Reporter, editor at Windows IT Pro, and the brain behind SuperSite for Windows, Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) has been a longtime Microsoft enthusiast. He took five minutes to talk about his top Windows apps, phone preference, and who should be running Microsoft. The exchange is below, and we think you'll enjoy it.
Mac or PC (and all-time favorite computer, make and model)?
Amiga. My favorite was the Amiga 3000, but I could never afford one. So I had a tricked-out Amiga 500. Which, in retrospect, I probably spent just as much on as if I had bought a 3000. I wish things had turned off differently for Amiga, I do miss those days.
What's your primary phone?
Samsung Focus S running Windows Phone 7.5.
What are some of your favorite third party Windows apps?
It's probably a statement about the evolution of our industry that many of my favorite applications aren't exactly Windows specific. Once you get past Microsoft Word, which I use all day, every day, it's pretty much Google Chrome and Adobe Photoshop Elements. And iTunes, of course, though I loathe that application.
What was the last book you read?
I read regularly and voraciously, and usually have more than one book going at a time. The two I just finished couldn't have less in common, but both are incredibly good: "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution" by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, and "The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945" by Ian Kershaw. I'm going to read Michael Crichton's last book, "Micro," next. And probably yet another book about World War II. I admit I have a problem.
What current development in technology has you most excited?
There are two, actually: Mobility and cloud computing. The combination of these technologies is changing everything.
What are your top five favorite Windows Phone apps?
Amazon Kindle, Facebook, Spotify, FilterLab (an Instagram clone), and, of course, Paul Thurrott: PocketTech. You knew I had my own Windows Phone app, right? :)
With Microsoft going through a huge transition in its approach to UI, what is staying the same at the core of the company?
At its heart, Microsoft is a platforms company, not an OS company. So even if Windows fell by the wayside--which I don't see happening--the company still has some stunning platforms to push forward, including Office--which should be ported to the iPad, Android, and any other popular OS, the Xbox, and of course its various cloud initiatives. What Microsoft needs is to recapture the sense of constant fear that characterized its early days. It's gotten too comfortable.
Is there anything the company is leaving behind that you'll miss?
Zune started off horribly but became something truly special. Zune made sense as a digital media brand, and still does. I'd like to see them keep that. The Media Center software was equally excellent, but equally ignored by the public.
What's your ETA on a truly converged desktop / phone / TV setup?
We're right on the cusp. I'd say that Apple has figured out what the missing piece is with iCloud, and when you use that in tandem with a Mac/PC, iPhone, and/or Apple TV, it's almost there. Give them some credit: They really did cut through the complexity and deliver something that makes sense.
Is a Windows that runs on ARM and Intel sustainable, or will Microsoft have to pick a side?
They're different things. To use Steve Jobs' terms, Windows on ARM is a car and Windows on Intel is a truck. If Microsoft is successful in this transition, ARM becomes the volume version of Windows and the company splits the market for "mainstream computing devices" somewhat evenly with iOS and Android. If not, Microsoft is relegated to the truck market. Or what we might call the business PC market.
What's the most important thing Microsoft is working on that no one's talking about?
Voice control, which Apple has usurped with Siri. Back when the Tablet PC was a thing in the early 2000s, I used to argue that the big advance on these devices wasn't pen and ink support, it was speech. And now with Kinect, it's the same thing: The motion control interfaces on Kinect are terrible. But voice control? That works great.
Do you own a tablet? Which one?
I have a Windows 8 Developer Preview slate PC (from Samsung), an iPad, and a Kindle Fire. The first is hardly fit for day to day use, but of the other two, neither one is perfect. What I want is the tablet that doesn't (yet?) exist: An iPad that is the same size (7-inch screen) as the Kindle Fire. Looking ahead, I could see using Windows 8 on an iPad-like tablet every day. But I have to really imagine that, because it's just not here yet.
Is Ballmer still the man for the job?
No, and Ballmer was never the right man for the job, which pains me to say because I really like the guy. Microsoft is an engineering driven company, and it needs a voice at the top who understands this world, and not a salesman. My vote is for Steven Sinofsky.
Was the death of the Courier a big misstep for the company?
No, Microsoft was right to kill that device. I mentioned earlier that Microsoft is a platforms company and the big failing of the Courier is that it didn't support a single successful Microsoft platform, not one. Well, that and the fact that no one was ever going to buy that thing, despite all the moaning and hand-wringing you see online these days to the contrary. You see the same arguments about a Zune device based on Windows Phone: Everyone says they want one, but if Microsoft produced it, they'd sell 6 copies.
What will define whatever the next wave is in technology?
I feel like we've taken the smaller-thinner-lighter thing to its logical extreme and that the next wave won't be described by gadgets and "stuff" but rather by the radical integration of technology into day-to-day objects. I'm talking house walls that are all displays and hidden speakers, immersive environments in cars, restaurants, and offices, and the like, all controlled naturally. I make fun of Kinect, but it's important to see this as what it is: The incredibly unsophisticated predecessor of tomorrow's Skynet Terminator robots. On that note, I hope they don't remember what I said about them.
Photo: Nick Solares