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Microsoft pushes Windows to talk freely to iPhones and Android devices

Microsoft pushes Windows to talk freely to iPhones and Android devices
[Photo: Mark Sullivan]

Microsoft is working to become the Switzerland of tech platforms. One of the major themes here at the Build developer conference in Seattle is the company’s openness to working with other platforms. Yesterday, for example, we saw a demo where a user called up Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant using a smart speaker powered by Microsoft’s Cortana.

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Today Microsoft is talking about the work it’s done to make Windows aware of what the user has been doing on their Android or iOS device.  A new “Your Phone” feature creates a window into a user’s phone on their PC, Microsoft says.

For example, a user can drag and drop their phone’s photos into a document on their PC without having to take their phone out of your pocket.

Windows will also know what websites the user has been visiting on the Edge browser running on their phone, said Microsoft’s VP of operating systems Joe BelfioreHe added that Microsoft is working on enabling the Cortana digital assistant to make suggestions to the user based on the frequency or intensity of the things they’ve done on their phone or PC (as reflected in the Timeline). It might, for instance, ask the user if they want to continue working on a specific research project when they return to their desk. 

The user might continue working on a message started on an iPhone or Android phone, and add photos from the PC. The PC can show notifications from the phone, too. The new features will begin to roll out in the Windows Insider Program soon, Microsoft said.

Microsoft is out of the mobile phone business, so there’s no competitive pressure for it to wall itself off from other mobile platforms. Better to embrace them, along with the idea that people will choose either an iPhone or Android phone that works for their whole life–both work and personal.

Microsoft is playing from its real position of strength these days. It’s the company that makes the software that powers work. And because the line between personal life and work life is, in reality, a blurry one that moves around, Microsoft wants to build connections to whatever technologies people use in their lives away from the office.

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