Apple, Microsoft, Google: Why So Much Pain? Part Two

There should be an image here!Microsoft will soon be able to take care of you across the device board — from desktop to tablet to phone. While I believe the bifurcated UX in Windows 8 is a colossal mistake for Microsoft, its offering of a complete experience is not to be underestimated. There are still variables that may hinder adoption, however — and that’s largely contingent on price, not availability. Microsoft has yet to announce the starter price for a Windows 8 Surface tablet, though it’s been rumored to be “competitive” in the $500+ range.

Will Surface be competitive enough to get people to buy a $500 Windows 8 tablet when they see it does most of what a $200 Google Nexus 7 tablet does? Why would a consumer spend $500 on a new iPad when they see that a $200 Google Nexus 7 will get the job done (albeit with different features)? It could boil down to a matter of price, or it could boil down to a matter of convenience and momentum. And pain.

Google’s trying to lock you into its realm just as much as Microsoft is, and just as much as Apple is. They’re no different from one another in this respect, and that is great for consumers when it comes to experience — but not if there’s an ugly duckling in the mix. Any device from a competing vendor is an ugly duckling (no matter how beautiful it is, and no matter what features it provides). That said, I do see that Google, as an “Internet” company, has the opportunity to make things less painful faster than the other two.

I haven’t yet felt tremendous pain from iOS / OS X. What’s the motivation for me to uproot a polished workflow to switch to anything else that doesn’t provide me with what I’ve come to rely on for maximum efficiency? What does ChromeOS have over OS X? Where does Android tie into my existing needs that aren’t already being met? How does Windows 8 fit into the mix?

It’s not as simple as: “Oh, you just switch phones.” No, this isn’t 1997. “Oh, you just switch OSes.” No, that’s not practical at this point. You can’t just respond with “buy a Mac” or “buy a PC” anymore. At least not without demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of how interwoven disparate products and services can be — how painful it can be to have one or two ugly ducklings. Pain. Pain. Pain.

Microsoft had Windows desktop users for years, and locked them into a software experience that no other platform could provide. Then the Internet happened. Then mobile exploded. Then people saw Apple as being able to provide a full experience. Then people started to buy more of Apple’s products, one after another. What could Microsoft do? Create a similar story — and that’s what’s about to play out in the marketplace — but it may be too little too late. Many consumers clung to Windows XP through the Vista debacle, and many are still using it long after 7 has been released. If they don’t like what they see in Windows 8, and they need to get a new computer, what will they get?

Why would your next desktop system be a Windows machine if your family is carrying around iPods, iPads, and iPhones? Oh, but they might not… perhaps they’re carrying around Google’s devices?

Google wants you to use Android, and not because it’s “open,” but because it’ll be able to use you and your data to better sell advertising against you (something that Apple doesn’t do), as well as become the conduit for content and software (which is something that Apple does). Microsoft wants you to use Windows, if only because it’s going to give this “app store” thing another go (years back, Microsoft actually had a half-assed Download Center). Apple, in turn, wants you to use its products and services anywhere and everywhere.

Flippant boycotts are often led by people who never supported the company they want others to boycott in the first place, so listening to that as any kind of “solution” only incites a series of religious wars. But this isn’t religion. You can choose to rely upon more than one ecosystem if it works for you and reduces the amount of pain you have to experience. You deserve to have things “just work” when you need them to work. Right?

These universes can absolutely co-exist.

Comparing one company against the other is… simply not fair to any of them. They all have different offerings! I use Google Chrome on OS X across the room from an Xbox for entertainment — and that’s a configuration which is, while workable, a bit disjointed.

Google is the closest thing we have to a middle ground, since it’s largely “on the cloud.” Independent of an OS, it ships cross-platform binaries and is continually working to optimize those experiences natively. This is one of the reasons I’ve pulled Google into the heart of my experiences. I can get to it from almost anywhere. It’s another reason I purchased a Nexus 7 Android tablet — it looks to be a perfect portable computing experience at an insanely reasonable price.

But will a Nexus 7 / Jelly Bean experience be enough to get me to drop iOS? Highly doubtful, if only because Google hasn’t fully addressed my other needs — and that would be seamlessness between any given device. It simply wouldn’t be as convenient to do, and I don’t feel enough pain at this point. It doesn’t have anything close to a “traditional computer” solution, and not enough “desktop” software to keep me entrenched. AirPlay would be incredibly difficult to leave behind.

Moreover, I still need a computer that has a large screen with a powerful CPU for editing and crunching video projects, for viewing a series of open applications without having to switch between them, and for having access to internal storage options greater than 1 TB. Plus, I need better interoperability with the other systems my family chooses to use. Which is least painful? That’s what I want. That’s what any consumer would want (or should beg for, considering that “pain” is something humanity generally likes to avoid). Google only solves part of the problem and potentially introduces more pain if not incorporated in an optimal fashion.

This is part two of a three-part series. The other pieces to the puzzle can be read here: