Sorry Microsoft, I’m switching back to Google (but not entirely)

Fifth in a series. Nearly two months ago I gave up Google and switched to Microsoft. Although I tried not to have any preconceptions, I’ll be honest and say I thought (based on past experience), I’d be swapping a set of mostly superb products and services for a collection of inferior alternatives and hate every moment I was away from Google.

That turned out not to be the case. Now my experiment is over, I find myself impressed with some elements of Microsoft’s offerings, but frustrated with others. So here’s a summary of my overall experience.

Configuring everything took a little while, and there were hiccups along the way, but that’s to be expected -- I’ve been using Google’s services for years and while Microsoft’s versions are understandably similar, they aren’t (for the most part) exact clones.

I’ve covered my experience with Bing previously, and while I like Microsoft’s search site, it’s too much of a compromise for me to use permanently. In order to get the most from it I need to change my country from the UK (where I live) to the US (where I don’t). I don’t understand why Microsoft has decided to create a pretty decent search site with lots of cool features, and then only made a fraction of those features available outside of America. I assume it’s a money thing -- the company wants to put all of the available resources into its largest market -- but even so it’s frustrating.

So as much as I like Bing, I have no real choice but to switch back to Google. For now at least.

I say "for now" because that could well change in the future. I recently chatted with Bill Hankes, Director of Bing Public Relations at Microsoft (you’ll be able to read the full interview on Monday) and he told me that Bing is looking to expand its offerings globally and will announce more details when available. Which all sounds very positive.

Goodbye Gmail

I’ve written about my experience with Outlook.com, and I’m still enjoying using the service, so I’m going to stick with it for now. But I’ll be honest, there are some things about it that frustrate me.

While I still get the occasional piece of spam in my inbox, far worse is when clearly genuine mail -- filtered by Gmail beforehand -- gets junked. SmartScreen still seems pretty dumb at times, but it has gotten better over the two months I’ve been using it and I’m confident it will eventually get as good as Google’s spam detection. Or nearly as good anyway.

Even though I’m not a massive Skype user, the integration of the chat service into Outlook.com gives me a further incentive to stay. (As an aside, I find it interesting that while most of Bing’s best features are currently American-only, Skype for Outlook.com was rolled out in the UK first).

IE10 -- Better Than Expected

Internet Explorer has a reputation for being the best browser… for downloading other browsers with. That’s unfair. Once you’ve configured it how you like it, it’s actually not a bad program. There are some elements I really like, such as the tab implementation, and security and privacy tools. Its HTML5 and CSS3 support is very good, and the browser is obviously integral into Windows 8. But IE is simply not for me. Although I appreciate the ability to pin sites to the Windows 8 Start screen, I can’t use the Modern UI version because that’s not how I work. I’ve currently got 15 browser tabs open at the moment, and that’s very light for me. I usually have a crazy amount of tabs on the go.

Although I had no real problems with using the desktop version of IE on a daily basis, the truth is I miss the extensions I take for granted on Chrome so I’m switching back to Google’s browser.

Summing Up

My experience over these past months has taught me that Microsoft’s services aren’t bad. In fact they are mostly pretty good, and you could easily switch to using them full time if you’re prepared to overlook a few problems here and there. My swap was never about boycotting Google as part of some grand gesture, so I have no problem with going back to using its browser and search services once more.

Although Google’s recent actions, like closing Reader and making all roads lead to Google+, are irritating as hell, the search giant gets away with it because it produces mostly excellent products and services for free.

I’d certainly understand if any readers did decide that enough was enough and choose to make the break away from Google. To those people I’d say the transition is easier than you might think. Outlook.com and Bing are good straight trades and Internet Explorer is a decent browser -- provided you use Windows 8 and don’t require any extensions that aren’t available (although you could just use Firefox).

The interesting thing for me now will be whether, once I’ve gone back to Google, I start missing Microsoft…

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