Mind the Gap: Getting Microsoft and Apple to Play (and Work) Nice.As Americans, we love to pick sides. Republicans vs. Democrats, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Team Edward vs. Team Jacob. This is especially true in the tech world, where your choice of game console, cell phone or graphics card puts you in a camp of like-minded individuals. Of course, there may be no bigger divide than the one between Team Microsoft and Team Apple.
That’s the perception, anyway. Apple iWork users have been scarred by years of “exporting to Microsoft Word” or similar options that are supposed to let the two environments co-exists, only to open documents that are poorly formatted, partially incomplete, or just strings of gibberish.
Fortunately, over the last few years, the hard lines between Team Microsoft and Team Apple have blurred a bit. Whether you’re an art student struggling to adjust to your first job in a PC environment or an accountant whose kids made you get a Mac (those are the major stereotypes here, right?), here are a couple ways to make sure your work gets done, whatever device you’re working on.
1. The Nuclear Option: Plain Text
We’re starting with the most drastic option, but if you absolutely, 100%, without-a-doubt need to know that your text is going to be readable when it gets to its destination, consider the good-ole .txt. There are a ton of potential drawbacks (you’re going to have to do any significant formatting on the back end, there’s no version control, a recipient might think you’re from the early 1980s) but the text you put into a .txt shows up, as advertised, wherever you open it.
2. The Cloud Option: Microsoft’s iOS Apps
Critics said Microsoft was slow to react to Apple’s introduction of the iPhone and the accompanying shift in the way we expected our technology to act. Whether or not that’s the case, Microsoft’s done a ton of work to break down the barrier between using a desktop or laptop and using a mobile device, not just through Windows 8 and Windows Phone, but also with a wide range of offerings for Apple’s iOS devices.
If your organization uses Office 365, your iOS device can create and edit documents in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, without forcing you to jump through any major hoops. Office 365’s cloud-based infrastructure means you’re editing the canonical version of every document. This removes any version-control problems and ensures your document looks exactly how you expect it to, whatever device you’re on. With additional iOS apps for SkyDrive and Microsoft CRM, Microsoft’s been doing the work necessary to allow users to bridge the gap between iOS and a Windows environment.
3. The Remote Control: Desktop Access from Anywhere
In addition to giving iOS users an easy way to access documents stored on the cloud, Microsoft has developed a new approach to using Remote Desktops. Whether you’d like to access your Windows Desktop from an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Windows Phone, or any device running the Android OS, Microsoft now offers apps that will let you accomplish that. As with any remote computing option, some configurations work better than others, and you likely want to test the Remote Access before you’re depending on it to get you out of a pinch. Having said that, being able to log in to your Windows PC from a handheld device made by Apple is a huge sign of how much of the wall between the companies has been torn down.
We’ll likely never see a tech landscape where everything works together perfectly, regardless of platform. Short of that, it’s up to users to figure out a solution that works for them. Some people are happy to plant their flag with one team and forget the other exists. For the people who wear both jerseys during the course of the day, there are more ways than ever to make sure your data, files, and hardware all play nice with each other.
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