A few months ago, I wrote about “Inbox,” the new Google e-mail app. I’ve been using it religiously since then. I love it. It’s useless on my desktop/laptop, but on my phone, it’s, truly, a killer app. It’s done away with my “task” list, and my inbox regularly is at close to zero. I’m also forgetting fewer things, and managing e-mail more better-ly than ever. So that’s cool.
A couple of weeks ago, I updated my laptop to Windows 10. Without going into too much detail, it’s been a fiasco. I know it’s gotten great reviews, but it’s slowed my computer down, made wifi unreliable, and caused me to freeze up with increasing frequency, often requiring reboots. Which take as long as ten minutes.
I’ve talked with those who love their Macs (their Airbooks, their iPads, etc.), and I’ve tried, really hard, to use them, but I can’t. At the end of the day, I don’t find the Apple ecosystem tolerable. I hate iTunes. I hate the reliance on the mouse Apple demands. And I hate the insistence on denying the mouse the functionality of a second button. And more stuff, too. Suffice it to say: I can’t use Apple products. They drive me crazy.
So here’s my summary of how the various operating systems work, for me:
Apple: it feels like it’s a prison, like the main point of everything they do is to make me use Apple’s products, and its ecosystem, at the expense of what I want to do and how I want to do it.
Microsoft/Windows: it feels like – unlike Apple – they’re committed to letting me do things how I want, for the most part, but at the cost of enormous friction. Booting takes forever. Things are buggy. Where on Apple products, everything works, on Windows systems, the experience of stuff not working is a constant. And it’s maddening.
Google Chrome OS: I just got me a Chromebook that I’ve been testing out for a couple of days. It’s an Asus flip-screen (the C100, if you care). The screen is 10.1 inches, and it’s a touch-screen, so you can do all sorts of stuff easily with your fingers. It flips into an unsatisfying tablet – unsatisfying because the bottom of the tablet is the keyboard, which just feels… weird. But otherwise, the thing is fucking incredible. It feels solid, even though it weighs less than two pounds. And it does 95% of what I want to do.
Google, unlike Apple, lets me out of their ecosystem when I want out, but the truth is, I’m less compelled to leave, because their ecosystem is so compelling. I use Gmail, I use Calendar, I use Keep, I use Drive. I’ve been entirely weaned from Microsoft Office, and from almost every desktop program, by Google. The remaining ones are Quicken – which, I suspect, will either provide me a cloud-based alternative soon, or one of their competitors will – and Windows Live Writer, the Microsoft blogging client that I’ve used for years to run this blog. The only thing, though, that I really value in Live Writer is the ability to turn pictures three degrees to the left or right and put little black corners on them. If the cost of moving to a Chromebook is that the photo layout of this blog is a little less compelling – I’m fine with that. I don’t think people come here for my pictures (although I suppose pictures do draw some).
There are two reasons not to use Chromebooks, each of which is powerful, but neither of which applies to me: if you rely heavily on freestanding programs (like Photoshop, or Excel, or what have you) and if you hate the Google ecosystem (or are trapped in the Apple one). Otherwise? I can’t say enough. I’m typing this on a 2-pound machine with a fucking 8-hour battery life. Seriously. That’s fucking crazy.
So: Apple is a prison. Microsoft is a maze. And Google? It feels like a playground.
Postscript: for uninteresting reasons, I’m not keeping the Chromebook I’ve been testing out – I’m going to buy, I think, a slightly larger one, also by Asus – the C201. It weighs about the same, has an inch-and-a-half bigger screen, a three-hour-longer battery life, and no touch screen. The flip functionality of the one I’ve been testing is useless for me – better for someone who uses the thing to watch lots of videos passively. That’s not me. Not a lot of no-handed (or one-handed 😉 ) surfing for me.