New project: A month of Microsoft

The idea is this. A devoted fan of Google and Apple products (me) spends a month using nothing but Microsoft products. Meaning: Windows laptop, Windows phone, Bing, Office, Internet Explorer, Hotmail, Office 365, Xbox. Hilarity ensues. Or maybe not. I have been thinking about this for a while, ever since I tried (and really liked) the Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone running Windows Phone, and since Google started feeling creepy about privacy, and since the Galaxy Nexus came out and I got one and realized that I wasn’t as knocked out as I’d expected to be.

Then I saw this blog post by Microsoft PR boss Frank Shaw inviting people to come back and give Microsoft a fresh look, which includes this quote:

If you haven’t tried these Microsoft products and services, give ‘em a shot. If you’ve tried them before and moved on, come on back. We’ve left the light on for you.

So I emailed Frank and told him about my idea. He signed on. Microsoft has sent me an HTC Titan, an Asus Zenbook and a bunch of peripherals and accessories. I’ll spend all day Wednesday in Redmond getting briefings and tutorials. It’s been six years since I’ve used Windows on a regular basis and several years since I’ve touched Microsoft Office applications except when someone sends me a Word or PowerPoint file and I need to open it. I write everything in Google Docs, using a Chrome browser on Apple computers (MacBook Air for travel, iMacs at home and office). I use Gmail, Google Docs, Google Search. I have an iPhone 4S but mostly use Android phones, and lately my daily driver has been a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, which I like a lot.

I wouldn’t say that I hate Microsoft and/or its products, though I did make sport of them for years when I was doing the Fake Steve blog, and often in extremely unkind ways. But the truth is that I did bail out of Microsoft’s world after growing increasingly frustrated by the difficulties of running a Windows machine and by the complexities of Office apps. The whole thing just seemed like a huge pain in the ass, fraught with loads of tiny (and not-so-tiny) annoyances.

Anyway. I will blog as often as I can about the journey, and maybe write something up for Newsweek or the Daily Beast at the end. During this time I’ll be taking a short ski vacation, and I’ll bring the gear along with me.

The experiment hasn’t officially started yet. For one thing, I need a SIM card for the Titan (the card from my iPhone 4S doesn’t fit) so I’ll pick that up Wednesday at Microsoft. But there have been some troubling signs. For one thing, I cannot for the life of me get used to Internet Explorer. Worse, when I was setting up my favorite sites on IE, I’d barely begun when I was hit with a spammy come-on telling me I was the lucky winner of an iPad 2, and leading me to a page where I was invited to hand over my address, phone numbers, email address, and other personal information, and also choose which color iPad 2 I wanted, with choices that included red, pink, orange, blue, green, and others — none of which you’ll find in the Apple store. Ahem. Another issue was the Asus Zenbook itself. It’s basically trying to look like the MacBook Air, and it is, in fact, nice looking. Things fall off quickly, however, when you actually try to use it. Maybe I got a lemon. I don’t know. I’ll just say this: The Zenbook is not my cup of tea.

So: a rocky start, but I think things will get better. Lenovo has agreed to send me their beastly 15-inch ThinkPad W520 running Windows 7. Thin and light it’s not, but as a desktop replacement I think the W520 will be perfect. I’ve always liked Lenovo products, especially their keyboards.

For now I’m still on the Mac. (I’m writing this post on my iMac at home.) Tomorrow morning, however, I will get on the plane to Seattle, and I will leave the wonderful world of Apple-Google behind. I’m starting to worry that I might have made a huge mistake, and that I’ve done something that will cause psychic damage requiring months or even years of therapy to repair.

Or maybe not. Maybe the new world according to Microsoft is one I want to live in. Fingers crossed.