Tech Talk: Losing my (OS) Religion

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Behold the great conundrum: After you choose Mac or PC for your office network, which operating system (OS) should you pick for your mobile devices? Do you go with Droid, Windows or iPhone, and what mobile OS works best with each laptop OS?

Operating systems loyalists have created something akin to a religion about their favorite OS. They seem to be somehow defined personally by their OS. They’ll shout at you, “I’m a Mac guy” or “I’m PC all the way.” For the lesser nerds out there, they lend some confusing ideas to the marketplace, because they make it sound like you need to be consistent in your OS between all of your devices. It’s as though your very soul is in peril if you stray from your OS.

The good news is that if you have a PC Operating System on your computer or office network, you don’t have to go with a Windows phone unless you want to. If you’re on a Mac, you don’t have to buy an iPhone. I use a PC with a Droid tablet and an iPhone, and I haven’t caused the apocalypse — yet.

Maybe that makes me a Unitarian technologist.

In search of the OS Holy Grail

So now that we know we can mix devices with different operating systems, the question is should we? If you’re in charge of buying mobile devices for your company, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you actually should try to keep the OS consistent. Once users’ brains learn how to handle the menus and information storage on one device, it is pretty luxurious to keep the experience consistent though their entire string of devices. But there are notable exceptions:

If you’re an ad agency you need iPhones:

There are too many marketing apps to check out for your clients and their competitors. Since most apps are still developed first for iPhones and then retrofitted for other devices, you’ll want to use iPhones.

But if you don’t need to force everyone to use Macs in the office. Most software (graphic design software notably excepted) is built for PCs (still) so don’t be weird. Buy PCs.

If you worry about employees using too much bandwidth by downloading dumb apps:

Get Windows OS phones. The important stuff for business is retrofitted for this OS and there aren’t nearly as many games and time/bandwidth wasting apps for Windows phones

If your office relies on the Google cloud for email, file sharing, calendar sharing and so on:

Get Droid devices. The integration with Google apps is instant, seamless and TOTALLY AWESOME. It’s the single most impressive cloud integration I’ve ever seen.

Non-Droid devices can’t do this Google cloud integration for you unless you integrate using Outlook and other such foolish programs.

But my employees are all “Mac Heads”

The really good news here is that any mobile device OS can work in any Mac/PC OS context, so don’t worry. If your employees have fallen in love with the iPhone hype, you can still make them happy and have a productive workforce at the same time. But you may want to throw a bucket of cold water on them all the same. That’s what they get for pledging their devotion to a phone.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.