Apple and Google
My professional career started at Apple back in 1989. Both my parents were already in IT for years. We had personal computers in our house for years from Sperry Univac, Wang and Apple. So I was quite used to DOS and the Macintosh OS. In my teenage years I was programming on my MSX and developing my own games. After 5 years I joined 3Com in 1994, a networking company. Microsoft but also Lotus Notes were the main productivity tools at that moment. It took me about 10 years to get my first Google device. The 2nd generation of their Android smartphone. During the course of my professional career I lost the preference for Apple a bit mainly because once you get a laptop this is the device that you start to use in business and private life. Where others were still struggling with Nokia I got myself pretty well organized.Prior to the Android phone I think I was one of the first with a Windows Mobile phone. The Orange SPV. That was back in the early days of 2000 where my Outlook mail, agenda and contacts were already synchronised with my smartphone. Where others were still struggling with Nokia I got myself pretty well organized. Until today I am still a huge Google fan although for the productivity part I am taking another exit. I got all Google Nexus devices and the way how they integrate (profiling) data across all of their application, regardless mobile or fixed, creates a unique user experience which brings me a lot of value.
Google and productivity
During the last 10 years the number of applications and devices by Google dramatically increased. Today they are scattered everywhere throughout my business and private life. Back in 2010 there was a kind of revival by Apple when I got the iPad within one week after their announcement in the US. The iPhone never made it into the palm of my hands. Tablet and Smartphone by Nexus, thermostat by Nest and Chromecast at my TV. The number of apps running on my Google devices even more integrates with my life. Microsoft Outlook apps, Google Drive, Sonos, Tesla, Harmony remote control, cabling company, Garmin sports,in many ways Google is the backbone of supporting my life. Several times I started using the Google apps for spreadsheets, docs and presentations but it never really worked out.One thing never changed during all these years and that was the usage of applications like Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Several times I started using the Google apps for spreadsheets, docs and presentations but it never really worked out. I have tried a number of apps to read my Microsoft files but most of the times it was fairly slow and there was never a 100% clean conversion. The experience was disappointing which made me never go away from Microsoft’s productivity tools. Recently I even considered buying a Chromebook but this requires a 100% Google adoption of their productivity tools otherwise it doesn’t make sense. I was simply not able to as a Google fan.
In the meantime I was still working with a notebook along all my digital devices which was a bit weird.
Comeback of Microsoft
In the meantime I was still working with a notebook along all my digital devices which was a bit weird. But for me that has become an integral part of my way of working. Making notes with a pen and some drawings so in a later stage reading these notes back I was always able to bring back the meeting itself and its context. That for me was also the reason why I never wanted my handwriting to be recognized, than I completely lost the context. The last couple of months I started to actively search for something that could replace my notebook. I knew about Livescribe but in their newest version there was no support for Android. Than I found the Equil 2 smartpen. Small device with the ability to use it with any type of paper. I got it, worked for it for a couple of minutes and than I realized that this wouldn’t work. A combination of not being practical and a not very smart app. Using the Equil 2 for me became quite a hassle.
In November last year my daughter (14) was thinking about her birthday present. Her niece was working with a laptop and touchscreen and that she explicity wanted. We went to a physical store to take a look at it and the decision was made instantly once we touched the 2 in 1 laptop. She got a mini laptop some years ago but that thing was extremely slow so was put on the shelf back pretty quickly. The Acer we took a look at was fairly fast running Windows 8.1, a blend of their Metro tablet interface and the Windows desktop environment we all got used to. At that moment there was a little spark from that system to myself. I was quite intrigued and started to explore this whole 2 in 1 approach by Microsoft. Pretty quickly during my exploration on the web I found out Microsoft’s latest device, the Surface Pro 3. 2nd generation Surface with some appealing features. Fast, a pen that was seen as the first one which came very close to native writing. My buying journey started.
Buying journey: mobile apps, OneDrive, Office 365, OneNote
So the result is clear, a few weeks ago I bought a Surface Pro 3 by myself but what did this buying journey look like? As already mentioned regardless the fact that I am a huge Google fan, Microsoft never stepped out of my life completely. Word, Excel and Powerpoint as the main productivity tools but also Lync in the office for communications purposes. I realized that migrating to Google docs was a no go area for me and remembered Microsoft started to release mobile apps on Android for free. By that time I still had my Nexus 5 running Android 4 and installed them. I was surprised by the speed of the apps, heavy loaded Excel and Powerpoint files were opened incredibely fast! Amazing experience hardly to compare with other converters. I was surprised by the speed of the apps, heavy loaded Excel and Powerpoint files were opened incredibely fast!Exact is a heavy Microsoft user and I was told that in a couple of months from now we would start to use OneDrive for Business. Because I was already exploring the Microsoft suite I immediately started to transfer all my Google Drive files to Microsoft OneDrive. Easy peacy. Once you are in OneDrive you have got access to their online productivity suite for free so I started to open and work with files in my Chrome browser with the online versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. In one word: perfect! (that was a unforseen pun).
