2014: The year Microsoft lost my loyalty

From productivity to email to operating systems to mobile to hardware, David Gewirtz is no longer actively using Microsoft products. He's not a Microsoft hater. The transition just happened organically as he adopted products that better served his needs.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
I am not a Microsoft hater. In fact, I have often written about why I prefer (or, I guess, preferred) using Windows for most things. But as I wrote my DIY-IT project recap over the weekend, I realized just how far from the Microsoft mothership I had drifted in 2014.

From productivity to email to operating systems to mobile to hardware, I am no longer actively using Microsoft products.

My desktop machine is now a Mac

That's not to say I don't use any Microsoft products. I have a pile of computers and many of them still run Windows 8. But it's unlikely that new computers I buy will be Windows machines.

In fact, let's talk about that first. My main PC is no longer a Windows machine. It's a maxed-out iMac. Yes, it runs Parallels and I can fire up PowerPoint, but I can go days between launching a Windows VM on that machine.

This is particularly ironic because I teach C# programming (Microsoft's version of object-oriented C) at UC Berkeley. But when I get a student assignment to grade, I sit down at my iMac, launch the Windows 7 VM I've dedicated to student submissions, grade them, and shut down the VM.

My studio computer is a Mac mini. The computer that serves as a backup server is a 2008-vintage iMac. My wife's computer is a Mac mini.

Oddly enough, I'm not much of an Apple fan. As I'll describe later, I moved off of iOS to Android. I also strongly dislike the OS X Finder, the Mac's equivalent of Windows Explorer. But the applications on the Mac and the tools are quite good. With the exception of the recent Yosemite upgrade hassle, I've found the iMac to be solid.

I have to tell you that part of what soured me on Microsoft is its completely inconsistent level of customer service. Back when Windows 8 came out, we wanted to buy a pile of licenses so that we could move all our old XP machines to a more solid OS. Windows 8, at the time, was being offered for about forty bucks, which was a heck of a deal.

But the challenge of getting any straight answers out of Microsoft was epic. Both my wife and I tried running down all the various phone numbers, until we finally found a forum post that listed a contact number and we called that. That experience was just plain unnecessary.

I've previously written about Microsoft's support of Office 365 with a high degree of positive feeling. I kind of feel bad about writing that article, because ever since, Microsoft's support has been nothing but painful and incredibly inconsistent. I dread calling Microsoft.

But this wasn't my reason for moving off of Microsoft. Instead, I chose the iMac because I needed certain solutions and I wanted to be able to run OS X applications side-by-side with Windows applications.

At the time, I expected I'd run one or two OS X applications and the rest would be under Windows. As it turns out, my daily use is the opposite. With the exception of PowerPoint and the grading instance of Visual Studio, I don't run any Windows applications on my main desktop.

My laptop is now a Chromebook

My out-and-about laptop isn't a Windows machine either. It's a Chromebook. It's actually my third Chromebook because I hand-me-downed my previous two Chromebooks to family members.

The fact is, the Chromebook is maintenance free. It's also incredibly easy to transfer to someone else. It's a five-minute process. I find the Chromebook so convenient that I'm now recommending Chromebooks over Windows notebooks to just about anyone other than those with specific power-computing needs.

The reason the Chromebook works for me is that I work in two modes: daily communications and coordination mode and project mode. When I'm working on projects, I need a lot of power. That's why I have four screens on my iMac, along with something over a tenth of a petabyte in local storage.

I really can't do a lot of the work I do easily without a bunch of screens and a lot of RAM, so most laptops won't meet my project needs anyway.

But when I'm not working on a project, I can do just about everything in a Web browser. That makes the Chromebook ideal. Yes, I'd prefer a slightly faster machine than my HP 11-inch machine. But it was cheap and I won't cry if it's dropped or lost. It's functional and hassle-free.

That said, if I do decide I need to buy a powerful notebook for out-of-the-home-office work, I'm now convinced I'd buy a Mac, not a Windows PC. The software environment I've got going on the Mac is so optimal that I just don't see getting another Windows laptop anytime soon (unless I decide to splurge on one of the super-cheapo $200 machines for "off label" use as a server monitor or scanner driver).

My phone is Android

And then, there's my phone. Back before I made the switch to Gmail, I decided I'd give the Microsoft ecosystem one last try. I wanted -- really, really wanted -- to have a tightly integrated, well-oiled environment and I reasoned that perhaps the gotcha was that I wasn't using Windows Phone.

After all, you'd have to assume Windows Phone worked perfectly with the Microsoft ecosystem. So, with the help of a kindly Microsoft evangelist (who has since been laid off), I got my hands on a Lumia Icon and set about doing my best to learn about Windows Phone.

To be honest, I found it was better supported than expected, but there were still some of the oddities Microsoft is famous for. For example, the Office 365 icon doesn't open email. It wasn't a big deal, but it was clear that Windows Phone was not the perfect ecosystem complement I had hoped it would be.

And, as Ed Bott wrote recently, carrier support is terrible. I also use Verizon.

Now, by contrast to the Windows Phone, which I tried to love but found lacking, I have adopted Android whole-heartedly. I really enjoy my Android phone.

My productivity suite is no longer Office

Back in March, I wrote about my first year with Office 365 and declared it to be a good value. Now, I'm just waiting out my contract and I intend to cancel it.

First, I no longer use Outlook. Once I realized that the Windows Phone wasn't going to provide the perfect platform integration I wanted, it made sense to look towards Google. Android is beautifully integrated with Gmail. My wife and I have been running on Gmail now for about five months, and I have to say, it's been a pleasure to use. I don't miss Outlook at all.

I don't write in Word anymore. I write articles in Evernote and I do my academic writing in Scrivener, a great tool for organizing complex writing.

My calendar is Google Calendar, my to-do product is Todoist, and Evernote handles just about everything else I need. I use Trello for project planning. In fact, I don't use any Microsoft products anymore in my daily productivity tasks.

As I mentioned earlier, the only Office product I still use is PowerPoint. That's not because I prefer PowerPoint. Rather, it's because the webcasting software I work with for CBSi webcasts requires PowerPoint files.

2014: The year I moved away from Microsoft

I am certainly not an anti-Microsoft radical. I have a number of very good friends who work for the company and I've always found the company pleasant, if sometimes pig-headed to deal with.

I'm also not going completely cold-turkey on Microsoft. I still use PowerPoint for client work and grade student programming assignments in Visual Studio. But I run them in a VM, and I load them occasionally.

When 2013 ended, I still lived in Microsoft products. If I was using a computer (which I do for about 16 hours a day), I was constantly using one Microsoft product or another, even if it was only Outlook or the Windows desktop. It was rare that 5 minutes would pass without my using one Microsoft product or another.

Now, at the end of 2014, Microsoft is no longer central to my daily work. I can go days or even weeks without touching a Microsoft product.

I didn't plan for this. It just organically evolved as I searched for the best solutions to my daily needs.

How about you? Have you made any changes in your use of Microsoft products over the past year? TalkBack below.

By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

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