Switching From Apple to Microsoft

Over the last few days I’ve been looking at the path of leaving Apple and moving to Microsoft’s software. Here are my five take home lessons

Windows Phone is damn good

As many readers pointed out when I looked at Windows Phone 7.5, Microsoft’s new mobile platform is a huge leap forward on Windows Mobile and its predecessors. However, one of the biggest deterrents in moving to Windows Phone is my investment in apps.

With tethering, quite a few users commented on whether and how tethering is supported with Windows Phone 7.5. Here’s an official statement, following an inquiry I made, directly from Microsoft.

“Windows Phone 7.5, as a platform, supports internet connection sharing, in which the phone can be configured to share its mobile network connection over Wi-Fi with up to five client devices or computers. We are working with our device and Mobile Operator partners to enable this feature on existing Windows Phones as soon as possible.”

I’m back using an iPhone at the moment as I’m looking closely at iOS5 but I’ll back to using Windows Phone 7.5 soon.

The hardware matters

One of the criticisms often levelled at Apple is that they favour style over substance. In a recent obituary to Steve Jobs, Stephen Fry said that the phrase “style over substance” has always been, as Oscar Wilde observed, a marvellous and instant indicator of a fool.” That’s probably stronger than I’d say but, other than their desktop keyboards, Apple’s hardware is well made and serves its intended function without looking like it was designed by a totalitarian regime.

My job precludes me from being a one-platform man but I could happily run Windows 7 full-time. I suspect that I would run it on a Mac given the choice of hardware. As I mentioned, My 11-inch MacBook Air is probably the best mobile computer I’ve owned.

For a desktop, the market is much wider although I would stick to an all-in-one design as that suits my needs and office space.

Windows 7 is very good

I really like Windows 7. Aside from the visual parts of it, it’s stable and passes the “just works” test. Microsoft has buried the ghost of Vista.

I’d never realised how much faster I can get some things down with Windows as I’ve learned a bunch of keyboard shortcuts. There’s not much I can’t do without taking my hands of the keyboard. With a Mac, I find that I’m moving the mouse or trackpad a lot more. That’s a huge plus for me.

Security issues are over-emphasised

That’s not to say that Windows users should be complacent and not bother with security software. Read any exclusively Mac-focused fanboy blog and you’ll inevitably hear about how Windows users require armed guards and barricaded doors to keep the malware out. Funny how PC users often use FUD to talk about Apple compatibility issues but zealous Mac users resort to the same tactic with security.

The reality is that good security software (and lots were pointed out in my post and the comments) makes the task very straightforward.

Mac users should be using security software as well but that’s an argument for another day.

By and large, good security software is like a good undercover cop. Until it’s needed, you won’t know it’s there.

The PC Business needs to get better out of the box

There is one aspect where Apple gets it right and is better than most of the Windows OEMs. When you open the box and pull out a Mac, you can be up and running productively in about 15 minutes. There’s a single registration process and no annoying pop-ups asking for third party product registration.

I get many calls from friends asking me to “help set up their new computer”. All of those calls come from PC users. I’ve never had someone ask me to do the same with a Mac.

The said, you – hopefully – only have to set your PC up once so it’s not a huge issue.

So, there are the big things I’ve noticed. There were lots of other little things I learned along the way. Many of those were from your comments so thanks for the feedback.


  • Great summary, pretty much totally agree there. Especially on the point about OEMs: Dell, ASUS et al *still* add their shovelware on top of the standard Win7 install. No doubt this helps reduce their costs as Symantec/whoever pay a fee to include the software, but it also reduces the quality of the user experience. If only I had a dollar for each time I’ve said “first, uninstall Norton” :–P

  • How does someone get to be an adult without knowing how to use a PC? I find it interesting that someone sees a need for this kind of article.
    After years of putting up with Windoze I have, in the past year or two, started to actually become a fan of Microsoft’s. Well, up to a point, anyway. It started when I saw their Arc Mouse in Harvey Norman in Singapore. I instantly had to have one and it has turned out to be the best mouse I have ever owned (I now have two). Then I was going to buy an iPod Touch and discovered Zune HD while doing some research. The whole Zune experience has been the most amazing revelation to me – it is the only digital music ecosystem that comes anywhere near replicating the whole record/CD collecting thing. My Zune HD is utterly irreplaceable. I’m going to have to buy back-up before they all disappear because the only viable alternative is to get my 1000 CDs out of storage and find somewhere to put them.
    Next came WinPhone 7 and then the Arc Keyboard and Arc Touch Mouse, each of which are best-in-class products with more style than MS have ever been able to muster in the past.
    It’s not all good though, MS are still a big company with a seemingly pathological aversion to comprehensive documentation. That has left me wondering how much really good stuff might be hidden away in my Zune HD or WP 7 phone that I just don’t know about. It can be really frustrating sometimes and MS don’t seem interested in being helpful.

      • “MS are still a big company with a seemingly pathological aversion to comprehensive documentation”

        Yes and No. I spent a couple of years answering questions on some heavily trafficked MS newsgroups. I found that a huge percentage of questions could be answered by pasting the first sentence or title of the query into the Help box in the corner of the app window.

        Of course many people think that Help also includes giving people a degree in computer science to understand structured programming, relational databases or whatever (depending on context).

        On the other hand, Microsoft fall into the trap that Google, Apple and others share of thinking that the A in FAQ means Answered rather than Asked.

    • from the perspective of an enterprise user of both Apple and Microsoft products, Microsoft’s documentation dumps all over Apple’s.

      Putting on my consumer’s hat, Apple have much better documentation for their products than Microsoft.

  • I`m considering on my next PC running Windows in VMware on a Linux set up. There isn`t much I can`t do in Linux its just a few preferences I have on the Windows side.As for MS help I agree about googling it instead

  • Largely skipped Vista altogether (due to the job I was in at the time, the corporation never upgraded from XP) and now I’m on Windows 7. After a year of using ‘Vista/7’ it’s still annoying at times when something I knew worked in XP doesn’t now.

    For example, drag and drop???

    • What’s wrong with “Drag and drop”?

      Works fine for me, and with Mouse without Borders I’m doing d&d between PCs. Just did a d&d of a 900MB Service Pack file from desktop to laptop. sweet

  • You’re spot on with the out of the box experience on Windows, but they’re getting MUCH better with it (remember when 98 came with next to nothing?)

    The problem is that they can’t add a great OOBE because people will cry “Monopoly!” and Microsoft will get fined and scrutinized, even if they were just trying to keep your PC running smooth by providing all you need.

    But with Windows 7’s DVD and ISO support, XP’s CD burning out of the box and Windows 8’s integrated social networking, they’re keeping my PC free of little downloads that all like to run when I start up my PC.

    • +1

      The crowds demanded that Microsoft not control the OOBE and they got what they asked for.

      Order a PC from a supplier that doesn’t do the shovelware of Dell & co, and you’re definitely up and running straight away.

  • “pull out a Mac, you can be up and running productively in about 15 minutes”

    Well maybe with a Mac but not an ipad.

    Bought one today and its a real multi-hour chore to set it up, and then to reset it up after the IOS5 update.

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