Life with a Mac – I give up!

While many of the Mac people I speak to use products like VMware fusion or Parallels to run Windows-based applications, for the purposes of my Life with a Mac experiment I tried to stay as native as possible. Unfortunately this meant my experiment was extremely short lived.

Why? Because to be quite frank – when you are as tightly integrated into the Microsoft ecosystem for your business, working with any competing products just doesn’t cut it.

Let’s start with the iPhone.

As mentioned in my previous post I used both an iPhone and an iPad for quite some time so am very familiar with it. During the course of the experiment I really understood why the term “there’s an app for that” is so relevant – because the phone needs apps to do anything smart.

With my Windows Phone I am able to do a great many things without apps. In all honesty I hardly use any of the apps installed my phone as the operating system provides most of the functionality I need.

What did I really miss? The lock screen was by far the biggest issue. Out of the box the Windows Phone will display my next appointment as well as the number of missed calls, text messages, emails, Lync and Skype IMs, and a slew of other notifications I can chose from. The iPhone did not tell me anything about my day ahead or currently waiting messages. While the messages displayed I had to unlock the phone and go into the application to get anything useful beyond what was displayed in the active area.

The second thing I missed was the tiles of Windows Phone. Live action, constantly updating, displaying content without requiring me to load the app. I could unlock my phone and see what was pertinent as well as the details. By comparison with the iPhone again I had to actually get into the application to see anything.

The third thing I missed was the ability to pin multiple inboxes to the start screen. I run 4 different mail accounts (personal, @Paradyne.com.au, @Xstran.com, @Microsoft.com). On the start screen I could see the number of messages per mailbox, without having to actually go into the mail application. If my tile was big enough it would actually show me a preview of the messages in that relevant mailbox.

In summary: Focusing on the purpose of the experiment it wasn’t too bad. Exchange works well, there are plenty of apps for SharePoint, the Lync Mobile 2013 client is a beautiful experience, OneNote was there, as are the apps around Xbox and other areas of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Usability-wise though I felt my IQ dropped 20 points when I switched back to the iPhone after using the Windows Phone. It really felt like using Windows 3.1 after being on Windows 7 and 8. Realistically each to their own, but using the iPhone for only a few days gave me withdrawal symptoms. I was irritable due to the extra buttons I had to press just to get the information I was accustomed to simply being displayed. My Windows Phone is not just a smartphone, it is my personal assistant.

The Mac!

Using the Mac I lasted longer than I expected, but only because I very quickly figured out the shortcomings and worked around those. Unfortunately I couldn’t avoid them forever. Very quickly I needed to use Visio for process diagrams or to review customer networks – ba-bow!! As I mentioned in my first post I use OneNote very heavily. While similar platforms such as Evernote exist that doesn’t work for me as I’m already heavily involved with OneNote and integrate it with SharePoint.

Having used the Apple GUI many (many!) years ago getting around the Mac wasn’t too hard but this is where I found the experience to be nowhere near as enriched as on iOS. While apps were available for Mac OS X, the story still wasn’t as good as on the iPhone when connecting to Office 365.

To be honest I lay the blame here at Microsoft’s feet in terms of the lifecycle around Office for Mac. While many of us in Windows-land are already using Office 2013, Apple users are still on Office for Mac 2011. This is comparatively like being on Office 2010 – which even more users and organisations are still on. The issue however is that Office for Mac won’t be updated until 2014. By that stage however Office for Windows most likely will be.

It is because of the fact that Microsoft treats the Mac as a second class citizen that its users will always be exactly that. I understand that Microsoft needs to protect its Windows market but my recommendation would be that they look at what Google has done recently with its support of Windows Phone by blocking access to several services.

Updating products like Office for Mac, making available other products like Project and Visio for Mac would make Microsoft many friends in the Apple world and help preventing them from moving to Google Apps.

 

My 2c from this short-lived experiment:

– Apple needs to update iOS. It hasn’t innovated since 2007 allowing Google and Microsoft to leave it for dead. While Microsoft is in a distant third place I am seeing more people giving Windows Phone a chance and discovering what they’ve been missing out on.

– Microsoft needs to treat Apple Mac users as their friends. While they may not be as equal as a Windows user, there are a lot of them who use Google Apps because the experience is downright better. While the Vista + Office 2007 slogan of “better together” may not necessarily apply here, “better than Google” would certainly ring true.

I fully respect that this was not a scientific experiment by any stretch of the imagination. They key objective was to see what it was like being an Apple user in a Microsoft world. My conclusion: it’s not good.

 

Office 365 for education vs Live@Edu

A few months ago Microsoft revealed a pricing model for BPOS that allowed NFP (not for profit) institutions such as charities and schools get access to the BPOS suite – without having to pay full price.
This was fantastic for those of us who sell it, as those organisations who purchased discounted Microsoft software often found it was significantly cheaper to continue with their on-premise solutions vs moving to the cloud.
The exception to this is Live@Edu which is free for academic institutions. It is effectively the Hotmail service but with a lot of deployment, branding, identity management, and reporting functionality built in. (It also runs on Exchange 2010 and integrates presence into Outlook.com!)

So with the NFP pricing released for BPOS academic institutions were finally able to use the ‘corporate’ suite of products for faculty & administration, and have the student body utilise the Live@Edu service (or however you want to mix it up).

However with the announcement that Live@Edu will be blended into Office 365 – this made it a little confusing because Live@Edu = free whereas BPOS / Office 365 = paid (albeit discounted).

So some clarification around the differences between the paid vs the free? Well unfortunately there won’t be any official information available until February 2011. However at this point it is expected that Office 365 for Education will include:
– Exchange Online 2010 = free
– SharePoint Online 2010 (MySites) = free
– Existing Live@Edu functionality (ie. SkyDrive, Messenger, Photos, etc.) = free
– Lync Online 2010 = paid (maybe, or replace Messenger)
– Archiving = paid
– Office subscription = paid

So, hard to say for sure at this point. However this does answer the simple question of whether schools will need to start to pay for their Live@Edu service when it rolls into Office 365: no.
They will continue to get the free ‘core’ set of products/solutions, and can pay for optional extras.