Part I: Fun with Ecosystems
Bear with me while I tell my story. I promise it will go somewhere (nowhere important). Most people use Microsoft. Aside from Apple’s OS X, there isn’t a “layman’s” alternative to Windows and many can’t afford Apple products. People go to Wal*Mart and buy a cheap laptop with Windows that gets them through the day. The laptop sucks (because it was $300 bucks and had the worst components on the market), they complain about Windows, they get viruses and toolbars because they don’t know how or what to install on their system, and they cry themselves to sleep.
I had used Microsoft products since I was a boy, typing away on MS-DOS. I was familiar with Windows just like anyone else who had grown up with computers. Heck, I was more familiar with Windows than most. My dad programed and I had ultimate exposure to the world of consumer tech. I had a happy, geeky existence for my teen years.
Well, around the time that Windows ME came out, I got fed up with the way things were going in the world of personal computing and I bought an Apple computer. I was introduced to a world of virus-free, simple computing. After realizing that I can do whatever the hell I want, when I want, I bought a laptop and put Fedora GNU/Linux on it. That began my love affair with Linux systems. I have installed nearly every version of Ubuntu GNU/Linux on nearly every laptop and desktop I’ve had since the early 00’s. I wasn’t just away from Microsoft products, I was against them. I was against everything. I was a cyberpunk-hacktopian-technophile future-activist. Cory Doctorow was my role model (he’s still pretty awesome).
Then a strange thing happened about 3 months ago: I began to soften. I realized it’s easy to be for or against something, but it’s much harder to just be. It’s harder to look at things in all of their complexity and make rational decisions based on every piece of information. I realized that by excluding something, I was missing out on something else. What about all the Windows users I knew who were struggling to maintain their machines? Why would I exclude them and think they are silly for not using a superior piece of software like GNU/Linux instead of Windows Vista or Windows 7 (neither of which I had much experience with, mind you).
So, I decided recently to give Microsoft a shot in the world of ecosystems. I had been down the Apple road, getting an iPod and a Mac, although I never fully bought into their ecosystem with iPhone, iPad, and Macbook. It seems nice but it’s all very expensive and Apple has a super closed system.
I have tried the open source model: using only open products like GNU/Linux, Android phones (not fully open), and free and open source software. I like this one the best as it is very wallet friendly, customizable, liberating, and free from manipulation by companies and others. The drawbacks are that it takes a long time to learn and get the system the way you want it, things crash and break a lot, and there are a good number of very useful programs that you can’t use with GNU/Linux. That’s to say nothing of the fact that it’s hard to function, work, and play in a world where almost no one uses GNU/Linux and the only open software others have heard of is Firefox.
I even tried the relatively new Google ecosystem. I got a Chromebook: a netbook that runs Chrome OS, which is basically just Google’s Chrome Web Browser reimagined as an operating system. I got an Android phone, a Google TV, and used mostly Google Web apps. It was pretty cool for a while. Then, I realized that Chromebooks are slow as hell and only run a Web browser, Google TV offered almost nothing of any value, and Android phones are pretty cool but it’s a lot of hard work making sure you get the latest version of Android. Being an Android customer is like playing wack-a-mole between the telecoms, Google, and manufacturers. So, I went back to my open source ways.
Now, I’m going to experiment again, this time with my old friend, Microsoft. There are some big changes coming to the mega-giant tech company and I want to see what has been going on. Windows 8 is about to drop, Windows Phone is gaining strength in the smartphone market, Microsoft’s tablet venture the Surface just exploded onto the scene, and Bing is becoming Google’s search nemesis. That’s not to mention Xbox’s success as the most popular gaming console ever.
So, I’m going to go all in. I bought a Dell with Microsoft Signature Windows 7. I got an Xbox 360 and a Lumia 710 Windows Phone. I decided I will only use Microsoft products like Internet Explorer, Office, Hotmail, Bing, and Microsoft’s music service, Zune (soon to be Xbox Music). In addition, I am running Windows 8 Release Preview on a separate machine, Microsoft’s next iteration of Windows, and will be getting a smartphone running Windows Phone 8 at launch. Like I said… I’m all in.
So over the next few weeks and over the next year I will periodically be checking in with Arcadversary on my Microsoft ecosystem buy-in. There will be reviews, opinions, comparisons, and rants about all things Microsoft in a series I’m calling: “In the Belly of the Beast”. Stay tuned for more.