My current theory with apps and services is that Microsoft is shaping up into an appealing neutral zone between Apple’s walled garden of deteriorating software quality, and Google’s endless data slurping.
I’ve been a Gmail customer for something close to 20 years. It was groundbreaking at launch thanks to the unique proposition of almost-limitless storage, back when others were offering miserly amounts like 5Mb. But we all know that Google is data-mining our mailboxes to fuel their advertising system, and I don’t like that in a personal messaging system like email.
What finally persuaded me to try a move to Outlook.com is the premium experience that comes with my Office 365 subscription. Not only does this provide a terabyte of mail storage, but the web interface is completely ad-free. The web interface is also superb – it’s beautifully designed and blazing fast.
macOS Catalina has attracted quite a bit of negative sentiment from Mac users. New releases of macOS have had issues before, but we still install them because we love new features, and are confident that bugs will be fixed by an update. This time though, Catalina struggles to make up for launch issues because there’s hardly anything new to get excited about. Instead of features, it delivers some disruptive changes:
A new (and questionable) security model, with the sort of popup notifications that Windows Vista was infamous for (and was ironically, mocked by Apple).
Dropping 32-bit compatibility – not a problem for me personally because my web development stack is all fully 64-bit. But it prevents some users from updating if they rely on old apps, and large game libraries could be severely impacted.
File system – the OS and data partitions are now separated out, which makes sense, but the various tricks that stick it back together only go so far – and things can get confusing inside the Terminal.
iTunes replaced by three new Catalyst apps – despite people banging the drum for years that iTunes was bloated and needed breaking up, I find this to be a backwards step. The new apps are dull, soulless affairs, and the local library sync to my iPhone now doesn’t work fully.
On top of this, there are numerous small bugs. Out there on the internet, there are reports of Finder issues, with slow folder updates after basic file operations. When I log back into my MacBook Pro 16 running Catalina, the display brightness jumps up to 100% and True Tone colour correction takes minutes to kick in. Three updates later, these bugs are still there.
I was an early adopter of Windows Phone. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My iPhone 3G had been ruined by an iOS 4 update that it was barely capable of running. To be fair to Apple, they did eventually optimise their slightly overweight OS for the 3G model with a point release (iOS 4.2?). But it was too late for me, I’d been seduced by Live Tiles and the super-smooth minimalist UI of Windows Phone. I bought a HTC HD7 running Windows Phone 7.