Sunday, January 8, 2012

OS wars. It gets personal like religion or politics

It always amazes me when people say they work on the best platform out there and refuse to ever change. How many people say "I have been using MAC products only since 1984 and will never change". How do you know it is the best for you unless you spend a good deal of time looking at others. When I say looking, I mean using them on a daily productive basis in some way to judge for yourself. I tend to switch my daily use OS every year and a half or so. I had Ubuntu 8, then MAC OSX Tiger and Leopard, Then Windows 7 and now Ubuntu Linux 11.10. I like to do this to stay better informed as it is my job to stay as informed as I can get in this regard. Right now I also use MAC OSX on a Macbook Air at home which used Lion. I have a Windows virtual version everywhere. On mobile I have Blackberry, Samsung Android tablet, Ipod touch (an iPhone without the phone plan) and even played with the first version of the iPad quite a bit.

I can tell you that every platform has its pros and cons. It all depends on what the user wants. If you are a person who spends most of your time using products like MS Office, Project, Visio and ActiveX IE based web apps such as project server, the obvious and easiest OS for these products is Windows 7. If you like a nice OS that "just works" then the MAC is great. It also has MS Office and many other apps supported. However, if you regularly use (or have to use) other Windows products such as Project, Visio, Erwin, MS SQL client tools and IE it just gets to be more of a pain to use on the Mac as you have to configure a virtual OS or some other non native method to fire up these products. The Mac is a pretty good OS for a developer as it is Unix based and the gives the developer more flexibility than windows. The multiple workspaces of course is great. That is something still not offered by Windows. Ubuntu used to be a great OS for the technically savvy but not much use for your average user. However, with Ubuntu 11.10 you can pretty well get everything done using GUI tools. The installation of it on my Lenovo T510 could not have been smoother. Every device such as sound, display and webcam were automatically detected and configured. I loaded all my additional software using the software center and had to do very little configuration on setup files at the shell level. It has gone a long way to becoming mainstream, since Ubuntu 8. I think you can do more with it than either of the other two OSs I have looked at in detail. And its all free as well. Of course its main drawback is that it does not support as many Windows apps like the Mac does, such as Office, Axure and iTunes. A virtual version of Windows is a must, just as it is in the Mac world, but if Windows apps are not part of your day to day work, then the MAC and Ubuntu are very compelling.

For me and my needs I give Ubuntu Linux 11.10 #1, followed closely by Mac OSX and
Windows 7 closely behind that. Not any of them is perfect. Each one is better than the other in some things. You just have to know which is most important to you. The only way to know is to expose yourself to as many environments possible, so you can make an educated decision. However, favorite OSs can be like religion. One cannot bring reason with the decisions of many. They have a passionate loyalty to their OS and will fight "to the death" for their favorite OS and will unlikely give another a chance, no matter how good it is or how good it has become.

As far as mobile devices, well I am still trying to decide what I like best from the current offerings which are changing rapidy. The ios devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch are all the same in functionality for the most part. The iPhone has Siri, which for no good logical reason, is not offered on the other devices. But IOS devices work just great with limited and controlled functionality. That's the way of Apple. That's not a bad thing by the way for the majority of users out there. If you want to go beyond, you have to jailbreak the device which for many reasons, is just a bad idea. The more I use the Galaxy tablet though, the more I like it. Initially Android seems leagues behind the Apple products, but as you get to know it, give it some time, particularly if you are more technical, you will realize that it blows the lid off the Apple mobile products. But then again, what is good for you? If you want something very slick and easy to use out of the box, Apple is the way to go. If you want to get to know your mobile OS over time and play around with it a bit, and understand what it really can do, then Android is it because it offers so much with a lot of flexibility. For me Android Gingerbread (and even Froyo for that matter) win hands down over IOS 5. But then that's just me.

I didn't mention the blackberry phone or their tablet. That's an interesting one as you can't really compare them with the other two apples to apples (ha ha intended). Of course RIM is not the blue eyed boy anymore. Instead it has become everyone's whipping boy. It will most likely fade away or hopefully come back strong like Apple did, you never know (see my last paragraph). I have not looked at the Playbook, but in speaking with some people who really use it (not the media of course), many of them have made the playbook do wonderful things and they love the power it has to offer, so I think it is probably a pretty good product if one is willing to give it a chance. Unfortunately few people are.

As far as the smart phone blackberry, I know lots about the current bb platform and it serves me just fine for daily use functions and I am not ready to give that away just yet. I have the the non touch bold 9700. It does what I need done very, very well. That is email, Calendar, real-time Messaging and sms. Social networking experience is better on the Android and iOS, but its certainly not bad on the bb. For anything more sophisticated, I rarely use my phone. Instead I use a tablet for things like Skype and Hangout. I have my eye on a Galaxy S II to possibly bridge that gap. Sorry for me the iPhone / iPod will just not do once you get comfortable with Android. But then we have the Galaxy Nexus coming out now with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Now that looks really interesting, with built-in Google hangout capability and all. But it needs to stabilize in the market, so best to just wait and see for just a little longer.

In the mean time I will hold on to the fantastic analog keyboard on my BB 9700 and still best email/messaging technology, till the bitter end.  But wait... hold the phone (yes intended again). What about this?
Guess who bought TAT? RIM did. Is the merging of QNX and TAT pie in the sky stuff? Possibly. Its a long shot and I am rooting for our battered boys and gals in Waterloo.