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Continually jumping between different companies’ technology 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.

Efficient, but…

Each set of technology has its advantages. I’ll write more about that in another post.

The stacks also have common advantages.

Sticking exclusively with one stack means you learn all of its commands, tricks and nuances. Familiarity breeds productivity. As your knowledge of the stack deepens your work becomes faster. Quickly performing complex tasks involving more than one app can be automatic.

While none of the technology stacks are flawlessly integrated, in most cases 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 stack?

If your technology needs are relatively straightforward and narrow, you should be able to pick one stack, learn it intimately and reap huge productivity gains.

I certainly recommend employers and managers standardise on a single stack 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 stack. In my testing I found minor limitations with the Apple and Microsoft stacks while the Google stack is much 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 the stack boundaries at times.

Cross stack integration

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 stacks isn’t that much harder. Most apps will copy data from other stacks, although there are still a few glitches.

There are minor problems and inefficiencies moving between stacks. If we stick with the same scale, then on the whole cross stack integration would weigh-in at seven out of ten.

The real benefits of staying in one stack are more to do with learning how everything works than with integration.

Recommended approach

Based on my, admittedly unscientific, experiment, the smartest strategy is to pick a master stack, not an exclusive stack.

Choose one: Apple, Microsoft or Google. Plan a stack strategy. Buy your devices within the same stack. 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 stack, such as iWorks, Office or Google Docs. Master the tools, learn all the tricks. Make working in the stack second nature.

Stick with it as far as is practical, but don’t be frightened of moving outside the stack when you need a different tool to perform a specific task. View your chosen stack as a neighbourhood, not a prison.

4 thoughts on “Apple, Microsoft, Google technology – verdict

  1. Technically, if you’re in web you need as many platforms as possible at your disposal for testing, but you can work from one platform. Generally if that isn’t Mac or Linux you’re Doing It Wrong.

    Because of the infancy of integrated stacks (I mean, Apple tries to do everything and they still can’t get it all right) I prefer to keep away from it in favour of using many different services so I am not pulled into a specific vendor’s ecosystem for better or worse.

    I think the best stack, still (but by far the hardest to setup) is your own stack, i.e. home server running for files, email and other services. With many automation tools available you can customise your setup to work how you want. However, as I said it is incredibly hard to perfect and on the opposite of the spectrum these 3 companies are trying to be.

    I would like to see a feature like GTKA from Android Police for these stacks; a super finegrained approach in categorising every single thing wrong and every single way they could be better or features they need. The problem is, would the companies listen? I know Google might (as they listen to GTKA and change Android for the better because of it) but I can’t see Apple or Microsoft changing.

  2. Pity you stopped short of the Open Stack – Linux, Open Office etc or maybe Microsoft and/or Apple with Open Office

    There’s a challenge 🙂

    • Is that actually a practical option? By that I mean is it something non-geeks attempt?

      • I have converted a few non-geek people. I don’t really count it as a stack atm because it’s only software, unless I’m missing a polished completed non-Android phone/tablet?
        You can get a great laptop from System76. Ubuntu with everything needed preinstalled. Ubuntu One or similar for online storage…

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