Taking the plunge, a month with only Microsoft: Part One

Microsoft claims to be "All In" the cloud, but are they really? Are their services good enough to convert to entirely, without relying on another company for an essential task, such as search? The Redmond software giant is convinced that their products are as good as or better than their competitors at the moment, so I'm going to put them to the test.

Over the next month, I'm going to take the plunge and stop using Google products. That's right, I've decided to go 100% Microsoft. I didn't even think it would be possible, but with the release of so many good products over the last few months, I decided it could be a good time to give it a try. In the course of the next few weeks, this series will look at "living the Microsoft life" -- using Office 365 for documents, Hosted Exchange for email (part of Office 365), Bing for search and Windows Phone 7 for mobile. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, before today I used Gmail exclusively for email, Google exclusively for search and Windows Phone 7 for mobile. I'm quite attached to the products, and consider myself brand loyal, so this will be an interesting ride. Let's take a quick look at the products as they are today, and how easy it was to switch to them.

Office 365

This Microsoft-hosted suite brings something new to the table for the company. It unifies their previously fragmented offering (all of the products included were offered in separate forms online) under one banner, and works together in unison. It combines Exchange, Sharepoint, Lync and Office Online into one product. Office 365 is targetted at small to large business' who want to have their email hosted in the cloud.

Setting up Office 365 is a breeze, with sign up taking only a brief amount of time. However, to use a custom domain with Office 365, you have to change the entire domain over to the service, not just the MX records for email. The process was as simple as updating my name servers (of which I was walked through, in case I didn't know how to do it). Once you're set up and logged in, you're presented with a simple, easy to understand login page that really covers everything you'd need to know.

Covered on this page is how to set up your mobile/desktop with the services, as well as links to the various services on offer. Mobile setup was easy as I use Windows Phone 7, which is ideal for this service. I just typed in my address and password and it figured out the rest. Desktop setup was just as easy. The setup page is two simple steps, install Lync 2010, then, configure settings. I've always been a big webmail user because I've been too lazy to configure desktop software for Gmail, but this makes it so easy it's worth it, and Outlook 2010 is the best mail client I've ever used.

After this setup, I jumped into the web interface for Office 365's version of Exchange and was actually amazing with how good it is. As a (fanatic) Gmail user -- since 2001 -- I didn't think I'd like this, but I've fallen in love. First of all, its fast. Sure, Gmail is fast, but we've all encountered the "Loading..." screen over and over. There is none of that here. Click on a message, it'll open instantly, change to Calendar and it loads fast. It's got built in Lync (with Windows Live Messenger support) as well as conversation view and more. Wow.

There are some strange quirks, like I can't seem to find a direct login page for email, and I have to go through the "Welcome" page every time, but that's OK for now. It'll be interesting to see if the experience is the same over the space of a month. I really feel like this product has a chance against Google's juggernaut; Gmail.

The email component of Office 365 includes 25GB of Email, Forefront spam protection (I can't wait to try this out) as well as unlimited email "archiving", making it competitive to other offerings available online.

Bing

I'll be honest here, I am really not looking forward to this. I've tried Bing in the past, and it... works. But not as I'd expect it to, or am used to with Google. These things come with habit and familiarity. Bing results are served differently than I expect, and ranked differently too, so I'll have to change my search behavior radically.

The look of Bing is fantastic, it's great that they jazz it up with pictures from around the world on the site (and on the WP7 page) but it'll be interesting to see if I can actually find anything over the next month. Because I'm based in New Zealand and we don't get around 90% of the features that the US do, I've set my location to "United States" throughout this test so I can get the full experience. 

The Challenge

Over the next month, I'll be striving to stop using all Google services. I'll likely have to go as far as redirecting all Google requests in my hosts file to Bing to make myself commit, as I'll probably get tempted at times to give up. Throughout the month, look out for posts on how the service use is going, my experiences and dismay. 

If you have any questions or things you'd like us to cover in this series, let us know in the comments.

Update: Thanks for your comments. You've mostly pointed out I should be using IE9 on top of this to round it off. I'm going to do this too, and use IE9 exclusively on my machines around the house and at work. It'll help provide a good overview, and makes sense.

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57 Comments

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good luck owen,

as you pointed out. our NZ Bing is useless I myself use the English US bing also.
i use google a lot also but have been slowly switching to bing also.

