I’ve been a windows user all my life or at least since I bought my first PC thirty years ago. (Actually I tell a lie as I had an Amstrad PCW before that but let’s not get into all that CPM nonsense right now.) I’ve used DoS 5.1 (with the DoSShell which I rather liked) Windows 3.1 which I thought was a classic interface, Windows 97, XP, and Windows 7. I’m currently keeping Windows 10 at arms-length until I know more but I’m getting close to experimenting with it on one of my PCs. I’ve never owned a Mac or used Linux, Unix or OS2 (remember OS2?), or any of the other alternatives. I have always needed compatibility with general business software which, until recently, has meant Windows.
My phone history has been a bit more varied. I started with a Motorola of some sort (I don’t know what it was as I donated it to Africa). Then I bought a Nokia Communicator (9210) with ambitions of running spreadsheets and word-processing but I never really got it together. However, the smartphone bug got me, especially after a short job working for Symbian editing a promo CD that listed all the up and coming applications that would soon be available for Symbian phones. (They didn’t call them apps in those days.) The idea of loading my own choice of software as you would with a PC was a big pull towards a smartphone and it seemed the next logical step for what was basically a computer in your pocket with a bit of phone functionality attached.
It was a while before I got rid of the Nokia as I always buy my phones off contract and I have to get some value out of them before buying a replacement. The next phone was a few years later when I bought an HTC TyTn II running Windows Mobile 6.2. The week after I bought it the first IPhone appeared and changed everything. Suddenly my tilting touchscreen with slide-out keyboard and limited additional software seemed a bit dated. Still it did most that I wanted, played MP3s for the car and integrated Tom Tom. It even allowed individual control of the music and sat nav volumes, something that my current phone doesn’t seem able to do. I never did get around to using it for spreadsheets and I had to keep my billing data for clients on my machine and use the HTC to transport the updated files between the office and home.
That was the strength of the HTC. It came with a good sync application from Microsoft (a feature that was never that great on the Nokia) and I was able to sync Outlook between my home PC and the office PC with the HTC automatically updated every time I plugged in the cable. (There was a blue tooth option but I don’t think that was available on the work PC.)
In 2013, after I’d got my money’s worth out of the HTC, I decided it was time to join the app revolution. Not wanting to get involved with Apple I decided to move over to Android. My thinking was that an Android device would integrate well with the Samsung tablet I’d bought so I ordered a Galaxy S4 Active as soon as it was available. (The Active version is the one with the metal case and waterproofing down to 1 metre so you can take it swimming, not that I ever have taken it swimming but for a camping enthusiast it’s nice to know I can leave it out in the rain or run it under a tap to clean the glass.)
This was when I discovered that there seems to be a battle between business empires. Naturally there is a divide between operating systems so Windows won’t talk to Android and Android won’t talk to Apple or whatever, but it’s worse than an OS divide. Even Samsung seem to want their own empire so their pre-installed diary and contact software won’t easily talk to Android (or Google’s apps in my case) and don’t get me started on the debacle that is Samsung Kies!
Of course they claim they are cross compatible but the process of importing data from Google apps meant creating a file and importing it into Outlook. This is hardly a sync process and I have no idea about the other direction. Back in the days of the HTC I could add an appointment to my calendar at work and it immediately replicated on my phone. Plugging the HTC into my home PC the appointment would copy seamlessly and it worked in both directions. I didn’t sync my contacts for privacy reasons but it was possible and was equally simple.
I’ve found that using the Outlook app on the phone will sync with Outlook.com on my browser and that will sync easily with my Office 2010 version of Outlook. Of course all this is Microsoft and that seems to be the key. At some point soon I will have to upgrade to Office 365 so I’m thinking that I might as well go over to Windows only devices. I’m sure this is what the big companies want. They’ve always been interested in maintaining their empires (why wouldn’t they) so they don’t make it easy to move data across platforms while claiming it’s simple. Of course it’s possible to move data over for a tech savvy individual, developer or IT professional, but that’s not me. What I am is a humble technical author who’s been using computers since before the days of the first GUIs, that’s over thirty years now. But being well into my middle age I don’t have the patience to do the research on setting up these systems. I want to plug them in and have them talk to each other without me having to dig out configurations, look up settings or learn a load of technologies that are obvious to people half my age.
So I’m planning to sell my soul to Microsoft, purely for the sake of a simple life. They’ve pretty much pwned it for most of my digital life anyway. Google own my browsing history and my Facebook owns my social life, so Microsoft can have the rest. Whether things become simpler is something we can only discover as 2016 plays out.