Giving up on Windows: A Q&A session

Giving up on Windows: A Q&A session

Summary: Is OS X better than Windows? Is it expensive to switch? Is there a cheap way to test-drive OS X before taking the plunge? These are more questions answered.

SHARE:

My revelation the other day that I'd all but given up on Windows generated considerable commentary. Surprisingly, most of the feedback I got was positive, which took me by surprise, which is something I'd not expected, and I take this as a sign of how much things have changed, and how Microsoft's monopoly on the concept of 'operating system' has been eroded by the like of iOS, OS X, Android, and even Linux.

Some comments, predictably, came from people who felt scared or threatened by my choice, as if me choosing something different as an impact on them. I suppose the idea of change frightens some people, especially if they've turned their choice of operating system into some sort of ideology.

The day I turn my tech choices into a religion will be the day I realize how empty my life is, but each to his or her own I suppose. Whatever floats your boat.

I also received a lot of questions, and it is these I want to address in this post.

Let's get going.

Q: Is OS X better than Windows?

A: It's all subjective, and rather than promote one thing over another, what I'm doing is highlighting what works for me. And that's what you should be focused on – what works for you. While I've heard from countless people who's experiences parallel mine, I've also heard from people who have gone the other way – OS X to Windows – for reasons that sound similar to mine.

At the end of the day, it's about what works for you.

Q: Is it expensive to switch?

A: It depends. Beyond the hardware, you have to think about the software that you use. Unless you're going to run Windows on OS X then you're going to need OS X-compatible software.

If you use suites such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, then switching is going to be pricey (although some licenses, such as that for Adobe Creative Cloud, allow you the option to choose Windows or OS X).

But yes, this is not going to be cheap. The hardware alone is going to be hundreds of dollars, if not in in the thousands. 

Q: Is there a lot of learning involved?

Depends on your exposure to different platforms. The more you're used to exploring, the easier it is. Those who have seen a few different version of Windows come and go and who have used iOS or Android will find the process easier than those who have only ever used Windows XP.

I didn't find the transition that bad, but others have reported to me that they found switching more jarring, and that their productivity took a hit initially.

Q: Is there a cheap way to test-drive OS X before taking the plunge?

A: I can think of a few:

  • Ask someone you know who uses OS X if you can take a look.
  • Go to an Apple Store and play with the demo systems.
  • Buy a cheap Mac mini.

Q: Aren't you just an Apple fanboy telling us what to do?

A: I'm sharing my experience. It doesn't bother me in the least what you do.

Q: There's a lot you can do to make Windows 8/8.1 better/more palatable/more like over versions. Why not spend time doing this?

A: Yes, I know there's a lot that can be customized and tweaked, but the long and the short of it is that I'm no longer interested in futzing around too much with an operating system, even less interested in repeating that on multiple platforms, and less interested still in having to do that regularly as new versions are released.

On my main OS X system I performed a few small customizations (mostly to the Dock) when I got it and I've not had to touch these settings since, even following the transition from Mountain Lion to Mavericks.

I've got better things to be doing that playing with my operating systems.

Q: Windows doesn't crash. Maybe it's you/your system that's to blame?

A: I've handled too many systems for this to be the case (unless I'm jinxed!).

Q: Doesn't OS X crash just as often?

A: Not in my experience.

Q: What about gaming?

A: I have consoles for that.

Q: What about PC gaming?

A: I still have PCs … it's not like I took them all to the tip when I switched!

Q: Might you go back to Windows?

A: Anything might happen.

Q: What would it take for you to switch back to Windows?

A: This is a tough question because the automatic answer would be to say "be more like OS X" which isn't really useful. Breaking it down, I guess I'd need to see a few changes:

  • Better focus on reliability, especially when it comes to third-party drivers.
  • Less change for the sake of change.
  • Less change, then change back. The changes introduced in Windows 8 were bad enough, but the backpedaling demonstrated in Windows 8.1 underlined how ill thought out the changes were.
  • A desktop OS for desktop and notebooks systems. Touch needs to be optional for systems with touch.
  • Less focus on wallpapers, themes, sounds and other distractions. I really couldn't care less about this nonsense.
  • Realistic pricing. A $100 to upgrade a system already running Windows is insane.
  • Branding is all over the place. Dumping Messenger in favor of Skype is just one example of this. Rather than improve offerings, Microsoft is constantly rebranding and chopping and changing stuff, creating a hellstew of confusion.
  • Let TechNet Live! It's a valuable service. 

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

219 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Thoughts....

    "A: This is a tough question because the automatic answer would be to say "be more like OS X" which isn't really useful. Breaking it down, I guess I'd need to see a few changes:"


    "Better focus on reliability, especially when it comes to third-party drivers."

