Microsoft is quickly becoming the most interesting of the big 3 tech companies for me. (Apple, Google and Microsoft.) Apple has long been my favourite but I am finding that it is moving towards a computing future I’m not excited about. Google has always been interesting, with its moonshot projects but many of its advancements I will not see for years, if ever. (Project Loon, Google Fibre, Google Glass, etc) Microsoft on the other hand, has release some cool stuff in the past couple years but it seamed to lack a cohesive vision for what computing should be. However recent developments and Windows 10 have left me wanting to see more. These are the things that particularly interest me:
I am intensely interested in operating system features and how they work. I am curious to try new things and to think up better ways of doing things. Windows Phone has always intrigued me, I liked the design and have tried it out a couple times, but I never seriously considered it next to the mature iOS. The lack of apps and the poor quality apps that larger companies sometimes put out for the system made it a non-starter. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been following the platform though. (I follow /r/Windows Phone and many of the posts are complaining about an app being superior on other platforms.) Windows 10 appears to be getting to a point where the OS is so compelling that I can overlook the “app gap” problem. These are a few of the highlights I find so compelling:
The Windows Phone start screen is almost exactly what I want from my mobile device. I was thinking about how having a grid of icons and how popping in and out of them felt very antiquated. I sketched up what I thought the iOS home screen should become and realized the first screen was almost exactly the Windows Phone Smart Screen.
Another thing I’d like my computer to be able to do is remember things. I do want this to be automatic but Microsoft is taking the first steps towards this with Cortana. You can store things, like your interests, in “Cortana’s Notebook”. While Cortana and Siri are basically on a level playing field feature-wise, Microsoft seems to be making advances much faster than Apple. It’s bringing Cortana to the desktop, another thing I really want from Siri.
Spartan And Cortana
This video outlines how Cortana will work in Microsofts new web browser codenamed ’Spartan’. This is exactly the type of thing I want. I do think they could come up with a better way to activate Cortana though. Currently you highlight text, right click and press the Cortana menu option. My ideas for activating Cortana are:
- You highlight the text and press a keyboard shortcut.
- You highlight the text and a Popclip like menu appears.
- You highlight the text and say “Cortana”. (It’s always listening.)
The Pen And Digitizer
I have long been envious of tablets with a digitizer and stylus. (A digitizer allows a screen to tell how hard you’re pressing and to use a pen with a much narrower tip.) It’s not so I can create digital art, it’s so I can take proper notes and make quick drawing. I have had a few styli for my iPad and they all offer sub par performance because the iPad lacks the digitizer. I love the fact that I can click a button on the pen that comes with the Surface and go straight into a note taking application.
Will I Be Switching?
I often have the thought of switching to Windows Phone but the lack of apps held me back. It’s much less of an issue now but I have a different thing holding me back. I am learning to program and using the Swift language so I can build apps for my iPhone, iPad and Mac. I have put in a considerable amount of work learning things that only apply to building things for the Apple platform and I don’t want to throw away the ability to create apps for the devices I use. (I really don’t want to learn C# or C++ right now.) That being said Apple just isn’t doing what I want it to do. Do I buy a Windows Phone this fall when my contract is up? Another issue is if I am going to build iOS apps it would be a good idea to have the latest iPhone for testing. It’s not that iOS is bad, it’s that Windows is moving in the direction I’d like to see computing move. We will see what the next versions of iOS and OS X look like but I will be watching Microsoft closely.
As I said, it’s not that Apple is bad but Microsoft seems to be working to the future I’d like to see. Microsoft is offering a slightly more adventurous OS with some of Apples polish. You may be wondering why I haven’t moved to Android where anything is possible. A big problem I’ve had with Android is the lack of polish. I love the wild adventurism but there are serious concerns I have with design, updates and security. I love Apple’s refined apps/hardware but they aren’t making the choices I’d like them to do with their software. Microsoft is becoming just adventurous enough to make it really interesting while having enough polish to make it feasible for me to switch. This is a very simplified way to express my views on the three companies but it’s accurate enough to convey my point.