For three weeks I worked exclusively in one company’s technology stack. Seven days working with nothing but Apple, then seven days with Microsoft. I had a few days rest before starting on seven days with nothing but Google software and services.
The idea come to me when I was working on my MacBook Air, writing stories in Microsoft Word, sending emails using Gmail and answering my Windows Phone.
And that’s only scratching the surface. I was flitting between calendars, notepads, contact books and so on.
Continually jumping between technology stacks feels inefficient.
It means learning three ways of doing things. Struggling with the gaps between the three stacks. Converting doc formats or just running into problems with misinterpreted characters when cutting and pasting text onto web pages.
Productive, possible, practical?
My first thought was to see if sticking with just one stack improves productivity. This quickly turned to wondering if strictly restricting myself to a single technology stack was possible and practical.
The only way to know for sure is to dive in and test the idea by immersing myself in each stack for a week at a time.
Hardware, software, services
Now that Apple, Microsoft and Google all have their own branded hardware – it made sense to use these products where possible.
For my Apple week that meant an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air. I started my Microsoft week with Windows on my MacBook, a Surface 2 tablet and Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8. It quickly became obvious I didn’t need to use Windows on the laptop to get the best experience.
When the Google week rolled around I knew a tablet wouldn’t be essential. So I used a Sony Xperia Z1 Android phone and the Acer C720 ChromeBook.
A week isn’t long enough to get the full benefits of sticking with a single stack – that’s assuming there are benefits.
Apart from anything else, it takes days for the brain to adjust. For example, running Windows on the MacBook means using the control key where you’d use the command key under OS X. I had similar keyboard unfamiliarity problems with the Chromebook.
Other than that, I had little difficulty switching between user interfaces and tools. I’m familiar with all three stacks.
Make that three stacks but six operating systems, OS X and iOS are not identical, nor are Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8. ChromeOS and Android are even further apart.
I’ll write more about the specific differences and nuances of the stacks later. While I found some are better at certain jobs and work better than others in some circumstances, it was clear that sticking entirely within a single technology stack is possible.
It may be possible, but it isn’t always the best option. And it isn’t for everyone.
Staying within one or other world certainly makes life simpler. It’s also cheaper – you don’t need to buy essentially similar apps for more than one OS.
Roam if you want to
On the other hand, applying this logic too strictly – religiously staying with only Apple, Microsoft or Google, is too restricting.
My experiment suggests it may be wise to pick a primary technology stack and then stray outside when needs must.
Of course, you probably knew this already. Although it’s more or less what most people do anyway, it’s nice to have evidence proving this strategy makes sense.