Ok, I admit it… I’m an Apple snob. Apple has been firing on all cylinders since the launch of OS X 10.4, and hasn’t appeared to be slowing down. The switch to Intel drew me in, and I haven’t looked back. For work though, I live in a different world. I’m fortunate to work at a company that allows me to have a Mac Pro desktop, a Macbook Pro laptop, and an iPhone; iPhones and iPads rule the roost for phones and tablets. With Parallels, VMWare, RDP, and Back to My Mac, I can live in both worlds and be VERY happy. So, I do still keep up with Microsoft.
This week was a big week for the Evil Empire (Microsoft, not Apple!). Lots of goodies came out:
- Windows 8.1 – This goes a LONG way to fixing the absolute nuclear disaster that Windows 8 is. 8.1 doesn’t fix everything, but it does fix a lot. It’s amazing that Microsoft realized how bad 8 was and worked quickly to resolve. Even better, 8.1 is a free, IN PLACE upgrade to Windows 8. Microsoft is finally learning how to do in place updates. Hopefully the days of reinstalling everything for the Windows crowd will soon be behind them. Also, Windows 8.1 is a more efficient OS. On the Virtual Machines that I run at work and home, Win 8.1 is MUCH faster than 7. My guess is that the reduced video card requirements help out in that area.
- Visual Studio 2013 – This update is a lot bigger than most people realize. Visual Studio 2012 had the same flaw that Windows 8 had… it completely failed at doing the job it was supposed to do. The .NET 4.5 framework has gotten better and better, but VS 2012 made developing for it truly horrible. VS 2013 fixed a LOT of the issues. The Team Foundation part of VS 2013 is very usable, and the new IDE tools in 2013 make programs like Resharper and CodeRush not so much requirements any more. Plus, the Database tools have come back, and are better than ever. The loss of the scripting engine in the IDE still hasn’t been addressed, and it’s doubtful that it ever will come back, unless it is as Powershell.
- Remote Desktop Client for non-Windows platforms – Microsoft released Remote Desktop clients for Android and iOS, plus did a SIGNIFICANT upgrade to the Mac desktop client. It’s funny, almost all the news sites have talked about the Android / iOS client, but none have reviewed the OS X client. It’s not perfect, but it certainly addresses a LOT of features that have been missing. Being able to use the Remote Desktop with a remote desktop gateway and true multi-monitor support have been great.
Hopefully, this represents a new direction from Microsoft. Many of their products have finally matured to the point of going from ‘it sorta works’ to ‘I love working with it’. Some of the examples are: Outlook.com receiving SMTP finally, which makes using the service with a non-Microsoft email client useful (deletes and reads are global!!! Horrray!) Skydrive rocks. Azure being competitive. Lots of little things across the board that just seem to finally be coming together.
Good job Microsoft!