In January of this year, I placed an order for a $3,600 Dell XPS 17.
I've been a (relatively) loyal Apple user for most of my professional career. While I've been exposed to them in one form or another since childhood, it wasn't until I played with a former professor's titanium PowerBook G4 that I caught the bug. I bought my first iBook shortly after, and Macs have mostly been my daily driver ever since.
But every few years, I see some interesting development happening outside the Apple ecosystem and get curious. Most recently, I was discouraged by Apple's increasingly large, increasingly closed garden. Everything works well together, but only as long as you're all-in.
Meanwhile, I was incredibly impressed by Microsoft's progress stitching previously competing technologies together. Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), Docker via WSL, VS Code Remote Development... Microsoft has created a big tent for its developers.
So I jumped in for another try. And was almost immediately disappointed.
Since purchasing my XPS in January:
- I've had two service visits (once to replace a hard drive once to replace a screen, both due to apparent firmware update issues).
- I've had to reinstall my OS twice.
- It restarts randomly overnight (I assume for Windows updates), blue-screening a non-zero number of times along the way.
- I'll put it in a bag fully charged and find it dead the next morning—a common issue with most Windows notebooks.
- Recently, my external monitors randomly turn off for 3-5 seconds. (This appears to be a Dell or Windows issue, as the XPS 15 I use for work recently started doing the same thing.)
- While working on Able, I found I was unable to make progress on the graphics side because WSL doesn't play nice with Vulkan right now.
But it wasn't until I started getting a phantom stuck Control key that I finally closed the lid, stuck the damn machine in a bag, and made my 4-year-old, 13-inch MacBook Pro my main personal machine.
And it's steady as a rock.
I still think Microsoft is making all the right moves, given where they play. But if they really want to nail the experience, they need true hardware/software integration.
"But the Surface...!" you might say. And you might be right. But as long as they have to support the long tail of legacy devices out in the wild, they will never able to truly focus on the best experience possible. It's the same story with Android.
It turns out that seams matter. Every seam creates an opportunity for something to go wrong. Every third-party between you and your user is a liability. This is a timely lesson for me. While one of the product goals of Able is to stitch the world together, the core experience of Able itself must be seamless.
Maybe it's time to take a page from Apple's playbook.