Microsoft technology stack — 2014 edition

Last year I spent a week working with nothing but Microsoft technology. Since then Microsoft updated its flagship Surface Pro tablet, Lumia smartphone and delivered Windows 8.1. How does this change things?

The big difference is the move from 2013’s Surface Pro 2 to the 2014 Surface Pro 3. While the Pro 2 could run the Windows apps most people use most of the time, the Pro 3 does away with the need for a separate notebook. This means one less item to buy and, just as important, one less thing to carry, less to fuss over.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 is better than the Pro 2 in every respect. Better screen, better screen size, better processor, even a better kick-stand. There’s enough processing power to handle every mainstream application, even editing media files. Unlike the Surface Pro 2, there were no embarrassing glitches. When you add the docking station you can use a big screen for graphics and video work.

My only complaint is the Surface keyboard still isn’t as robust as those found on desktops or high quality laptops. That aside, I could switch to using the Surface Pro 3 as my only computer. If I did, I’d invest in a solid desktop keyboard for working in my home office.

Although others use the Surface Pro 3 with large screens — even multiple screens — the  12 inch display is enough for my needs.

Despite higher specifications is almost every department, the difference between the Lumia 920 and the 2014 Lumia 930 is not as pronounced. Yes the camera is an improvement. Anything needing heavy-duty processing is faster, but in day-to-day use I barely noticed these things. It’s a nice phone, but in hardware terms the Lumia 930 has fallen behind Apple’s iPhone 6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

The move from Windows Phone 8 to 8.1 doesn’t amount to much in practice. There’s an extra column of icons on the phone screen — as if that matters; a notification centre and Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri voice activated digital assistant. The screen keyboard seems to work better than on the 920. All-in-all you’ll get a little more done with the 930 than the 920, but it’s not going to make a huge difference to the way you work.

Microsoft fixed most of what’s wrong with Windows 8 in 8.1. The move from the start screen to the Windows desktop is less jarring. Internet Explorer 11 is a better browser. Windows 8.1 is faster and more apps and utilities come as standard.

There was nothing wrong with Microsoft’s technology stack when I tried it last year. Microsoft has fixed all the annoyances. Moving between the Surface Pro 3 and the Lumia 930 is natural. Saving Office documents to OneDrive from the Surface Pro 3 then editing or reading them on the phone works just as it should. Microsoft has tightened its technology stack and sharpened its act all-round.