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Last Updated: August 22nd, 2012

A key aspect of the power of smartphones is the variety of functions they provide to the user. Data, GPS, Voice, Video, are all found in almost every Android phone on the market. With today's release of on{X} ("on-ex"), Microsoft hopes to exploit this convergence of functionality in a way that is less reliant on the user for input and more aware of its surroundings. By gathering information from the host of sensors available to the operating system, it's quite possible for your phone to determine its location and context and respond accordingly, without intervention by the user. Armed with their trademark lower-case, sans-serif, Holo-breaking Metro style convention, on{X} is Tasker for the everyman.

If the concept sounds familiar, it's because one of Android's classic stand-out applications, Tasker, is built on the same premise. Clearly Microsoft figures that there's room for improvement in this category of device autonomy. Much like Tasker, on{X} hooks into your phone's multiple inputs. Where it differs is rule creation. User-friendliness here seems to be key to the experience. Microsoft wants users of all technical capabilities to use, modify, or create "recipes" for on{X} through simple modifiable phrases, without the need to understand the code behind it. However, should you want more functionality, you will be able to delve into the code itself, and set things exactly how you please.

However, unlike Tasker, it does not appear to be possible to program these rules directly on your phone. Instead, they are created on your PC and then pushed to your phone. A confusing arrangement, considering Microsoft's touting of on{X}'s separation from "the cloud". Perhaps coding on-device will come at a future point, or users may be able do it directly in their phone's browser.

This project is also reminiscent of ifttt, an online automation service that uses simple commands to give common users the powers of automation. Much like on{x}, ifttt uses a simple, natural language method ("if this then that") to perform simple and complex tasks. Microsoft appears to be borrowing a bit from ifttt in this regard.

In on{X}'s introduction post, MS's Eran Yariv expounds the motivation for its creation, and what possibilities it provides. In brief:

It’s a multi-platform framework that enables continuous sensing & interaction via powerful JavaScript reactions to real-world activities.

While those behind on{X} are obviously aware of the battery implications of this "continuous sensing", their solution is light on details:

"Even better, we are offering the use of the advanced technology we put in the system that is constantly optimizing the power drain on the battery – you simply don’t need to worry about having a hot dead phone in your pocket after only 4 hours of use. "

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As you would expect with a new project from a large company like Microsoft, there is a wealth of articles and guides already available for on{X}, along with the Android app, fresh on the Play Store.

If you're eager to check out on{X}, head over to the developer blog and take a look at the material there. It's worth pointing out that despite on{X}'s supposed focus on privacy, a Facebook login is required to use the beta.

Source: Microsoft on{X} Developer Blog, on{X} Homepage
Thanks, Cody!

Brian O'Toole
Having learnt his writing techniques reading e-Books of Sherlock Holmes, Brian now spends his time /kicking, lurking, SSHing and encoding.
  • http://andrewchamp.com/ Andrew Champ

    Anybody else find it funny that their developers were using Google Chrome, and not IE?!  It's called 'Eating your own dog food', Microsoft.  ;)

    • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

      But Microsoft's dog food tastes so terrible!

  • Lexster

    Argh! Why do you people keep making me log in using Facebook? I must be the only person who doesn't want Facebook knowing every single intimate detail of every website I go to...
    I also don't see how this is Tasker for everyman. You have to write all the rules by hand in code whereas Tasker is UI-oriented...

    • Paul_Werner

      You aren't the only one. I don't even have a Facebook account anymore. I only use G+ and want to keep it that way

    • fixxmyhead

      u and me bro. im not even on any social media networks. not my thing

      • Hey_Look@Me

        Me too. It is just a waste of time and privacy.

        • fixxmyhead

          right on

    • Dzejms

      Create an account, don't add any friends or like any pages, that simple.

  • Jammer

    Facebook login kills it for me.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    I'll stick with tasker.

  • Xsirxx

    Same here, I refuse to use apps that require me to login to facebook.  Sorry Microsoft, get your own cloud for me to login to.

    • Ajish

      actually MS owns 10% of FB, probably why

  • http://code.google.com/p/lg-v909 Aaron Echols

    I shutdown my Facebook account today, that I never used, ever...and linked all my "friends" to my Google+ profile. :)

  • Brandon

    Anyone think some kind developers at XDA will take to removing the Facebook requirement? This sounds promising but ugh.. facebook tie-in? No thanks..

    • ericl5112

      Highly unlikely, facebook is how things sync.  You'd have to implement your own sync solution, hook it into the app, and the web interface.  Not likely to happen.

  • http://twitter.com/PCSievers P.C. Sievers

    Lol at all the 1 star reviews cos it uses facebook.

    And rightfully so.

    Ill give it a spin when they strip that out of the app. Probably.

    • xsirxx

      Haha I did, it is hysterical!  Microsoft can be such morons.

  • andrew zavala

    I have a Facebook, but the fact that you can't even get past the splash screen without logging into facebook is absurd.

  • BLACKALiCE

    For those talking about the Facebook requirement - it's because you have to make rules on the site, and they get synced to the device.  AFAIK there were no permissions with the facebook stuff.

  • Andy_in_Indy

    Facebook login allows it to track more information than Google, doesn't it? (No, I am not being paranoid).  This does a lot of smart things for Microsoft:

    1) It crowd sources smart rules.  This will be REALLY useful for improving their mobile OS
    2) It gives them a marketable list of android users - what marketing department doesn't want a list of targeted customers!
    3) Free research into smartphone use.  You calendar, location, music tastes, etc go though the app, and are OK for collecting per the Facebook terms of use, IIRC (OK, maybe I am a little paranoid)

    OTOH, it does look like a nice interface and a better way to share useful rules than Tasker & Locale.

  • http://twitter.com/MeCampbell30 Matt

    I applaud Microsoft for embracing their andriod overlords. Web interface is a great idea. I'll gladly give up my facebook info in trade for an app that has the potential to be better than tasker.

  • Ron Amadeo

    ....
    Must be a cold day in hell.

  • ChristianAhlin

    Llama anyone?
    Tasker but easier
    Locale but free

    • Wayne Randall

       100% this.  Llama kicks ass.

      • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

        Llama is pretty awesome. It's pretty humorous to have Winamp and Llama both in the ongoing notification bar (Winamp! It really whips the Llama's ass)

  • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

    AutomateIt is good as well FYI

  • http://twitter.com/andr3wjacks0n andrew jackson

    For those of you bitching about Facebook do this: Set the app to post to you only, then when on your desktop when the app posts click on hide all. You get the benefits of the app without it cluttering up your stream, plus obnly you can see it.

  • Al McDowall

    Have to sign in to Facebook = can't use it in China.
    Um....that's quite a major market to alienate.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    Odd that Microsoft built this for Android before Windows Phone since this feature set is mostly covered on Android already and there's no way to do this on WP7 without embedding it.  Otherwise, I am really interested in what it has to offer, I'll give it a try soon.

    • http://www.teamdave.com/ teamdave™

      Yea it was odd that Microsoft brought out Photosynth for iPhone before its own phone as well.
      I hope they bring it to WP soon anyway because i use both phones but one of them just seems like a retarded child compared to the other lol