you could have both,” a source said. “Others could handle real-time messaging communications for knowledge workers, while Workplace does asynchronous best for everyone.”

And that appears to be the guiding idea for Workplace’s strategy now, which has seen it recently integrate more functionality from Microsoft Teams into its platform to complement Workplace, and yesterday to announce a new integration with WhatsApp, which is already very popular with frontline teams, and will now become a more formal interface for Workplace communications. From what we understand, closer integrations and services involving Meta’s VR business and the Portal are also in the works.

While the company is not due to update on user numbers until later this year, a source told us that there are now closer to 10 million users on Workplace, with key customers including some of the world’s biggest employers like Walmart, Astra Zeneca and others.

While Workplace had in the past been sold to customers as a standalone product, “I don’t think it will be sold as a standalone application ever again,” a source said.

Instead, it will part of a suite, for example selling business messaging plus Workplace, or along with a Facebook login feature, opening up the prospects of how Meta can engage with those businesses. (The wider sales pitch to enterprises is also likely a behind its motivation to acquire Kustomer, the CRM startup, although that deal has yet to close.)

So far from being ready to part with Workplace, it seems that Meta is now positioning it as part of a beachhead comprising a bigger SaaS business. Can it mobilize as an independent company might have done to realize that opportunity? VCs might still be waiting in the wings if it doesn’t.

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The first big tech antitrust bill lumbers toward reality – TechCrunch

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A major Senate bill that would prevent tech companies from giving preference to their own products and services just passed a significant hurdle in Congress, bringing it one step closer to becoming law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted today on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, moving the prominent antitrust bill toward a vote before the full Senate. The bill passed its committee vote 16-6 Thursday, with five Republicans joining Senate Democrats to press forward with the legislation.

The bill would prohibit tech platforms from “favoring their own products or services, disadvantaging rivals, or discriminating among businesses that use their platforms in a manner that would materially harm competition on the platform.” It would also forbid dominant platforms from preventing interoperability with other services and from leveraging another company’s data on the platform to compete against them.

To accomplish its goals, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act would empower antitrust enforcers with “strong, flexible tools,” including “civil penalties, authority to seek broad injunctions, emergency interim relief, and potential forfeiture of executive compensation.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, hailed the legislation as the first major tech competition bill to head toward the Senate floor “since the dawn of the internet.” The bill could still see changes from a handful of amendments that didn’t impede its progress Thursday but may still impact its final language.

While it still has an uphill slog to make it into a crowded and mostly stalled out legislative agenda, the bill’s momentum was significant enough to prompt Google and Apple to both weigh in with comments earlier this week.

“Every day, millions of Americans use online services like Google Search, Maps and Gmail to find new information and get things done,” Alphabet Global Affairs President and Chief Legal Officer Kent Walker wrote in a blog post. “…Legislation being debated in the House and Senate could break these and other popular online services, making them less helpful and less secure, and damaging American competitiveness.”

Apple also sought to intervene, penning a letter to Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, the committee’s ranking Republican Chuck Grassley as well as Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Amy Klobuchar that subcommittee’s ranking member Mike Lee.

“After a tumultuous year that witnessed multiple controversies regarding social media, whistle-blower allegations of long-ignored risks to children, and ransomware attacks that hobbled critical infrastructure, it would be ironic if Congress responds by making it much harder to protect the privacy and security of Americans’ personal devices,” Apple Senior Director of Government Affairs Tim Powderly wrote. “Unfortunately, that is what these bills would do.”

Both companies argued that the bill along with another piece of legislation, the Open App Markets Act, would be a detriment to consumer security. The latter bill would force companies that control operating systems to allow third-party apps and app stores and allow developers to tell consumers where they could find the same software at better prices.

 

A group of tech companies that included Yelp, DuckDuckGo, Sonos, Spotify, Proton, Match Group and the startup accelerator Y Combinator along with the venture capital firm Initialized Capital spoke out in favor of the anti-self preferencing legislation earlier this week.

“Findings from the United States and governments around the world reveal the many anticompetitive self-preferencing tactics dominant technology companies use to attain and entrench their gatekeeper status in the market to the detriment of competition, consumers, and innovation,” the companies wrote. “The American Innovation and Choice Online Act… targets self-preferencing to help restore competition in the digital marketplace and remove barriers for consumers to choose the services they want.”

Regulating the tech industry is a rare issue that inspires bipartisan cooperation in Congress — another sign that the tech industry should expect new restrictions on its business, even if those proposals still progress at a crawl.

The bill was introduced by by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and is co-sponsored by Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Steve Daines (R-MT).

The House version of the bill, led by House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO), is already out of committee and ready for a vote.

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TikTok begins testing support for paid subscriptions – TechCrunch

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TikTok is testing support for paid subscriptions, the company confirmed to TechCrunch on Thursday. As first reported by The Information, the popular short-form video app is exploring the option for creators to charge subscriptions for their content. The feature is part of a limited test for the time being and is not broadly available. TikTok declined to elaborate on the feature or share additional details.

“We’re always thinking about new ways to bring value to our community and enrich the TikTok experience,” a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch in an email, when reached for comment.

It’s unclear how the paid subscription model will be implemented in the app. For context, TikTok’s popular algorithmic “For You” page surfaces videos from creators that users don’t follow. If a creator chooses to charge a subscription for their content, it’s likely that their videos won’t appear on users’ For You pages. However, it’s also possible that the subscription will apply to additional content that’s exclusive to paid users, as opposed to being applied to the entirety of a creator’s account.

News of the test comes a day after Instagram launched subscriptions in the U.S. The feature is now in early testing with a small group of creators who are able to offer their followers paid access to exclusive Instagram Live videos and Stories. Creators can choose their own price point for access to their exclusive content. Paid subscribers will be marked with a special badge, differentiating them from unpaid users in the sea of comments.

TikTok’s paid subscriptions test follows recent confirmation that it’s testing an in-app tipping feature on its platform that allows creators to accept money from fans outside of TikTok LIVE streams, where gifting is already supported. Creators who are part of the limited test can apply for the feature if they have at least 100,000 followers and are in good standing. Those who have been approved are given a Tips button on their profiles, which their followers are able to use to send them direct payments.

The company’s newest test is its latest push toward monetization and helping creators earn a living through its platform. Last year, the company introduced a $200 million fund aimed at helping creators in the U.S. supplement their earnings. TikTok also helps creators sign brand partnerships and sponsorship deals and also provides monetization for livestreams. Considering TikTok’s focus on monetization efforts, it’s no surprise that the company is experimenting with a way for creators to offer paid subscriptions for their content.

TikTok and Instagram’s tests follow Twitter’s launch of “Super Follows,” a paid subscription offering that launched in September 2021. The feature allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month. Similar to Instagram’s model, subscribers are marked with a special Super Follower badge, differentiating them from unpaid followers.

TikTok, Instagram and Twitter’s paid subscription offerings outline the companies’ efforts to court creator communities. The offerings are also a way for the companies to compete with each other, along with other digital platforms such as YouTube, which offers lucrative ways for creators to make money.

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