Gmail (i use a lot but i will give hotmail a try via Windows Mail)

IE9: This is good the Latest update from Windows update actualy solved my slow IE9 issues.
I will actualy use IE9 now and uninstall Firefox and see how it goes.

Bing is going to be pretty cool when MS enable HTML5 on Bing.

again good luck and Let the Haters Hate. I use to swear IE9 was Jumk its Actualy pretty good now.

And if your not useing MSE You realy shuld try it its actualy pretty good.

Sorry, with all due respect, not backing down from my original comment. Moronic article. Next you'll post about "taking the plunge from some flavor of linux to all things Microsoft" and imply that it is Microsoft the weird off the wall, non standard software to use.

Gmail juggernaut? Doesn't Hotmail have a MUCH MUCH MUCH larger userbase, and hasn't it always? Admittedly it hasn't been as good as Gmail until recently. And guess what, MS does NOT use your personal private emails in their market research, as does Google if I'm not mistaken.

This sounds good.. I may join in!! Have a problem with that? I hope not because it sounds like a very good challenge.. only thing I can't drop is my cell phone.. Samsung Fascinate ... Droid.. etc. But this is interesting.. I'm up for a challenge!!!

MrPink said,
Now how about "A month only with Apple" ?

I bet you didn't even read the article, but still you say "apple"...

its stupid that alot of people read microsoft and automatically they want a "vs apple"... seriously... did you read what is it about? its not about "microsoft" itself, its not like he was running chrome OS, since he mentions he can use IE9... it means he has windows.

but.. back to my point. its about what microsoft offers for bussiness in the cloud... office webapps and office professinal plus, Exchange, SharePoint, lync... do apple have something like that?.....
google does, in their environment of course, so its a comparison between them for what they offer in the cloud, from mail stuff, to search engines, to office/docs. simply their stuff that can be comparable.

Yeah Microsoft has been making some great progress lately. I have switched to IE9 (after refusing to use it for many years for anything other than testing web apps I develop), Bing has been great for me straight out of the IE bar - barely use Google for personal searches anymore (mostly for SEO) and the new Office 365 looks really nice but I use SkyDrive for personal stuff and Google Docs for business as most people I work with work and collaborate on Google Docs (but if I could, I would switch them to Office365/SharePoint). Google Docs is great but also has it's problems too (and is kind of slow compared to office web apps). Windows Live Sync is also great (I only wish they would re-consider their file size limitations and let us purchase more space). Having easy remote desktop access to my home pc and my workstation (with no router/firewall config) is massive for me!

You can log directly into 365's owa...you just have to find your address. Do that by going into your inbox and then click on the down arrow next to the help question mark on the far right hand side of the screen. Choose the option 'about' under the pull down menu.

On the dialog box will be the line "Host address:" that address you can use to log into your owa.

Actually, this has inspired me to give 365 a shot. I've been somewhat hesitant to launch into it (for whatever reason I don't know) but now I'm intrigued.

This is really interesting to see if Microsoft can cover all your computing needs for a month. Looking forward to the result!

I don't really see the point of this article exactly. Many people don't use Apple / Google products, what is so strange about it?

Anyway, you won't be having problems with anything, I'm sure you won't even notice a difference.

Julius Caro said,
There's brand loyalty and then there's plain fanboyism

No. Microsoft is not traditionally a cloud powerhouse, so he wants to test Microsoft's online services.

I have forwarded all my Gmail to Hotmail and don't log into it anymore, using IE9 and Bing (Google if in the 1% of the time Bing can't find my result) and I use all the Windows / Office suites.

No issues here, looking forward to rounding it all off with a new Windows Phone

I've been doing this for some time already... I switched to Bing when it came out and I don't even have Firefox installed anymore. I still use GMail occasionally but I use POP3 with WLM to get my mail from it. It should be interesting to see this as a news story.

Sorry but what a totally moronic article. Switching totally to 100% Microsoft products? Oh yeah for sure, what a disaster waiting to happen. How to billions of people do it every day. How do billions of businesses do it every day. Sorry neowin, but this is just a totally moronic article. This guy gee, is really going off the reservation here and doing what no man has done before? Give me a break. USELESS article.

