Home > Uncategorized > Can Microsoft be a lifestyle brand?

Can Microsoft be a lifestyle brand?

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When people mention a “lifestyle brand,” companies like Apple,  Sony, or Calvin Klein come to mind. For many of us web geeks Google has become a lifestyle brand, and I would even throw “Open Source” into the mix. (I’m talking about that friend of yours who runs a Linux distro on his iPod, netbook and smartphone while arguing that eMacs is a better IDE than Vim). In my life, however, Microsoft has carved out a niche product-by-product over the past few years, so I thought I’d share the “other” point of view on the big brother of software. (Oh wait, John Stewart says that’s Apple these days).

First: I’m not a platform purist. I use whatever devices and software are most convinient for me, within my budget. I’ve used Microsoft software since playing Prince of Persia on DOS, but I also worked on MacBooks, sent Gmail messages, and dual-booted Ubuntu with Windows. At times, Microsoft products almost completely vanished from my desktop (think Vista + old Hotmail), but they are now back in force.

Here’s the setup:

  1. Windows 7
  2. Hotmail with @waysavvy domain
  3. MS Office 2010
  4. Internet Explorer 9
  5. SkyDrive
  6. Windows Phone 7
  7. Visual Studio 2010 + SQL Server

How much do you think this setup cost me? $10,ooo? $5,000? How about $0.01? How about $0.01 legally?! Let’s dig in.

Windows 7.

There are books’ worth of OS debate online, so I won’t go into depth here, but in my experience it’s stable, fast, has great productivity tools,  a solid set of development APIs through .NET and still dominates the amount of applications available for it. (Comes pre-installed on most off-the-shelf PCs. I have it running on a dell Latitude E6410, which is a really powerful comp for about 1/2 the price of a comparable Mac).

Hotmail

Many people think of Hotmail as retrogate email service that attaches ads to every message. That’s ancient history – it’s a well-performaing feature-rich email service with a conventional timeline layout. Some people prefer Gmail’s “conversation” view, but I personally don’t. Someone will disrupt email soon in a major way, but so far it hasn’t been Google, at least not for me. Lack of IMAP support in Hotmail is the only thing that irks me, but I use the Outlook Connector in Outlook 2010, which brings me to…

Office 2010.

I think you can agree with me on this one – no other piece of software today, on any platform offers the full functionality of Microsoft Office. Thunderbird or OpenOffice just aren’t there in terms of polish and features, and are not paired well with any one OS. For Excel, there’s simply no match in terms of the raw table-crunching power. Across the board, it’s really easy and to deliver rich documents, and there’s great interoperability among elements of presentations, text documents and spreadsheets. Office 2010 can get pretty expensive with all the bells and whistles, but for now I use it for “free” under my Microsoft BizSpark subscription.

Internet Explorer 9

To say this browser is better than Firefox or Chrome would be a stretch, especially if you’re into plugins. But this is the first version of IE about which I can honestly say that it’s just as good. Plugins aside, it mostly matches Firefox in features, is visually polished, supports “application” windows nicely, and has greatly improved speed and security.

SkyDrive.

If you use Office, especially Office 2010, integrating with SkyDrive is really easy. I can save and open documents from there without opening my browser, I can selectively share documents with different groups of people and give each one different permissions, and I can edit them inside or outside the browser. I wish the web interface was just a little snappier, but it’s no slower than Google Docs in my experience. If you like Dropbox (which I love), it works nicely side-by-side. I can sync a doc across all of my computers with Dropbox, and share it with someone via SkyDrive. With an upcoming update, I’ll also be able to view and edit documents from SkyDrive on my…

Windows Phone 7.

I’ll admit – I never saw this one coming. Microsoft kinda botched Zune (although it was a good product), it botched Kin (that was a terrible product), and Windows Mobile 6.5 was never really that popular. So, I wasn’t excited about anything mobile from Microsoft until I tried my Samsung Impression. And it rocked. So I bought it. For $0.01 from Amazon Wireless. The phone is really powerful, has tons of apps (not nearly as many as iPhone/Android but growing really quickly thanks to a nice SDK), has all the hardware bells and whistles except  a front-facing camera, and did I mention? It costs $0.01.

Visual Studio.

Finally, the geeky part. My startup’s product, http://WaySavvy.com is written in .NET, so we use Microsoft’s tools provided to us through BizSpark. If you prefer writing code in a text editor – have it your way – but if not, I do not believe there is a better IDE than VisualStudio. This post isn’t about IDE features so I won’t go there, but I think VS’s feature depth and productivity tools are unrivaled by any other IDE for any langauge.

So there you have it – my answer to Apple fanboys for a grand total of $0.01 (until my BizSpark subscription runs out). So far, I really like it. What do you think? How does it compare to your digital lifestyle?

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