Living a Cross-Platform Digital Life: Where OSes are irrelevant

Let me start by addressing the elephant in the room: I work for Microsoft. I have been working for Microsoft off and on for about eight years now and I was introduced to the world of cross-platform apps during my time at Xamarin; a start-up acquired by Microsoft in 2016. Most of my work revolves around emails, presentations and video-conference calls. During my spare time, I shoot with a Nikon D750, I pay for Adobe’s Creative Cloud and use Lightroom regularly pretending to know what I’m doing. I’m also a bit of a gadget nerd so I own a Surface Book, a Galaxy S7 Edge phone, iPad Pro 9.7, an Xbox one, a PlayStation 4, a Chromecast, a Google Home and a Microsoft Band (phew!). Each one of these devices serves a very specific purpose in my life and most recently I had a revelation: I am living a truly cross-platform life by accident and I’m loving it.

I use my Surface Book Monday through Friday during work hours. When Xamarin was acquired, we were all given the choice to use a Mac or a Windows PC, but having worked with both for an extended period of time, I am convinced that Microsoft Office is still much better on Windows than Mac OS. I send and receive over a hundred emails a day and while some of you may disagree, Outlook for Windows is still the most powerful enterprise email client. Web-based email clients and Apple Mail simply don’t cut it for me.

Photography has become a great passion of mine and you might have read recently that a lot of professional photographers and digital creatives have been abandoning the Apple camp due to the lack of powerful new hardware, leaving this small very vocal group of people very unhappy. In response to this trend, in April 2017, Apple “apologized” inviting five technology bloggers and journalists to let them know the last Mac Pro had been a mistake and promised the world a new pro-grade Mac some time in 2018. My reaction? Courage. Meanwhile, I really enjoy doing serious work and photo editing on my Surface Book. I dock it, connect it to a 34 inch monitor, I can use touch and pen in Lightroom (…) it’s amazingly powerful.

My smartphone of choice is the Galaxy S7 Edge and after a full year of owning one I have no regrets of jumping into the Android bandwagon. Android is really polished now and reliable. The camera on my phone is sensational, the screen is gorgeous and still the best I’ve seen, and it has expandable memory for all my photos and videos. Battery life still lasts the full day and all the Microsoft apps I need are there, including Cortana which can now be summoned from the Android lock screen.

But I also I travel a lot for work; at least once a month and I spend a lot of time in airports and planes. I never understood the need for a tablet until I started traveling so much. My Surface Book is clunky and uncomfortable to use on the plane and my phone’s screen is too small for extended periods of time. After doing my research and a lot of debating, I decided to get the 9.7 inch iPad Pro. Steve Jobs was right, there is space for a device between a laptop and a phone. It’s far from replacing a laptop but it’s the perfect traveling companion. It’s great for watching Netflix, reading, gaming and I can edit my photos on the go using Lightroom Mobile. Most importantly, unlike my Surface Book, the battery is amazing, and it doesn’t drain when it’s not in use so it’s always ready to go.

So how can I possibly have a connected digital experience when my main three devices run different operating systems? You see, most of the apps and services I use are available on all of these devices and the best part is they all sync state across platforms. Let me explain with a couple of examples. I love Spotify and pay a premium subscription for it. I can listen to my music everywhere: on my PlayStation 4, my Google Home, my Galaxy S7, offline and online and my playlists go where I go, no matter the device. I also love Audible and I have enough books in my library to keep me busy for the next few years which tells me it’s probably time to cancel my subscription. I listen to them on my Galaxy S7 Edge when I go for a bike ride or walk my dog, and I can continue where I left off on my iPad whenever I’m on the plane.

What about my documents? All my work and personal documents live in the cloud and so do my photos and videos. I store everything in Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox. Why three? Because they are all free and work on all my devices equally. And as far as browser goes, there’s only one choice: Chrome. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Microsoft’ Edge or Apple’s Safari, but they are useless in my cross-platform digital life, and I hope Apple and Microsoft take note.

So, for me, the OS of the device has become completely irrelevant and I have the freedom of roaming across platforms. I don’t have to choose between brands, and unlike millions of people, I’m not locked in to any of the usual ecosystems. I get to choose a device based of my preference and my needs. To paraphrase Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, it’s not the device that is Mobile, it is the person. Cross-platform, cloud-connected apps have made this possible and while I may be an outlier, I know I’m not the only one and I can only assume this is a growing trend. What do you think?