User experience is an ongoing series of surprises: The discovery of something unexpected and useful when positive, and the discovery of annoying glitches when negative. Both evoke emotional responses. The latter is devastating as little frustrations build to crescendo. That's the state I near with my "Microsoft All-In" experiment. Dissatisfaction grows.
I started this journey on 1 July, after buying Surface Pro 3. The tablet-hybrid promised so much, and my overall experience with the hardware is excellent. I can't say the same about the operating system, web browser, or supporting services. Clunky is a good word. Think of an old car that runs well on the motorway but sometimes stutters and stalls at traffic lights. The overall UX is nowhere near as smooth as Chrome OS or OS X.
For example, Internet Explorer hiccups blow my workflow and writing concentration. When I started this journey, some commenters wagged their fingers about IE11 standards support. Now, I wonder if they're right. Writing a post like this one in WordPress eventually ends like this: The delete button stops functioning and the letter "a" no longer types. Hell, I can't even copy and paste it. WTH? Meanwhile, backspace wipes whole sentences.
My remedy: Wait a few minutes, because sometimes the problem corrects itself, or force close the browser. I assumed WordPress was the problem until recently seeing the same behaviour using Twitter. So, I assume – and you can correct me – the problem has something to do with text-entry forms and how IE11 supports or caches them. You tell me.
The disruption to my concentration typically blows a hole in my writing flow – more than a distracting phone call or instant message. I can put up a "busy" notice that lets people know to bug off. Internet Explorer interrupts with a smile and middle finger.
Last night, I broke down and installed Chrome, which is still confined to Desktop mode. But if IE11 problems persist, I will switch Google's browser to the default and use it under Modern UI. Even by installing Chrome, I made a choice to not be fully "Microsoft All-In". Perhaps the browser will stay idle.
(Note: The problem occurred five paragraphs after the one above, forcing me to close IE and start fresh. Frack that!)
Return to sender
Email is another buggy bear, and I initially assumed the problem was Windows' Modern UI mail client. But the blame falls on Outlook.com. First, some praise: Microsoft's support for Gmail and other communications services is impressive. Outlook.com quickly and thoroughly imported all my mail and folders from Google's service. I forward all Gmail to Outlook.com so that I can manage messages from a single set of folders. Oftentimes, when replying to one of these forwarded messages, delivery fails, and I receive a response informing me of this.
I first noticed the gotcha using Windows Phone, then Windows 8.1. The problem persists on Outlook.com, which clearly is the source. The solution is to reply through Microsoft's servers rather than Google's. But I frequently forget, and, goddammit, I shouldn't have to remember.
Perhaps Google is to blame, except I haven't seen behaviour like this using Gmail with other services or clients, such as Apple's.
Email sync is slow. On Android, if I manage messages and then go to Chromebook, Gmail is synced. Google gets it right. But I if clean out my inbox on Windows Phone, changes are often delayed on Windows 8.1, or vice versa. I'm forced to refresh, which often doesn't work.
Calendar and Contacts sync are awash on Windows 8.1. For unfathomable reasons, the account settings only present the option for mail sync. But on a separate domain, hosted with Office 365, all three are present and they sync as expected. WTH?
I initially hobbled along by enabling Facebook Contact sync. But at the end of July, I said "frack it", and enabled Google Contact sync. Kudos to Microsoft for syncing with the competing service – that's good customer service. Too bad its own service is fatally flawed. I searched Microsoft help forums, where this sync problem is a hot topic. I tried several of the suggested fixes, but none worked.
More to come
I could go on, because these gotchas just nip the surface of inexplicable, idiosyncratic behaviour. I throw out these few examples to see if any other Windows users have encountered them or others. I seek solace in shared misery to some extent.
My "All-In" journey started with high expectations, seeing as how Microsoft makes everything – like Apple does with its stuff. The cloud, the operating system, and the hardware – complete stack – is Microsoft made. There are no OEMs to blame for crapware. Surface Pro 3 is the company's showcase. But from my vantage, six weeks in, there are too many cracks in the glass.