How do people get anything done with PCs? / by Joseph Palumbo

They say you shouldn't start a blog unless you can think of your first 10 (or so) blog posts. Using that logic, I could easily start a blog about how Microsoft's Surface Pro has repeatedly failed to live up to the expectations. And keep it running for quite a while.

My experience with the Surface + Windows 10 has left me wondering, "How do people get anything done with a PC anymore?" I never thought I'd ask that question. It used to be the PC was the platform of choice for business people, for doers, who needed a no-nonsense work environment.

But the Surface is, like, 80% nonsense in my opinion.

Why?

The Surface is an archetypal case study of "great idea, poor execution". It really should studied by every current or would-be product manager. It was designed to maximize the doer-ness of the PC experience by making it more mobile, providing a extra option for input optimized for their OneNote experience and making the hardware + software feel more seamless (like MacOS used to).

Instead, they came up with a tablet that is not mobile, a laptop with abysmal battery life, an OS that lacks a good user experience and a new input (stylus) that is useless unless you buy Microsoft's Office product.

Is Office Going The Way of Blockbuster?

And while I'm on the topic of Microsoft Office, is it going the way of everybody's favorite Dodo bird analogy, Blockbuster?

I've worked for several companies over the last 10 years, ranging from monolithic Silicon Valley giants to small startups on Houston St. in San Antonio, TX. And none of them used MS Office any more. There were pockets of users, mostly executives who grew up using Word, PowerPoint and Excel. And of course you have the Business Intelligence guys who stand out in meetings because of their Dell, HP or Lenovo laptops in a see of glowing white Apple logos. They work in SQL and Excel, so that makes sense.

But every other company I've worked for has used Google Docs, which for the average user, is plenty powerful enough, easy to share and collaborate on and is almost impossible to lose due to crash or cluttered hard drives.

Don't even get me started on the ecosystem

Windows application ecosystem? It doesn't exist. Windows still relies very heavily on their tried-and-true, homegrown suite of productivity tools, Office. Anything outside of those tools feels very thrown together and not refined. Although, Evernote and Google Apps might be the exceptions.

On MacOS, when I come across a workflow problem and I need a piece of software ("Hmm, I think I need to make a new logo for this website") I can find a quality app on the App Store at a fair cost (most of the time) and reviews to let me know if other people found it useful. I can link to the developer's website for even more insight. I can watch YouTube videos and see if it's something that will actually be useful to me.

Windows Store is the exact opposite. My track record of finding an app that quickly and cost effectively solves my workflow problem is very bad. Most software looks cheaply and badly made. Very little reviews and I can rarely find meaningful reviews/demos on the Internet.

Stay away from the Surface Pro...For Now

I'm a diehard MacOS guy. I like the experience, the simplicity of the OS and, most importantly, the ecosystem of useful software (i.e. Alfred and Coda). But I'm also a busy guy, and I try my beset to be a doer, somebody who can think of a good idea, and then execute on it.

The Surface Pro 4 seemed like the ideal platform, even it ran Windows 10. But my thought is that if Microsoft designed the hardware and then tailored Win10 to it, it has to be a better experience. I was wrong.

It seemed like their was a struggle between budget and/or resources, resulting in a piece of hardware that is nothing because it tries to be everything. As the cliché goes, a camel is a horse designed by committee.

I haven't given up hope on the Surface line of products just well. It's still nascent and like anything new it needs time to find its place, its identity and learn from previous missteps. But for now, I use my Surface sparingly, more as novelty, when I still have work to do and I want to look at something else because I've been looking at my MacBook Pro's screen all day.