Quitting the five tech giants: Could you manage without Microsoft?

Even though Microsoft is no longer as ubiquitous in our computing lives as it once was, it could be argued the company is stronger than ever before. We're at the penultimate point in our quitting project: can you live without Redmond?

Welcome to Day 4 of our series about quitting the Big Five. We started the week looking at abandoning Amazon. Then we looked at fleeing Facebook and saying goodbye to Google. Today, we'll explore whether it's possible to manage without Microsoft.

I'm basing my series on a project running on Gizmodo. Reporter Kashmir Hill attempted to go quit Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, one each week.

The full series:

I'm not as brave as Ms. Hill. I'm not stopping any services. Instead, each day this week, I'm looking at one of the Big Five to let you know how far I think I could go in quitting (or how locked in I am).

Managing without Microsoft

Kashmir initially thought she did better with Microsoft, but found she was surprised at the subtle places Microsoft tends to show up, usually in enterprise services and, of course, in everything powered by Azure.

As for me, I can't live without Internet Explorer.

You didn't even buy that for a moment, did you? Even if you didn't know I rely on Chrome, IE is obsolete. Edge is more functional, but really, why? So, despite Microsoft's absolute dominance in the 1990s, today's Microsoft's leadership in the browser world is minimal.

The same is true of phones. I reviewed Windows Phone back in the day, and it was really nice. I actually liked much of it more than iOS, but it was an orphaned platform with virtually no app support. Now, it's pretty much gone.

I also used to rely on Outlook. Heck, I was the editor of OutlookPower Magazine. But now, I'm all Gmail, all the time.

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But what about Office and Windows? To be honest, I don't use either like I used to. My main desktop used to be a Windows machine. But in 2013, I switched to using a Mac with Windows in a VM. Being on a Mac lets me run Mac, Windows, and Linux all on the same machine. It's nice.

But more to the point, since 2013, I've switched more and more of my work away from Windows. Now, I use Windows for two things: filing TurboTax Business (which doesn't have a Mac version) and testing Windows products and functionality in a VM. I do still spend a lot of time in Windows, but not as the foundation of my productivity.

Then, there's Office. I still use Word and Excel, although I'm using Google's apps more and more. Some of our clients prefer Word and Excel files, and there are just some things you can do in these apps you can't do in Google's web apps.

As for PowerPoint, that's absolutely mission critical. The service we use for our webcasts specifically ingests PowerPoint. Since I make a big part of my living doing those webcasts, PowerPoint needs to stay. Besides, I know PowerPoint really, really well. I have spent days, weeks, probably years inside PowerPoint.

Also: 10 tips for mastering PowerPoint TechRepublic

I could, in theory and assuming the webcast service could use it, move to another slide-making program, but with all that experience and muscle memory power, what's the point?

Skype is an interesting Microsoft product. I don't use it all that much. Instead, I have a Zoom subscription. I've found Zoom to be more predictable in its behavior. But some conversations need to be on Skype, so while I could probably go months without using Skype, there will be those days when it's necessary.

Finally, there's Azure. I don't use Azure directly, but since Azure powers a lot of the web, it's entirely likely that something I use would use Azure.

Could I quit Microsoft?

So, could I quit Microsoft? No. I need Windows and PowerPoint for work.

What about you? If you're among the 76.1 percent of desktop PC users that use either Windows 10 or Windows 7, you're probably not quitting Microsoft anytime soon. Microsoft's revenue for Office 365 keeps going up and up. If you do work on a computer, the odds are, you're still using Microsoft for something. Right? Let me know in the comments below. Could you manage without Microsoft?


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.