Continually jumping between different technology platforms feels inefficient. Would it make sense to just pick one and stick with it?
To answer the question I spent a week working exclusively with each of the three main technology companies’ wares: Apple, Microsoft and Google. I wanted to see if this approach improves productivity and whether it is practical or limiting.
Each set of technology has its advantages.
The platforms also have common advantages.
Sticking exclusively with one means you learn all of its commands, tricks and nuances. Familiarity breeds productivity. As your knowledge deepens your work gets faster. Quickly performing complex tasks involving more than one app can be automatic.
While none of the technology platforms is flawlessly integrated, usually the quirks and road bumps are easily dealt with.
It’s hard to walk past the efficiency benefits of mastering your tools. You will work better if you stick to just one stack.
So pick and stick with just one?
If your technology needs are relatively straightforward and narrow, you should be able to pick one platform, learn it intimately and reap huge productivity gains.
I certainly recommend employers and managers standardise on a single platform in a workplace.
More complex cases
This simple approach will work for most people most of the time.
However, many people have complex needs that may not be fully serviced by a single technology platform. Testing shows minor limitations with Apple and Microsoft technology. Google’s technology is more limiting.
None of this matters for many tasks, but you’d certainly struggle to do creative work like web design if you stayed strictly inside the Google camp. In fact, most creative work means moving across platform boundaries at times.
As I mentioned earlier, no company has flawless integration. They all do a good job most of the time.
If I were to put a number on it, I’d give Apple and Google nine out of ten. Microsoft loses an extra point because of the cognitive dissonance of switching between the Windows 8 Metro interface and the older, desktop interface.
Moving between platforms isn’t that hard. Most apps will copy data from other platforms, although there are still a few glitches.
There are minor problems and inefficiencies moving between platforms. If we stick with the same scale, then cross-platform integration would weigh-in at seven out of ten.
The real benefits of staying on one platform are more to do with learning how everything works than with integration.
Recommended approach to platforms
Based on an, admittedly unscientific, experiment, the smartest strategy is to pick a master platform, not an exclusive platform.
Choose one: Apple, Microsoft or Google. Plan a platform strategy. Buy your devices on the same platform. Stay with it when you upgrade. Don’t be tempted to deviate unless you plan to eventually move everything to the new standard.
Use the mainstream apps within the company’s technology stack, such as iWorks, Office or Google Docs. Master the tools, learn all the tricks. Make working on the platform second nature.
Stick with it as far as is practical, but don’t be frightened of moving outside the platform when you need a different tool for a specific task. View your chosen platform as a neighbourhood, not a prison.