Apple gets you without even trying.
You buy one Apple product and, when you get another one, it works with such blissful ease that you wonder why the whole world wasn’t built like this.
I exaggerate, of course, but only slightly.
Apple has always dedicated its soul to making its products human-friendly. This, though, has become harder as the technology sphere has become more complex.
What, though, if you just want to get away from Apple? What if you think, as some do, that it’s a company built on sanctimonious fakery and snobbery?
Is it possible to go somewhere else and experience the same seductively-synced ease?
This is the existential question I’ve forced myself to explore. So my first stop was to visit Apple’s oldest rival, Microsoft.
What would one of its stores suggest to get me away from Apple’s walled nation?
A very cheery Microsoft saleswoman instantly greeted me. She wanted to help. I wanted to know why she was so cheery. It turned out that’s just the way she is.
So I asked: “Is it possible to get the same seamless experience with Microsoft as I get with Apple?”
“It’s easy,” she replied.
It is? Why had no one ever told me this before? There would have been a world of opportunity for me to explore. Yet here I was in a store that displayed laptops, tablets, but no phones. And, as far as I could see, no smart speakers or watches.
“All you need is a Microsoft account,” she continued.
“So if, say, I have a Dell laptop, a Samsung phone, and other assorted devices, simply having a Microsoft account will be the same as having iOS and everything will work together?”
I was, of course, describing my wife’s devices. She’s not entirely an Apple fanperson.
I was still struggling with the idea that life in the Microsoft firmament could be so disarmingly simple. I pointed to all the hardware around the store and asked whether the saleswoman would recommend one of them to begin my seamless Microsoft-centered experience.
“Not really. Microsoft’s about the software. All you have to do is start working with Windows and you’ll easily be able to have your files everywhere.”
“Yes, but what about a smart speaker?”
“There’s the Harmon Kardon that’s got Cortana built in,” she replied.
“And how do I get Cortana?”
“You just download the app.”
Here, of course, is one of the main differences between the Apple ecosystem and everything else. With Apple, you feel as if you don’t even have to download anything. The apps are already there on your phone and easily synced with your laptop, your iPad and even your HomePod.
Apple wants you to feel, not think.
The saleswoman proceeded to pull out her phone and show me how easily Microsoft’s apps work on her Samsung Galaxy S10.
“So does a Samsung work better with Microsoft software?”
“No, it doesn’t really matter. You can use an iPhone if you want.”
“And it works the same?”
“OK, but what phone would you actually recommend?”
The answer she gave was curious: “Well, Microsoft hasn’t made an announcement yet.”
Excuse me? What was that?
“You’re bringing out new phones?”
“I’m not saying that,” she replied. “We used to have Windows phones and then we bought Nokia and…”
She trailed off, as if she wasn’t sure she should have mentioned the supposed announcement nor how to describe one of modern technology’s more dramatic debacles.
Instead, she pointed me to free classes the store holds in order to help you become Microsoft-seamless across all the devices you own now.
Sample class: Get Organized with OneNote. Second sample class: Improve Your Privacy.
I didn’t see a class called Get Away From Tim Cook’s Self-Righteous Poseur Mob.
You see, Microsoft knew how to make money — brutally — from software services long before Apple joined in.
“So why does Microsoft sell all this hardware?” I asked.
“We’ve been doing it for 10 years,” was her marvelous non-sequitur of an answer. She immediately drifted onto telling me that the Surface Go was just as good as a laptop and that there was a smart speaker that also worked with Alexa.
You’re not even faithful to Cortana?
Go to a Microsoft store and it seems they’re happy whatever hardware you’re using. They’re even happy to see Apple products. Why, the saleswoman confessed to me she still had an old MacBook. “It’s really old,” she said, not revealing which computer she uses now.
The message was clear: As long as you use Microsoft software for everything, Redmond is happy and you should be, too.
It’s the true window into simplicity. Allegedly.