Delmont said,
Sorry but what a totally moronic article. Switching totally to 100% Microsoft products? Oh yeah for sure, what a disaster waiting to happen. How to billions of people do it every day. How do billions of businesses do it every day. Sorry neowin, but this is just a totally moronic article. This guy gee, is really going off the reservation here and doing what no man has done before? Give me a break. USELESS article.

You make a valid point dude, but this is more looking at actually making the choice to personally use these services, too. Sure, it looks at the business aspect, but I'm covering if consumers would actually choose to use these services themselves, over Gmail for example.

Thanks for voicing your mind, but no need to attack us!

Edited by Owen W, Apr 30 2011, 11:17am :

Delmont said,
Sorry but what a totally moronic article. Switching totally to 100% Microsoft products? Oh yeah for sure, what a disaster waiting to happen. How to billions of people do it every day. How do billions of businesses do it every day. Sorry neowin, but this is just a totally moronic article. This guy gee, is really going off the reservation here and doing what no man has done before? Give me a break. USELESS article.

Can you not see where Owen is coming from with this? There is no doubt that many many people get along just fine using Microsoft products (allthough i bet they don`t all have a WP7), this is not about that at all. Owen states that he is a Google user for several of his products and has been for quite some time. He likes their offerings and is used to them!
In this little experiment he is going to use similar products made by Microsoft, then he will evaluate his experience and explore the pro and cons (in his opinion) the different services these companies offer.
Hats off to Owen for doing this, it may help others choose what`s best or even make others give something different a try. I know if he comes back and says his experience with Bing was positive i may give it a longer go than i normally would. Familiarity breeds contempt

Alansonit said,
If you don't use IE with Office 365 then any comments you will have will be thrown into question.

Thanks mate, noted, and I've now switched to IE9

Office 365 is gonna rock. but the broswer (IE), Bing and Online services such as maps etc are going to frustrate you. i really wish you'd have gone Office Docs and Hotmail wich are free instead of Office 365 as its those products most consumers are going to use.

guru said,
Office 365 is gonna rock. but the broswer (IE), Bing and Online services such as maps etc are going to frustrate you. i really wish you'd have gone Office Docs and Hotmail wich are free instead of Office 365 as its those products most consumers are going to use.

Why would IE or Bing, maps etc. frustrate him? In my experience they're just as good as alternatives and in some ways (birds eye imagery for example) are better.

Windows Live documents and Office 365 use the same web apps, it just saves to a different place; likewise Outlook web app and Hotmail are incredibly alike (right down to the themes available).

I think it will provide a pretty good analysis of the Microsoft ecosystem.

andrew_f said,

Why would IE or Bing, maps etc. frustrate him? In my experience they're just as good as alternatives and in some ways (birds eye imagery for example) are better.

Windows Live documents and Office 365 use the same web apps, it just saves to a different place; likewise Outlook web app and Hotmail are incredibly alike (right down to the themes available).

I think it will provide a pretty good analysis of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Bings spelling correction or alternative suggestion isnt as good as google's. Chrome extensions make it very useful browser not to mention IE's ui quirks like not immediately rendering a site. Maps aren't great in India and from what i've read outside of Us it isnt generally as good as google's bar a few countries.
ok on the docs. didnt know that. i;d have thought 365 to be a step above live docs. , considering they are charging for it. + it seems to have Lync , Sharepoint etc not really used by consumers

I reccomend changing your Bing to the US version if you're not running that already - it seems to be better than the UK one at least.

andrew_f said,
I reccomend changing your Bing to the US version if you're not running that already - it seems to be better than the UK one at least.

The original article said,
I've set my location to "United States" throughout this test so I can get the full experience.

Actually reading the article would be advisable before commenting Andrew

FunkTrooper said,
>Gmail user
>since 2001

Didn't Gmail launch in 2004?

2003 i think, my oldest may is from early 2004 and it was launched 1-2months before i think outside Google itself

Shadowzz said,
2003 i think, my oldest may is from early 2004 and it was launched 1-2months before i think outside Google itself

It was launched on the 1st of April 2004

This is going to be very interesting! You can totally do it. I was intially a Microsoft fan growing up, then started the Google thing loved Gmail for years. But it started with the Zune then Xbox, and I'm back into Microsoft and I have been loving it. It has it's quirks, definitely, but it's progressively getting better and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Windows 8! I can't wait, and I'll be watching this closely :-)

I'm actually keen to see the progress of this Owen - a good challenge indeed.

