Great hardware, a much improved Windows 10, and Microsoft AI lured me away from my beloved MacBook Pro.

My trusty MacBook Pro has been getting extremely slow lately. I’ve tried all the tricks of the trade to fix the situation, but I still see that spinning pinwheel too often for too long.

Not wanting to invest in a new MacBook Pro so close to the release of the next model. I decided to try a Chromebook to see if it would do for web browsing and my cloud development. I decided to go with Google’s Pixelbook. It’s an attractive device with an acceptable tactile feel and a crisp screen.

The Pixelbook easily handled 95% of my daily computing needs. But the 5% it didn’t manage were essential parts of my workflow. I’m not going into the issues I had; you can easily find discussions about Chrome OS online. Google will resolve many of my problems when Linux is available without third-party apps. Not wanting to wait for that, I decided to return the Pixelbook.

Still wanting something to get work done while waiting for the next MacBook releases, I decided to give Microsoft’s Surface Pro another look. Several years ago, I gave the first Surface a try. Within a day it went back to the Microsoft Store for a refund. I don’t know which I hated more; the device itself or the abysmal version of Windows it ran.

Since Impact is a Microsoft ISV Partner and we use the Office 365 suite of tools, I decided to try the latest Surface Pro again.

I’ve lived in the Apple world so long that getting used to Windows again took a few days. It took another day to find all the apps, tools, and extensions installed so I could have a workflow like my Mac workflow. But to my surprise, once I got it setup and had a few days working on it, I’m beginning to love it.

I soured on Microsoft in the Ballmer era. Microsoft became a company I associated with arrogance and hubris. Their internal teams didn’t work well together, and their products were a mess. Microsoft under Nadella is a very different company. I see it as a Microsoft Partner, and now I’ve experienced it as a consumer.

There are many things I like about the Surface Pro. The screen is crisp and clear; I can ditch the keyboard when I want to walk around with the tablet. The pen has a good feel, and Windows 10 has an excellent tool for marking up anything you see on your screen. Reporting issues or suggestions about our web apps used to be tedious. Now I can circle or highlight an area that needs attention, scribble a note and send to our triage department or directly to the engineer in charge of the application.

Recently Microsoft added something that is a game changer. Microsoft Office apps, Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint now have dictation using Microsoft’s cognitive services. You can compose a word document, email, or build your PowerPoint using dictation. That feature is only available if you currently have a Microsoft Office 365 subscription and enable dictation in the office suite. I’ve created this entire post using Word and the dictation feature. Once I finished dictating, I’m going to tell you the number of errors so that you can get a feel for the accuracy of the dictation. I’ve been very impressed.

One thing I really like is the ability to have the tablet in my hand and walk around as I’m talking.

I think best when I’m walking around. When I’m sitting at a desk with a keyboard and a blank screen, my mind often goes blank as well. The physical process of moving around helps my brain to function more efficiently. Even though my typing speed and speaking speeds are almost the same, thinking and speaking is more comfortable for me than thinking and typing.
I’ve been able to produce this document as fast as I can think what to say. That’s quite amazing.

So far most of the mistakes in the dictation of this post are my speaking mistakes. I sometimes start a thought and change the words in the middle of the sentence. Also pausing to collect my thoughts will insert a period, and start a new sentence. That’s a bit of a problem since I’ll often hesitate in the middle of a sentence to precisely choose the right words. That’s an editing problem though, and editing is easier than writing. I must say this is a great way to go from blank page to the first draft. So far, I’m loving the Surface Pro. I may never go back to Mac again.

Two other things to note, Cortana is much more useful than Siri on the Mac. She can execute actions, and they’re usually the actions you want! Secondly, the Surface Pro and Windows 10 let you use facial recognition to log in. My iPhone X has ruined any other form of device user authentication for me. It’s not perfect on the Surface; different glasses never tripped up my iPhone but cause Surface to fail. I can live with it.

Apple’s going to have to come out with something amazing to get me back.

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I had to correct 12 dictation errors. I won’t mention the number of grammar errors and if typing, I would have hit the backspace key at least 50 times.

Posted May 14, 2018 filed under Development News.