Windows stack day 7: breaking with Microsoft’s past

Windows-8-backwards-compatibility

Windows 8 backwards compatibility

Most people who live and work with Microsoft products are tied to the past.

Many need legacy applications. They may have custom-made software or tools tailored to fit in with work practices that could stretch back decades. They may have developed macros to integrate apps into broader systems. Or they may just have too much old data that’s difficult to move.

Microsoft has always done a fine job of building backward compatibility into its products. You could argue it has done too good a job. Apple and Google are more brutal about cutting old users adrift.

Who pays the piper?

On the other hand Microsoft’s core customers are corporations who buy the company’s server and enterprise products. They pay a lot of money which they might take elsewhere if Microsoft pulls too many plugs.

None of that bothers me. Most of the time I could happily work in Microsoft’s technology stack without ever opening another Windows desktop application – there are exceptions.

I’m sure most readers could do the same.

Surface 2 does almost everything

When I started my week using nothing but Microsoft’s technology, I spent far too much time installing Windows on a laptop.

I need not have bothered. With a few minor exceptions, the Surface 2 coupled with a Lumia 920 Windows Phone handled everything I needed.

The main exception to being able to do all my work was a relatively old, custom-made web-based CMS on a business partner’s website. I also struggled a little with WordPress which has tiny onscreen icons that are tricky to deal with on a touch screen.

Legacy software, who needs it? I doubt my business partner is in a hurry to upgrade the CMS. I suspect WordPress is either looking or soon will look at offering a touch screen interface.

Rough edges

These things aside, Microsoft’s brave new world still has a few rough edges.

Two things were necessary for me to hit take-off point on the Surface 2. First, I swapped the Touch Cover 2 for the Type Cover 2. That’s important, my hands were starting to hurt with the first keyboard, things were fine with the second. Within minutes I was working at full speed once more.

The second revaluation was using the Word Web App instead of the bundled version of Microsoft Office 365. Your taste may differ. It probably does.

For my purposes, the Word Web App is more productive – mainly because it’s simpler. It also seems better suited the the touch screen than traditional Office – apart from anything else, touching tiny menu items and other controls is uncomfortable and clumsy.

One day Microsoft will have a touch version of Office and Word. In the meantime I’d like to see a Metro version of Windows Live Writer.

Overall

We’ll save the direct comparisons between Microsoft and Apple technology for later. And I’ll also report back on the conclusions from the experiment.

I never doubted a week working with nothing but Microsoft devices and hardware would be possible. After all, that’s how most of the corporate world still functions. I was less sure I would find it as productive and enjoyable as it was.

Once I fine-tuned my Microsoft set-up, there were few frustrations and hiccups. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s nothing fundamentally flawed here.

5 thoughts on “Windows stack day 7: breaking with Microsoft’s past

  1. The interesting one will be Google as they are a relative newcomer to having a whole software stack. Chrome OS has grown in leaps and bounds though, so has Android in their very short lives.

    I think none of these ecosystems will be fundamentally flawed so as not to be useful but it’s more about what company aligns with your philsophies the most and what paradigms feel more intuitive and comfortable for them.

    btw, do you get to toy with the Lumia 2520? I’m very interested in that.

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    • On the whole the alignments within each stacks are surprisingly similar once the surface gloss rubs off. I was surprised to see Apple’s core apps are so much better integrated than Microsoft’s. You’d expect after 30-odd years of developing these apps, making email link to calendar link to contacts link to maps and so on would be a given.

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      • I think they have had some tragic internal communication and management under Ballmer. I don’t know if it was his fault, but he could’ve fixed it and should’ve seen it happening if he was actually doing his job.

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      • My take on Microsoft was the internal culture made (or possibly makes) it hard for bad news to travel up the chain of command. It’s not clear if that goes right to the top or not.

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    • Haven’t heard anything on the Lumia 2520 front yet. But agree it will be interesting. Odd that the most serious competition to the Microsoft Surface 2 should come from a company now owned by Microsoft.

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