I went the same way as @smot , flipped to Bing a couple months ago coz the damn continual prompting on the top right of Google about Chrome started getting on my nerve quite frankly. And about 98% of my searching over these months have been Binging and Liking. And stunning photos with some interesting digressions from my 'search time'.

Another thing that happened a month ago was changing phones. I looked at everything and made some deep dives into usability, design, features, etc - WP7 came bubbling up on top of the pack and I have been i m p r e s s e d. I had numerous versions of phones in the past and this Samsung Focus, is awesome! Simple, to the point, has numerous features, brilliant connectivity with my BT earpiece and I can initiate voice dialling very easily (something that a few of previous makes/models couldn't quite well. Minimalist in design which is what I love about it. A classy piece of work.

All the best Owen and look forward to reading your updates on this quest!

tropolite said,
I'm actually keen to see the progress of this Owen - a good challenge indeed.

I went the same way as @smot , flipped to Bing a couple months ago coz the damn continual prompting on the top right of Google about Chrome started getting on my nerve quite frankly. And about 98% of my searching over these months have been Binging and Liking. And stunning photos with some interesting digressions from my 'search time'.

Another thing that happened a month ago was changing phones. I looked at everything and made some deep dives into usability, design, features, etc - WP7 came bubbling up on top of the pack and I have been i m p r e s s e d. I had numerous versions of phones in the past and this Samsung Focus, is awesome! Simple, to the point, has numerous features, brilliant connectivity with my BT earpiece and I can initiate voice dialling very easily (something that a few of previous makes/models couldn't quite well. Minimalist in design which is what I love about it. A classy piece of work.

All the best Owen and look forward to reading your updates on this quest!


Thanks mate. Agreed with your feelings. I love WP7 too, I'm impressed with where Microsoft are headed, I just wish everyone else would see its true power.

Haven't used Google for search in over a year. Can't say I've had any trouble finding things.

I always wonder what sort of super-sophisticated topics people search for which they claim to have such trouble with Bing. I loved Google back in the day when it was the clean, new, fast search engine that was undeniably superior. Then somewhere along the way they became a rather arrogant company and I fell out of love. The last time I used Google was the day I realized my first several links were all to pages trying to sell me things. By then, they seemed a lot more interested in advertising than search anyway.

Shrug. Bing works for me. This promises to be an interesting column.

smot said,
I always wonder what sort of super-sophisticated topics people search for which they claim to have such trouble with Bing.

pretty much anything not us-centric.

forlorn said,

pretty much anything not us-centric.

Using the international version (yeah, I know Bing has a Russian version) and searching in Russian, doesn't give me any difficulties in finding what I'm looking for.

I think he's testing the hosted services. We know plenty about the browsers already and I'm sure most people have already made up their mind with that one.

TrOjAn. said,
He also uses FF ..

He didn't say that he will not go with Google products but that he will go all the way with Microsoft so IE9 is the browser he should be using at the moment

Dark-Side said,

He didn't say that he will not go with Google products but that he will go all the way with Microsoft so IE9 is the browser he should be using at the moment

I agree. IE9 is part of the great products of the modern Microsoft. It should be used in the test if this is going to at test for moving to the all MS ecosystem

Should be fine, Bing is pretty good (2 months use). Although occasionally I use Google for some searches if a specific page does not appear on the first page of Bing (which 98% of the time it does).

Hello Owen! Might I out point out something?
I think you are taking this "Plunge" with some assumtions that might not be true. Like you expect your search behaviour to change radically. It might have to, but expecting this to happen with certianity will most certianly affect your observations of this experiment.
I suggest you go for this with an open mind, and judge things as they come up.

Besides that, this is a fantastic 30 day trial! I will be keeping an eye on this!
If more people try Microsoft's less popular services & products for a period of few days, I'm sure it'll make Google & Apple very worried.
Good luck!

TrOjAn. said,
Good read, looking forward to May 30th

I generally find that Owen is one of the best writers here, and consistently comes out with interesting stuff to read. Definitely going to follow this.