    Microsoft have made considerable strides in stabilizing their system. Since the new driver model was implemented in Vista, and enhanced in 7/8, Windows (for me) has been stable and rot-free. Unfortunately, there isn't much Microsoft can do in regards to third parties.

    "Less change for the sake of change."

    I'm confused where Microsoft changes things "for the sake of change." They spend millions in UX and user studies, and have a keen eye for user feedback. The changes implemented in Windows over the years has been a culmination of this data.

    "Less change, then change back. The changes introduced in Windows 8 were bad enough, but the backpedaling demonstrated in Windows 8.1 underlined how ill thought out the changes were."

    I disagree that the changes were ill thought out, but more unfinished/unpolished. Windows 8.1 worked to finalize their intended vision. I like Metro, and what it's doing. I think it looks as great on my tablet as it does on my tower's monitors. I love the idea of dynamic computing, and think it's about time to take that next step, and Microsoft is doing just that. We're not in a "post-PC" era, but more in a "convergence" era where our devices converge into one unified experience, and can be tailored to our lifestyles.

    "A desktop OS for desktop and notebooks systems. Touch needs to be optional for systems with touch."

    I'm confused as to what this means. Touch is completely optional on desktop systems, and Windows 8.1 does nothing to force you otherwise.

    "Less focus on wallpapers, themes, sounds and other distractions. I really couldn't care less about this nonsense."

    To each their own in this regard. I'm a minimalist kinda guy, I personally can't stand "busy" systems, but then again, I'm not everyone, so it's nice to have the option there to allow these customizations.

    "Realistic pricing. A $100 to upgrade a system already running Windows is insane.
    Branding is all over the place. Dumping Messenger in favor of Skype is just one example of this. Rather than improve offerings, Microsoft is constantly rebranding and chopping and changing stuff, creating a hellstew of confusion."

    Microsoft is streamlining its services, I fully expect more less-used or maintained services to get the chopping block in the next few years as Microsoft further progresses on its reorganization.

    "Let TechNet Live! It's a valuable service."

    I agree.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Hmmm.

      "I'm confused where Microsoft changes things 'for the sake of change.' They spend millions in UX and user studies, and have a keen eye for user feedback. The changes implemented in Windows over the years has been a culmination of this data. "

      ---

      I have two problems with this.

      1.) First of all, while not technically untrue, Microsoft does a lot of these UX experiments from the perspective of someone who has never used Windows before. They didn't look at the question of habituation, which is the idea that user interface elements that are quite imperfect get so ingrained in existing users' heads, that they are significantly 'easier to use' than a jarring change to something that would have been great in the past.

      An example of that is the "click start to shutdown" feature. Weirdest place ever to put a shutdown command - but due to nearly two decades of muscle memory, it is where most people would think to go. In few systems is it obvious (BlackBerry, you click the battery icon, in OS X, you push the power button, which some OEMs do as well.) But it is so well ingrained with Windows users, everyone knows it.

      So a UX study probably exposed the obvious - but it is still "change for change sakes" when most people are not new users, but existing users who have adapted to the weird way of doing it. Now they don't know how to do it!

      2.) Second of all, UX studies tend to result in focus group cludges. UI needs to be treated like art. As Steve Jobs has said, the user does not know what they want or need, if they've never seen it!
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • You're still using this 90's era "argument"?

        "An example of that is the "click start to shutdown" feature. Weirdest place ever to put a shutdown command..."

        Seriously? It makes plenty of sense. The Start menu is meant to be where you go to start a task. It's where you go to START the shutdown of the computer. But I'm interested to see what your suggestion is for an intuitive way to shutdown a computer.
        ye
        • I guess you missed the part where he said it's irrelevant

          because it has become ingrained into the user's expectation.
          baggins_z
          • No, I did not miss it.

            The argument was stupid BEFORE it became ingrained. And it's just as stupid today. So it makes a poor example.
            ye
          • Why?

            The argument is perfectly valid. You should admit you missed the point, or are unable to grasp it.
            louishelps
      • Bingo!

        "2.) Second of all, UX studies tend to result in focus group cludges. UI needs to be treated like art. As Steve Jobs has said, the user does not know what they want or need, if they've never seen it!"

        The other great Businessman, Henry Ford said - "if you ask people what they want, they would want a faster horse."

        Those with vision tend to look outside the box and bring great things (like Ford, Jobs, Bell, etc.). Those that don't just rehash old ideas (Gates, Ballmer, Microsoft).
        itguy10
      • Win 8 is change for the sake of greed run amok...

        Consider the change to make the program menu one big flat 'needle in a haystack' list. If this had been a good change, then MS would have also made Windows Explorer show all my files in one long list rather than using cascading menus.

        Consider the change to make Metro apps run full screen. If this had been a good change, then MS would have also thrown 'Drag & Drop' under the bus too, since multitasking is so yesterday.

