I received some interesting advice several months back: Instead of just using the services that come with Windows—OneDrive, OneNote, Groove Music, and so on—maybe we should use services that work better and are made by companies that do only that one thing. It’s an interesting idea.
The question, however, is whether it actually makes any sense. Certainly, highlighting the major Microsoft services that are available in Windows, it’s not hard to come up with third-party alternatives that are, in many ways, quite superior to what Microsoft offers. A quick and incomplete list:
Skype: Google Hangouts
Outlook.com: Gmail and Google Calendar
Microsoft’s offerings are often basic solutions, though of course there is something to be said about built-in apps that automatically connect you with your content and customized settings. But the other services are, the theory goes, “better”–literally are functionally superior–and should be rewarded with our usage accordingly.
The third-party offerings are often not free, and this of course factors in heavily. In some cases, like Groove, you need to pay (for Groove Music Pass) to get full functionality, but when you do, the cost is the same as the alternative. Of course, the alternative (Spotify) still offers better functionality as well.
A few months ago, I wrote about my transition to Dropbox for the books I’m writing. In doing this, I dropped the woeful OneDrive for Business service–seriously, it’s an embarrassment–and have started using consumer OneDrive less and less each day. But there are so many caveats here, it’s hard to even know where to start.
First, OneDrive is a much better deal from a straight-up cost perspective. I pay for Office 365 Home, which is $99.99 a year, and that gets my 1 TB of OneDrive storage, but since Microsoft is moving towards unlimited storage and is bumping up the allocation as I use it, I’m already using more than 1 TB. Dropbox, by comparison, charges me $99 a year for its Pro service. This also provides 1 TB of storage. But none of the other advantages of Office 365 Home, like 5 installs of full Office 2016. So I will in fact keep paying for both.
This is expensive. But your storage needs may not be as vast as mine. On that note, OneDrive provides 15 GB of storage for free, which should be enough for most people. But the free Dropbox Basic only provides 2 GB, which is not. Point being: Dropbox is absolutely “better,” with faster sync times and far more reliable operation. But it’s also a lot more expensive, and $99 per year is the cheapest payment plan they offer.
Today, you really do get what you pay for. The hope, of course, is that Microsoft improves its services such that this kind of conversation is less one-sided. A OneDrive sync client that actually worked quickly and reliably would be an amazing change, and we’ll finally see what Microsoft is planning in October. And of course all those other services are in a state of change as well.
But until and unless that happens, Microsoft’s inability to deliver services that work as well as the alternatives is going to drive users away. And fixing this issue should be a priority.