One of my colleagues bought a Surface Pro 3 recently so I was able to feel the handwriting in real life and that also wa pretty amazing. I have played with many devices that tried to come close to native handwriting but there was always a bit of disappointment. Not so responsive, the screen lacking somewhat behind etc. This for me was the very first time I was convinced right from the start. So I was pretty much convinced starting to select the items into my shopping basket. Finally i went for the middle version with i5 processor and 128GB of internal storage, the cover keyboard and the Bluetooth Microsoft mouse Sculpt. Although all my stuff is in the cloud, still I think you want to have some of your files locally. Decision was made, and I pushed the buy button, on December 31st I got my Surface Pro 3!
Using Surface Pro 3: the ultimate productivity experience
To start with: the Surface Pro 3 is an amazing device. Working with it for almost 2 weeks now but like with many things, you immediately feel whether it will stay or go. This one definitely will stay. The milage of this tablet and laptop is huge and it feels like I am in control of all my work as from the start. Configuring the device is quite easy what you may expect from a company like this. Some major steps Microsoft made where in the past you often felt left alone in the dark with status messages you didn’t understand. That completely changed. I was up and running pretty fast and started to explore its possibilities. To start with: the Surface Pro 3 is an amazing device.There are some things you have to get used to since you are running a tablet environment and a desktop environment in one. Although it is part of the same OS, Windows Pro 8.1, you still need to be aware where you are. Apps are optimized for either the desktop or tablet environment and in the beginning you are mixing things around. So starting the wrong application while you are in your tablet environment makes you enter the desktop. That is no problem at all but sometimes you don’t want that to happen. You have to get used to it and once you understand it even feels like having optimal control and maximum flexibility.
That is another strong feature of the Surface Pro 3, the ability to run desktop and tablet in parallel. Switching in between a variety of apps on the tablet and applications in the desktop is super fast and works very easy. Many times I was surprised by its speed once you start to realize the number of apps and applications you are running at the same time. This is one of those features you would not think of once considering to buy, but it seems to be one of the most important features that makes the overall experience amazing.
It feels you are the master of control and structure having all the relevant stuff present once you are in a meeting.
Handwriting and OneNote
Microsoft OneNote may be one of the biggest surprises to me. A super handy replacement of your physical notebook and all other onine to-do list apps. The way I normally tried to bundle emails, documents to certain meetings by copy and paste into Outlook entries was horrible. Difficult to find things back and stay structured. With the handwriting that truly feels like normal writing only after 11 days it fully replaced by physical notebook without having any problems. OneNote runs on my desktop, on my tablet and on my Android devices (Nexus 6, Nexus 7). Three different versions for an optimal user experience. The way I can relate and connect Outlook appointments, emails and documents with my notes is incredibly easy and works! It feels you are the master of control and structure having all the relevant stuff present once you are in a meeting. People attending the meeting are all intrigued by the way I am working with it, you get a lot of attention. Making notes right away and even in files.
The third user scenario
Working with it for a while I start to realize I added a third user scenario in a natural way to my habits, laptop for active working, tablet on the couch and one where you just lay down the device on the desktop without the keyboard but just your pen and fingertips. For me reading and reviewing large documents works better in this position rather than on the couch or reading it in a normal position at your desktop from your laptop. It feels great with your head above the screen instead of in front of it, just like normal paper. Switching between tablet and desktop feels natural. This week during a meeting, Surface Pro 3 connected with a beamer duplicating my desktop screen with Powerpoint running in presentation mode to a large display. At the same time running on the right part my tablet with OneNote making notes. Pretty amazing huh, no hickups at all!
Are there downsides? Yes there are although I wouldn’t call them downsides, these are more areas for improvement. Metro versions of apps run the best in tablet mode. My most important apps are available in a Metro version but there are some which are not. That is a matter of time. Google and Apple are still way ahead of Microsoft with their ecosystem. The Internet Explorer 11 for Metro feels a bit limited and old fashioned. I am used to Chrome for years now which is contemporary with add-ons, features and an own ecosystem. It feels great with your head above the screen instead of in front of it, just like normal paper.E.g. I am an intensive user of Bufferapp to share in a smart way across my social networks at once. I haven’t find an ecosystem for IE giving me these kind of features. With the newest version for the Windows 10 platform I expect it to be much more improved. I can imagine that people have get to used to the keyboard. For me it doesn’t feel different than switching from one laptop to the other where you also basically switch from keyboard. Knowing that it is such a valueable device for me it is a trade off I accept and it works fine. Off course there is a docking station available but for me the whole concept of the power of such a small device with everything on it would than be lost.
Influence of Satya Nadella
Steve Ballmer never has been my cup of tea. I never felt engaged with him so for me personally he was on a distance. To me he looked like an overacting cowboy who missed the big shifts in the industry. Meanwhile Satya Nadella the new CEO to me looks far more balanced, open and smart in the way he acts and tells his story. I read his story again and felt that it really made sense. Microsoft’s core is productivity software and committed to support all major ecosystems. That is what the world is about today and also that is what contemporary users are asking for nowadays. This feels like a major turnaround in Microsoft’s history with a potential of a major come back. Although you could argue if they have been away. They certainly missed some of the biggest industry shifts but it might be that they are now at the beginning of something big, something started by themselves, the beginning of a movement that you might expect from such an industry leader. I am convinced already and as you can read, became an ambassodor in only 11 days! A 5 star rating!