interesting times for desktops

On Windows 10, Mac gaming, and turning the battleship

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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.

8 Responses to “On Windows 10, Mac gaming, and turning the battleship”

  1. James Wilson

    I’ve had both a Mac and a Windows machine for about 15 years just because of the games. It’s cheap and easy to build a PC and I’ve been upgrading it since Pentium days, though the only piece that’s still original is the floppy drive. However I HATE HATE HATE MS Word and I just can’t stand using it for writing, so I use my Mac Mini and Pages, though the current version of Pages is a large step down from the ’09 version. I’m a writer, so the word processor matters, and I haven’t been able to stand Word since version 4 in the early 90s. What I really want is AppleWorks back, and I still have an 8-year-old Mac with Snow Leopard on it so I can open any AppleWorks files I haven’t translated yet. Only a couple of thousand left. I tried very hard to use some of the online WPs but I don’t like them either. If somebody would come out with a WP that would allow me to translate all my AppleWorks and Pages (or Word) docs and didn’t have all the stupid helpers and autocorrect etc I’d jump on it. Meanwhile I really don’t see any solution to let me put it all into one computer other than (perhaps) a Mac Pro with enough external drives to boot from Linux and Windows as well as MacOS. My PC is getting long in the tooth now, and I’d really like to avoid building another if I could, but I just don’t see how to get around it. I just don’t like the consoles very much. I had an Xbox 360 for a couple of years and when it died I didn’t miss it.

    And as far as the OS goes, if somebody came out with something better, I’d beat a path to their door. I’d really like to see something newer and better, but so far I haven’t, so I just stumble along as best I can.

  2. Corrupted Mind

    Strange days. At work Windows rules, the question was always whether it could create a bridgehead to the home. The answer has been no, at work, the microsoft that most people see and breathe is XP and that is not the microsoft that they want us to see so getting enterprises to make the move is vital. At home, Mac has built a solid bridgehead on my wife’s creative side (MacBook and iphone) but like Mark, Gaming has meant I’ve suffered the trip of windows 7 to Windows 8 and now to Windows 8.1 (by slotting the newest DX version on the newest OS has meant that upgrade is not an option if I want the best drivers available). On mobile, they’ve got a small window of opportunity – ipad mini + Dell Venue Pro 8 + Android (Galaxy Edge) + iphone 6 is what the household has — its clear at least to me that the DVP8 is more than matching the ipad mini especially with the onedrive/dropbox integration (ipad is ostensibly baby son’s). The real race is between the DVP8 and Galaxy edge and I must say insane London 4g speeds are making it a blow out to the handset so far – it appears that 6″ + connectivity beats 8″ + productivity. I would say more and better touch apps and 4g built in and the DVP8 would be a contender but until then. No contest. Wife was very Android curious during last upgrade cycle – was only just swayed by app lock-in but she’s moved to spotify and netflix (i.e. x-platform apps) so in two years time she may able to leave without any hit at all.

  3. I agree on the gaming side of things, but not on leaving the Apple ecosystem. In fact, I would say I am currently on three eco-systems (iOS, Windows, Android) and I believe I will be for the forseeable future.

    At one time, I was a lifelong PC user, with Symbian and Palm PDAs and Smartphones. Then I entered the Apple eco-system with a iPhone 3GS and complemented it with an iPad 1. I sold my gaming rig when I started backpacking around the world in 2012, and chose a Macbook Air, while upgrading to an iPad 3.

    In 2013 I upgraded to an iPad Air and embraced Android with an LG G2 and last year I switched back to a Windows notebook for gaming and general awesomeness of having 3x mSATA 256GB SSD drives and an 860M Nvidia card for around $1500. When you compare that to gaming on a Macbook Pro 2014 it was a no-brainer if gaming is important.

    I don’t see myself leaving any of the eco-systems in the near future, until there is a major interface leap such as Facebook/Oculus or Microsoft Holographics or Apple Wearables or if the internet does not exist in it’s present form in a decade, as they say.

    For me, a Windows PC will be the premier choice on my upgrade path to future GPUs, Adaptive V-Sync high resolutions displays and so forth. I can’t get away from a keyboard and mouse, even though I do use a PS4 controller (thanks to DS4Windows). I have never been into console gaming.

    Android has the best phones at a reasonable price with most of the features I need, although something like Apple’s M7 wearable processor would be nice for when I upgrade my Jawbone UP24. Google has control of much of my online life, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

    For tablets, I just love the iOS ecosystem, in terms of fun games, a great feed reader (Mr. Reader), ePUB (Marvin) and PDF (Goodreader) and many more tablet apps that just are not mature enough on the Android platform. iOS games have taken a big timesuck from my life, but that was due to a long time travelling without a proper gaming PC.

    I can’t see myself ever using Windows 10 on a tablet, simply because the Apps are not there and I doubt they every will be, because they are just so far behind. I have tried to find an RSS feed reader for Windows 8.1 and they are all horrible, for a variety of reasons but firstly because you have to use metro Internet Explorer if you open any links.

    I was never an audio or graphics or web design kind of guy, so I really only embraced OSX in 2012 more as a way of seeing what everyone is banging on about and wanting to be comfortable in a platform that was gaining market share. Everybody is different of course, but the main thing I hope for is just that everything keeps playing nice with each other. The 2015 battle between G-Sync and Freesync monitors is an example of how platform choices could become more limited in the future.

  4. If you game, unless you console, you need a Windows machine, not because it’s better but because of game availability it just so happens. Most people are not gamers.

    The success of Windows 10 depends on the success of the Surface tablets, and thats unlikely. The future is the future of tablets, each household only needs 1 desktop computer for productivity software. Otherwise there is no need for Windows.

    One OS for all is good, but Chrome is already that. Microshaft is too late

    • Chrome has less than 1% market share. And no matter how promising web apps sounds, they still pale in comparison to installed applications in speed, lag and often functionality. Chrome has a very long way to go before it could be said Microsoft is to late.

      A much bigger threat to MS is the cheap android tablet, and still, the iPad and iMac.

  5. eagleWithAfez

    For people looking to effectively game in the moba genre for iOS it’s worth checking out a game called Vainglory. The popularity of this market breakthrough could entice game developers to Apple. Also check out games that run on the Unity engine. While I have yet to see any good MMOs, it’s still worth checking out.