One Windows to rule them all? Be careful what you wish for

Microsoft's hopes for a master OS across all devices isn't about convenience -- it's about stealing your precious free time 24/7

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The iPad only made its way into the office because it looked cool. Everyone wanted one. Then one of those sick, twisted, productivity-obsessed executives had to ask, "Hey, can I do my presentation on one of these?" That grinning idiot ruined it for the rest of us. Immediately the race began to incorporate the iPad into work environments. Software companies started spouting about iPad-enabled "line of business" apps and the advantages of getting to all your work tools from any device in your house except your baby monitor.

It's not a utopian vision. It's a careful-what-you-wish-for, hate-yourself-in-hindsight mistake. When you turn off your Windows PC and go home (I know -- it's probably portable, so it's coming with you, but at least it's hibernating), you can grab your iPad and share an online coloring book app with your kid without thinking about work. That's a nice break. That's a necessary break if you don't want to die of stress at 55. That's the way it should be. That's the way it was for my father. Home by 6 every night and relaxing -- just replace the iPad with Johnny Walker and a nine iron in the backyard.

It's not that way for us. The companies we work for today want us ready, available, and churning out whatever it is we churn out for as long as possible. If it's the wee hours of Saturday morning, so much the better. It's Friday as you read this. Ask yourself if you'll be spending some time working this weekend, then ask if that's something you do most every weekend.

Windows everywhere is just another way to lose your weekend. Windows on every device means Office on every device. Today's Windows RT 8.1 Surface 2 tablets, though they can't run the x86/x64 Office 2013 editions, have an Office 2013 RT analog pre-installed. And today, Office isn't just productivity apps and email. If you own two or more Windows devices, you already know it sounds like church bells ringing when they all do the meeting reminder at once.

That's not the worst of it. Office is also Lync, the great, all-seeing eye -- the behind-the-firewall chat client that's mutated into a communications monster with tendrils that include chat, voice, video, and most insidious, presence management. The last one lets your boss know if you're toiling at your PC or if you're frittering away valuable time with unsanctioned recreation. Sure, you can cheat and set your status to "away," but you're rolling the dice on whether he, she, or it decides to chat-ping you under the guise of some annoying request just to see if you're really there. It's already available for your Windows Phone and -- wait for it -- your iPad. Don't look now, but it's also eaten Skype!

The battle for the soul of the tablet

I don't want any of that on my tablet. We've lost the fight for the phone, but dammit, I'm not giving up my tablet. Hang your single-OS theory, Microsoft! My tablet belongs to me. It's my pictures; it's my bathroom throne reading library; it's my Angry Birds addiction; and, yes, I'll say it: It's my fart app. And I want it to stay those things without my boss suddenly popping up a video chat conversation asking me whether the quarterly report is done.

If we lose the tablet, what's next? The TV? Pammy's makeup compact? I don't want to feel like I'm doing something wrong because I'm reading a novel in bed at 10 p.m. instead of working. We need some separation from work, some vestige of a personal life even if it remains technology-infused. I think more than one OS is a good way to start.

How many OSes do you run? And how much of a life do you have? Post your totals below or email me:

This article, "One Windows to rule them all? Be careful what you wish for," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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