When the first iPad launched, it was only a consumption device. Storage capacity of 16 GB or 32 GB is plenty for reading apps, a few movies, and a collection of games. As the iPad evolves, though, so does its capacity for productivity. Perhaps that explains Apple’s decision to release a 128 GB model several months into the 4th-gen. iPad’s lifespan.

Surface killer?

It wasn’t likely a coincidence that Apple announced the 128 GB iPad just a week before Microsoft launches the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft is peddling the new Surface as the first real productivity-focused tablet, while framing the iPad as more of a toy. A 128 GB iPad is ammunition in Apple’s defense.

Still don’t believe us? Check out the verbiage in Apple’s press release:

Companies regularly utilizing large amounts of data such as 3D CAD files, X-rays, film edits, music tracks, project blueprints, training videos and service manuals all benefit from having a greater choice of storage options for iPad. The over 10 million iWork® users, and customers who rely on other incredible apps like Global Apptitude for analyzing team film and creating digital playbooks, Auria for an incredible 48 track recording system, or AutoCAD for drafting architectural and engineering drawings, also benefit greatly from having the choice of an iPad with more storage capacity.

The 128 GB iPad is Apple's memo to enterprise customers. It basically says that you don’t need a different tablet for productivity. The same tablet you use for play is also the best for work.

Smaller Surface area

The 128 GB iPad announcement couldn't have fallen on a worse day for Microsoft. Just as Apple announced its higher-capacity tablet, Microsoft admitted that its tablet’s storage might not be what you expect.

In a statement to Engadget, Microsoft said that the 128 GB Surface Pro only ships with 83 GB of free space. Even worse, the 64 GB Surface ships with a measly 23 GB of usable storage.

By comparison, the 64 GB iPad offers 57.2 GB out of the box. The 32 GB iPad actually ships with more free space than the "64 GB" Surface: 29 GB compared to Surface's 23 GB.

In Microsoft’s defense, Windows 8 Pro is a full desktop operating system, complete with a restore partition (which can be deleted to free up space). It also allows for SD cards and USB peripherals to expand your storage.

Still, the astronomical difference in Surface’s advertised storage and actual storage is an embarrassing detail about a product that Microsoft needs to be a hit.

Release details

The 128 GB iPad 4 goes on sale on Tuesday, February 5. The Wi-Fi only model retails for US$799, while the Wi-Fi + LTE model will ring up at $929. Surface Pro releases in 64 GB ($900) and 128 GB ($1000) models on February 9.

Sources: Apple, Engadget