When my editor pointed me at an article titled:

"Microsoft executive considers it a 'responsibility' to help you unplug"

...my first thought was it was satire from The Onion because, IMHO, there are few better arguments for unplugging more frequently than the Windows operating system. 

The article, from the WaPo, explains that Yusuf Mehdi, VP of Microsoft's Modern Life and Devices team, turned off his phone while on a three-month sabbatical, an experience that made him think about "the preciousness of time."

I know exactly how he feels, because whenever I need to set up or service a Windows machine, I end up thinking really hard about "the preciousness of time"... as I slowly pull my hair out in frustration.

Mehdi's remarks were timed to support the launch of the Surface Go, which Microsoft bills as "the smallest, lightest, and most affordable Surface yet..."

With a 10" screen, 1.15 lbs, 8.3 mm thickness and a $399 price point, the Surface Go is obviously intended to compete not just as a tablet (the marker where the Surface was originally launched) but with the Chromebook.

Microsoft probably and rightly sees the Chromebook as an even greater threat to Windows hegemony than the iPad, considering that Chromebooks are absolutely killing it in the K-12 education market. One wonders whether as Gen-Z ages using smartphones, game consoles, and Chromebooks, they'll see much of a need for a PC.

Especially since owning a PC involves so much effort. 

About a year ago, I replaced my Windows PC. Even though I've been using and supporting Windows machines since, well, Version 1.0, it took me the better part of a day and a call to Microsoft service to set the thing up so that it would run correctly.

I keep my system very vanilla (to avoid maintenance problems) but even then, Windows 10 weirdly forces me change my password which requires me to log off as a user, log on as an administrator, and then monkey around inside the security settings.

By contrast, about the same time I bought my kids (who are 12 and 13) new Chromebooks. I had both devices online and running in less than 60 seconds, total and since have spent exactly zero seconds supporting those two devices.

The problem is Windows, which in its current implementation was designed to run a data center. It was arguably overkill in terms of complexity when it was ported to run on a standard PC, but it's a massive complexity overkill running on a tablet or phone.

Indeed, Microsoft's "Windows Everywhere" prevented them from success in smartphone and media players (remember the Zune?) The Surface isn't really a tablet; it's a Windows PC with a tablet interface, the equivalent of a Tesla car body powered by a steam engine.

According to the WaPo article, Microsoft is concerned about survey research showing that

"59 percent of Americans say their portable devices make them feel as if they have to be 'always on' [while] 53 percent said that having mobile devices 'forces' them to do work on the go."

In reaction to this data, Microsoft is "thinking about making products that fit into people's lives, not take them over."

What's vaguely ludicrous about this idea is that the reason people feel "forced to work" isn't really the devices that enable it. The true culprit is the "cult of overwork" that forces almost everybody to work ridiculously long hours.

So maybe there IS something to the idea that mobile devices should be designed to be harder-to-use and therefore less addictive. If so, Microsoft Windows is well on its way to becoming a market leader.

Published on: Aug 3, 2018