The (lack of) need for Windows outside the workplace

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I’ve been a user of Windows for about 2 decades now and it, desktop PCs, PC gaming and video piracy have always been part of my computing experience.

These days, though, I’ve been reexamining what I need and what I want to do in this arena and have come up with some conclusions which do not bode well for my relationship with Microsoft:

– I’ve always pirated video content, even while maintaining a cable (w/HBO) HDTV subscription, a BluRay collection and a Netflix account. The simple reason is that I never felt the quality was anywhere comparable to a torrent file if I wanted to watch a specific movie right now. I tried using the Microsoft video store experience and its Movies & TV app and it was deeply unsatisfactory – things like surround sound audio passthrough to my AV receiver, mobile app support and even the stability of the Windows app are either total crap or non-existent. I came across the iTunes video store, which although iTunes itself in Windows is terrible, does offer what appears to be an excellent video experience on the Apple TV – the video quality is good, it has Dolby Digital 5.1 and I can actually use the US store in my country by simply buying gift cards, with no ridiculous region lock in place. Thus, I can finally say goodbye to video piracy and with it the need to maintain things like torrent clients, subtitle downloaders, batch video file utilities and other such things for which I needed the full Windows client.

– PC gaming has always featured better quality graphics than consoles and still does, but this difference has become much less visible to the naked eye, consoles have standardized features like HDR way before the PC and my favorite genre for which there is no console equivalent (RTS) hasn’t had a good game in years (RIP Westwood, Ensemble and Blizzard). Thus, I’ve arrived at the point where just so that I can play an occasional game of Civilization I am maintaining an ATX behemoth under my desk…and now with Cities: Skylines available for Xbox, it seems that with a bit of developer cleverness a console’s traditional input limitations can be overcome. Pretty much any other game I have on Steam is available on Xbox and even though it will lead to some repurchasing, at least I will never have to deal with a game crashing again (I’m looking at you, Fallout 4!) or worry that cloud saves are not available.

– I am a geek at heart and have always loved to tinker, but with a new child in the past year I have much less patience for the time I’d need to put into things because of the instability and unnecessary complexity inherent in certain aspects of the Windows computing experience. There has been a lot of headway in purpose-specific appliance computing and web apps to the point where looking at my classic Uninstall Programs list what I see are 7-Zip, iTunes, Chrome, Office 365, Media Player Classic, Origin, Plex Media Server, Skype, Steam, some games and a wide variety of “support” crap like drivers & C++ runtimes. Thus, except for Office 365 there is literally nothing there that I can’t get on a combination of an Android device, Xbox and Apple TV, so why maintain a complex OS?

– Now for the big elephant in the room: Office 365. Fortunately, I have an ultrabook from work in which they also provide Office (2013) but if I think about it, there is literally no non-work office task in the past few years which I could not have done with Google Docs/Sheets, my home office needs are very limited. I’ve kept my Office 365 subscription going for compatibility reasons and the 1TB storage space, but guess what? Since Google Photos no longer counts photos towards their space quota, I have less than 100GB of non-photo personal things I want to keep and back up, so a 25$ yearly 100GB Google Drive subscription would fill that void neatly. 

Thus, my plan over the next month(s) is to tie my printer to my router (Google Cloud Print FTW), purchase an Apple TV, an Xbox One S and a NAS (I already have an Android phone and tablet) and I can quite literally wave Windows-outside-the-workplace (a sad) goodbye, for there will be nothing left in my daily activities which it will do more than slightly better and quite a few activities for which it is currently worse than those appliances.

Also, you know what? I miss Ballmer…I now realize that almost my entire tenure of Windows usage was under his leadership and it was fun and exciting. Windows XP, Windows 7, all the Xboxes, Pocket PC, Windows Phone 7 (and I’m sure the list could go on and on) were all excellent experiences for their time and I honestly don’t find myself in Nadella’s new Microsoft. 

I don’t know about you guys, but if as a huge, long-time Microsoft fan all I actually need is their Xbox (and even that for only one reason that is exclusive to it – 4K BluRay), it feels like they are doomed to a business niche from which they will never emerge (so yeah, IBM).

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