        The real reason for these changes is to attempt to force me to become more familiar with the UI they want to use on the Surface RT -- in hopes I would buy one rather than an Android tablet. However, they have achieved the opposite goal. Based on the loss of productivity I see in Windows 8, I am convinced MS has replaced their creative programmers with idiots. Thus, I know that considering an RT will be another exercise in total frustration. In fact, these changes have me wishing for an alternative OS, even to the point of wondering that if OS/2 were still around it would be preferable to Windows 8.1.

        PS. Yes, I know Metro apps will now run in a split screen. However, this comes up far short of running in a desktop window that I can make whatever size I need and is scrollable.
        slowgeezer
        • LOL!

          "Win 8 is change for the sake of greed run amok..."

          Let's just ignore how wealthy Apple is.
          ye
          • Indeed

            Yet look how little they change year after year. OS X is still recognisable after all these years. Windows, not so much.
            I suspect this rock solid foundation is what keeps Apple afloat, or at least the old Apple. That drastic change in iOS 7 has left many a user upset. Every single person I've asked who has an updated iPhone says that the update broke something.
            Alucai Vivorvel
          • MS's is stupid greed; Apple's is smart greed

            Yah, they both hearken back to the Gordon Gekko "Greed is Good" way of life. Just one does it better than the other.
            daboochmeister
        • I'm curious

          As to your thoughts behind "Win 8 is change for the sake of greed run amok".

          I ask because it's not like Microsoft is forcing anyone to upgrade to Windows 8... sure if you get a new PC with it pre-installed then one could make that argument that there is no choice but when one can get a Windows 7 based PC or even a Linux based PC or Mac that argument does not hold water.

          As far as the main functionality differences between Win 8 and Win 7 those can be taken care of if needed with 2 third party programs or perhaps some learning to work with Win 8 rather than whining about it.

          Just my 2 cents.
          athynz
          • Win8 is to boil the software buyer frog toward an app store

            They want 30% of every piece of software sold. Win8/Metro was their strategy to achieve that. Simple. You don't believe there are backroom charts somewhere projecting the impact on their bottom line if they can make Metro a mandate for software companies, and channel sales through their store?
            daboochmeister
          • I have no problem with this

            That's the way everyone else is going anyway. it is very convenient for users, and it is no different than the commission that would be charged at WalMart back when you bought it on DVD.

            I think it would be a good idea for Microsoft to introduce package management (true Windows store purchasing as well as install management) for desktop apps though. This might cause Microsoft to start treating the desktop like a first class citizen again, which I think a lot of us would like.
            Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • UX Experiments = Homer Simpson

        A brief summary of what's wrong with focus group studies: Homer Simpson style...

        "I'm an adult, aged 18 to 49, they listen to me no matter WHAT crazy crap I say"
        [Grabs can, labelled "Nuts and Gum, together at last"]
        alan_r_cam
    • Re: Thoughts....

      You sound as if you haven't used Win 8 and 8.1 or you'd likely get what he means.
      MS blew it big time on Win 8 by trying to force everyone to use a touch oriented OS on everything. Win 8 is a bad match with desktops and laptops, which make up most of MS's market. Forcing people to use a mobile oriented OS on large screen devices is NOT the way to gain traction in the mobile market.
      randmart
      • I still don't get what he means with...

        ..."Less change for the sake of change" and I use Windows 8/8.1. The reality is the change wasn't done for the sake of change. I fully understand why they did what they did. It's not my preference but that doesn't mean I can't see what they're trying to do. And while I prefer the "old" way I can see benefit to the new way.

        So yes, I can't for the life of me figure out why people continue to say they made this change merely for the sake of change.
        ye
        • Thank you.

          NT
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • As someone who uses Windows 7 and Windows 8

          I do question the direction Microsoft went in with the UI... in some ways it does seem like they changed some things just to be different. The Metro/modern start screen is one of those things - I can see where that would be useful in a tablet or touch-centric PC but with a mouse-centric PC it's not as useful IMHO. There are definitely things I do like about it which is why I kept it on the new desktop I bought rather than install Windows 7 on it.
          athynz
          • It's my opinion Microsoft went with Modern on the desktop to...

            ...simplify things for non-sophisticated computer users (and by sophisticated I mean when it comes to computers, not in general).

            While Modern obviously has its roots in touch devices I can see it benefiting PC users too. At least those who like simplicity. When using Modern the "complexity" of the traditional interface is removed. Simple icons to work with programs, a simple way to install / keep them updated, full screen to remove clutter (though you can do some side by side), etc. I can see Windows 8 being a big win for non-sophisticated users (and by non-sophisticated I mean wrt to computer use, not in general). Even when using non-touch enabled devices.
            ye