On Windows 10, Mac gaming, and turning the battleship

While some Apple fan’s opinions of Microsoft are the same as most of the NFL’s opinion of the Patriots, I won’t let my past experiences with Windows deflate my takeaways from this week’s press event. I will say, though, that my general experience with Windows over the last few years has been very negative.

I didn’t like Vista. I loved Windows 7, hated Windows 8 and find Windows 8.1 to be tolerable. When it comes to some of the issues it’s hard to find fault with Microsoft: my Windows 7 laptop at work has a rough time when I place it into the dock, but I’m more apt to blame Lenovo for that than Microsoft. I work in a secure environment so my slow startup times are because of the encryption software we use.

So, I was very interested in what Microsoft was going to announce at their keynote, and what effect it may have on my computing life.

One OS to rule them all

There were a few things about Windows 10 I immediately found interesting. I love that it’s called Windows 10, and not Windows 10 Tablet Edition Professional for the Enterprise or some typically ridiculous Microsoft way of naming things. I also like that this OS will be close to identical on all of Microsoft’s devices.

This is, of course, a sharp difference of how Apple does things. However, this just illustrates the core difference between Apple and Microsoft: Apple is a hardware company and Microsoft is a software company. While the lines aren’t as clear as that, Apple makes most of its money selling you hardware (and makes software that will let you use the devices) and Microsoft makes its money from software (and is starting to see that controlling the hardware too isn’t a horrible idea).

[pullquote person=”” attribution=”” id=”909535″]I love that it’s called Windows 10, and not Windows 10 Tablet Edition Professional for the Enterprise or some typically ridiculous Microsoft way of naming things.[/pullquote]

Over the next year, you’ll get close to same experience on your Xbox One, Microsoft Phone and Tablets, and your PC. Until I actually use them and see how they interact with each other, it’s hard to tell if Microsoft is onto something with this or not. But I think Microsoft can pull this off.

Microsoft has a lot of traction in the home and enterprise. Apple’s hardware market share is still low. There are probably a majority of people who own an iPad or an iPhone but use a PC as their main computer. I know, I know, there are lots of people who only use Apple devices (outside of work). Up until this week, I was one of them.

Microsoft, though, has the user base to pull off the unification of the two OSs. It also will not face nearly the cultural challenges with its user base that Apple would. Can you imagine if at WWDC this year, Apple announced that OS X and iOS would now share the same UI?

Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, introduces Windows 10.
Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, introduces Windows 10.

What I also like is now Office 2016 will be a Universal App for Windows 10 (Phone and um, non-phone systems). Office and the Windows operating system are integral to Microsoft’s success so it makes sense for them to join the binaries so updates are shared across all devices running Windows 10.

Events in motion that have started shifting me away from Apple

I wrote in my article on tech goals for 2015 that I was going to take a look at my overall computing situation. This is already underway. Once I realized that the main reason I was looking for a new computer was to play games on, I decided that I should just bite the bullet and get a gaming PC.

Unfortunately, the state of Mac gaming is still very poor. I enjoy Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOs) and there are darn few of them out there with Mac-native clients. Blizzard has World of Warcraft on the Mac. It was also very nice to see Zenimax Online’s The Elder Scrolls Online also launch with a Mac version, especially since the other Betheseda games like Skryim do not have Mac versions. As an aside, for those interested in online games but abhor a subscription fee, The Elder Scrolls Online will be dropping the subscription fee in March. Sadly, though, these companies are in the minority and I usually need to run Crossover to play some games. I have a 256gb SSD in my MacBook so it’s not worth it for me to dual boot into Boot Camp.

The leading candidate for a replacement Mac was the $1799 27″ iMac, and that was stretching it. After doing a lot of research, I ended up buying an Alienware Alpha for $550. It has a 2g Nvidia GTX860M video card. The processor is a little low at an Intel i3, but upgrading to an i5 is a user-replaceable part. Actually, almost everything except the video card is upgradable; I can also upgrade the RAM and wireless card. All of my games auto-detect to High or Ultra graphics settings. I’m getting 50fps in WoW on Ultra with everything maxxed.

The reason I mention this is shifting away from operating system platforms is like turning a battleship. It’s a little slow to get started, but once it’s underway there is some inertia. The Xbox One component, where you can stream games from your Xbox to your PC, is also very interesting. I have an Xbox 360 and have been looking at upgrading to a One.

Will Microsoft’s announcements keep me moving away from Apple devices?

It’s unlikely.

While I will admit I’m typing this on Markdown Pad on my Alienware device – it’s hooked up to my 27″ LCD, I still expect my general day-to-day computing to take place on OS X. A lot of this is because I have workflows I’m used to on OS X. I use Logic Pro to record my guitar, and all my amp simulation software is on my Mac also. Since I don’t need to replace my MacBook for a long time now, I can keep it as the mobile device I can bring with me if I need to leave the house for an extended period.

I did, briefly, give some thought to getting a Surface Pro 3, but I decided against it. As many apps and workflows I have on OS X, I have even more on iOS. Apps like Byword, Editorial, and Worflow are integral to my daily usage of iOS. While I could do a lot of that on the Surface, but there are some tradeoffs with the Surface. A lot of my tablet usage at night is reading and I’m not very happy with the Kindle app that’s currently available on the Surface.

A lot can change by the time Windows 10 rolls out to all of Microsoft’s devices in a year or so. For now, I expect my mobile devices to remain Apple hardware. My gaming platform (and general hub I stream movies from) I expect to remain a Windows machine for quite some time.