What do ed tech writers write about when things become generic? Unlike those who are proposing 50 uses for the Apple Watch in education, I am trying to identify developments I think are significant. This lack of material does not imply that products and services are substandard. Rather, it means there is presently no great “new thing”. To me, the devices, software and services we presently have are not significantly different in what they can be used to accomplish.
I have been reading “Becoming Steve Jobs” and some of the comments in this book generated my present train of thought. By the way, this book has left me with a more positive image of Steve Jobs and Apple than other books I have read lately. I had come to the conclusion that Jobs was a genius-jerk and I do not like to find motivation in such heroes. More relevant to this post, one of the threads running throughout the book was the interaction of Jobs and Gates (Apple and Microsoft).
I have always been an Apple fan going back to my first experiences with the Apple II. Microsoft was always the evil empire. My attitudes have tempered over the years and I have grown to value multiple productive companies in a given space as best for all of us. I hope that the tech hardware/software companies never go the way of those who provide us Internet access.
Anyway, I now must say I am most concerned about the future of Microsoft. Of course Microsoft has great inertia based on existing patterns of use, but inertia eventually succumbs to the friction of quality. I was trying to think of a Microsoft product I thought was necessary. I only used the OS when my employer somehow made this a requirement. I used Word and Excel because they were purchased for me and it was sometimes necessary to prepare documents in Word for commercial publication. When someone else pays, it just easier to go along.
I write more now than ever and I cannot remember the last time I used Word. I had Word installed on my work machine, but when I turned that machine in and began to rely exclusively on my own equipment there was not need to invest. Working in the cloud from multiple devices running multiple operating systems changed my ways. I understand you can now do a similar thing with 365, but Microsoft has the same problem with me that keeps many businesses involved with Microsoft. I have a way of doing things that works just fine and I see no reason to move to the present Microsoft way of doing things. I would have to be convinced that it was more efficient, more cost-effective, or something else of value.
So, I think Apple has better hardware. I am willing to pay a little more for the quality. I have a Chromebook I really like and could move to something under $400 if money was an issue. I think Google is far superior when it comes to general cloud services. Apple is lousy at the cloud, but I can use Apple hardware to use Google services. I use free apps or purchase specialized apps from a wide variety of companies. The costly productivity apps are no longer necessary. So, if the world runs on hardware, OS, cloud services, and application software, I just do not see any of these categories in which Microsoft is necessary.
The one Microsoft products I think is uniquely useful is One Note . Much like Evernote, One Note offers a flexible work environment in which I can do most of what I do daily – collect, organize, generate and share content. It is really the integration of different uses of technology rather than the quality of individual apps that is important. As software moved past basic functions and could only be differentiated on the value of more and more features, feature bloat became more of an annoyance than a differentiator. This same reality can be applied to hardware. CPU speed, hard drive capacity, screen resolution, etc., are of less and less important. The most typical bottleneck to productivity is now the speed and cost of Internet access.
I have no idea how Microsoft will make much off One Note. Free is great, but as part of a business model only if it increases the value of other paid services or products. I suppose they can mimic the Evernote business model, but the company has such an immense infrastructure of people to support. I see nothing necessary or unique in the other software products.
Time for the next new thing.