Final(ish) Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface (as well as Apple)

Before I begin, a quick note. This is not really my "final" post on the Surface Book or Windows, just the last in the series I started when I got the hardware. (Here's part one, part two, and part three.) Also, this post will be, mostly, my personal feelings about the hardware, Microsoft, Apple, and if you'd rather just stick to my technical articles, I more than understand if you bail now. You've been warned.

Should you buy it?

Still here? Cool. So the big question is - should you buy a Surface Book? I think if you are a Windows user, then hell yes. It is an amazing piece of hardware. I'm kinda iffy on if I'm ok with the 13 inch form factor, especially since my eyes are kinda crap. I do like the smaller size, but if Microsoft were to offer a 15 inch version I'd probably switch to that.

If you're a Mac user, or like me, someone who switched to Mac years ago, then I think you need to seriously consider it. I'm not going to say you will be more (or less) productive. The hardware is easily as good as the MacBook Pro, more versatile, and just generally more impressive. Obviously that's a personal opinion. Do like I did though - the next time you see a Microsoft store, or if you're at a conference and they have a booth with the hardware, spend five minutes with it. Windows has it's faults of course. Just like OSX. But if you left the Windows ecosystem in the past I think you really owe it to yourself to check it out and give it a fair shake.

So yeah, that's what I think. But let's go a bit deeper, eh?

Windows and the Evil Empire

Unlike some folks, I never had a problem with Windows or Microsoft. @DHH wrote a good piece yesterday entitled, "Microsoft, I forgive you!", and while obviously a bit tongue in cheeck, I never really understood all the hate MS seemed to generate. Yeah they absolutely did things I don't agree with, but so does IBM. So does every company I've worked with. Hell, so do my kids. If I held out working for or consuming products from companies that were perfect then I might as well become a monk and live in a cave. I live in the real world and I'm fine making compromises to get crap done.

I take the same view on open source. I like open source. I think it is a great thing. I think, all other things being equal, an open source project is probably better than a closed source one. But I've got no objections paying money for a closed source product that lets me do my job better. If you want to get political about it, that's fine, but I'd like to get my job done and maybe have some fun in the meantime.

I went to the Mac because they had a superior machine. Their OS felt a bit... constrained and dumbed down, but I could get behind a simpler UI. I look at this darn thing probably half the day, so simple can be a benefit, not a problem.

But something happened over the past few years. More and more Apple has been put their energy into the mobile platform. They've put more of their energy into regular consumers. All of that makes sense and I certainly understand that they are following the money.

But as a developer, I'm feeling more and more like I'm no longer even a tiny part of their attention. We all know Apple doesn't go to conferences or have evangelists that participate in Twitter. That's changed a tiny bit, but it's just not something Apple does. They don't need to, I guess. If you attend a conference, the sheer number of MBPs over Windows machines is overwhelming. They "won", at least in terms of developer mindshare.

But here's the thing - and it's something that really bugs me. Apple acts as if they have the developer mindshare and don't need to do crap to keep it. It's hubris. And yes, I think Microsoft had the same hubris, but look at what Microsoft has done lately:

  • Launched their own phone platform. And yes, it failed. But the UI was innovative.
  • Launched Visual Studio Code, which is easily the best editor for coders out there. Open source, and running on every platform.
  • Added Bash to Windows. Yes, it has issues (see my last post), but they are already working to correct that. (One of the issues I raised is already fixed. The 'deal breaker' for me, so I'll be switching to Bash soon.)
  • Created the Surface line. The regular Surface is cool. The Pro is cool. And the Book is awesome. And my god... the Surface Studio is one of the most stunning pieces of hardware I've ever seen. If you missed it, watch the video:

Damn. Like, daaaaaaaamn.

  • And speaking of open source, they've also done some incredible contributions to Apache Cordova as well. ALong with probably a crap ton of other things I'm forgetting.

So yeah, maybe the reason they are trying so hard is that they know they need to catch up a bit, but I'm absolutely loving seeing what they are doing. Some things are going to flop (again, see the phone), but I fully expect a company trying new things to screw up from time to time.

On the flip side - we've got a new MacBook Pro that adds a thin strip of touchability yet removes the ports you've used and makes stock in dongle companies go through the roof. Hell, you can't even connect the iPhone. I'm sure it will be a fine machine. But it's almost laughable to call this a developer machine anymore.

By no means do I think Apple is going to fail, go bankrupt, or anything even close to that. On the other hand, I do feel like they are in danger of at least losing part of the developer market they gained over the past few years. I don't think they really care, and that's fine, but I know where I'm going to be spending my time going forward.

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