Microsoft Garage releases plenty of new projects with some being wacky and some more interesting with potential to grow into a real Microsoft app. The latter is the case of the new Photos Companion, an app that does what its name suggests: it's an Android (and iOS) app that lets you quickly transfer photos from your phone to the Photos app on a Windows 10 PC via WiFi. It works very well from my experience and might become my go-to way for sending screenshots to my computer.
Microsoft started branching out in mobile a few years ago when it became apparent Windows Phone wasn't going to work out. One of the apps that came out of the so-called "Microsoft Garage" program was Arrow Launcher. It was a reasonably popular app in the Play Store, and now Microsoft is giving it renewed focus and a new name. It's the Microsoft Launcher now.
While Microsoft is undoubtedly better known for its productivity suite, the remit of in-house development studio The Garage is is a little broader and more playful. Not unlike the "20% time" projects at Google, Microsoft Garage is responsible for experiments that may or may not end up becoming fully-fledged products. The latest to see a full release after a few years of testing is Face Swap, an app that will automatically swap your face into any scene.
The keyboards we have on Android are already pretty good at what they do. That's not to say they're perfect, but any new entrant into this market needs to have a good angle. Microsoft's new Android keyboard is here, and it's called Hub. What does Hub do? It's a "hub" (get it?) for all your Office 365 content in keyboard form.
The Microsoft Garage has given birth to a myriad of interesting apps with limited utility, but everyone needs a home screen, right? Microsoft made Arrow Launcher available as a beta over the summer, but now it's available in the Play Store for everyone to try. It'll take some getting used to, though. This isn't just another AOSP re-skin.
Next Lock Screen is certainly one of the most usable projects to come out of Microsoft Garage. It's a contextual lock screen made with busy professionals in mind, that not only displays notifications, calendar events, and incoming calls and messages, but also tries to guess which apps you might need based on whether you're at work, home, or moving around. A music player with controls is included as well, along with weather updates, and a quick option to start a conference call.
One would think that an app geared toward the business crowd should have some privacy elements to prevent unwanted access to the information, calling, or better yet the entire phone, but the first version of Next was completely unsecured as Michael pointed out when he covered the app's release.
Now that you can put widgets on your lockscreen, there's a whole host of things you can do even before unlocking your phone. and if that's not enough, there are afewalternativelockscreens that will let you do even more. Today we're getting another one from a slightly surprising source: Microsoft. Say hello to the Next Lock Screen, an app from the company's Microsoft Garage internal team.
I say it's only slightly surprising because Microsoft has been releasing a staggering amount of Android apps of late. But I digress: Next Lock Screen attempts to combine an agenda view sourced from your phone's calendar with a quick launcher system, accessible with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Microsoft's employees have a lot of free time on their hands, what with taking forever between each update to their Windows Phone platform and other priority stalling operations. They like to use this free time in the Garage, developing apps for Android, just 'cause y'know, it's fun to imagine yourself working on cool projects for once. After Bing Torque, this Journeys & Notes app seems like a mash-up of some features from Foursquare, Field Trip, and The Traveler.
You check in to a trip, not a specific place. The app will recognize the path you're traveling and let you leave interesting (and anonymous) thoughts along the road or check the ones that were shared by others before you.
"OK Google, what is Microsoft Garage?" Well, Rita, it's an idea incubator for Microsoft employees who like to dabble with things non-Microsofty in their spare time, like Android for example. They have a crush on us, but they still can't completely deny their allegiance to the quad colors of Redmond so they indulge by mixing in some Bing bangy bongiddy features. "Ah, thanks Google. Can you give me an example?" Sure Rita, that Bing Torque app they just released, though if you ask me, they need a copy editor for their Play Store listing: "It is like to have Microsoft’s Cortana running on your smart watch." That was a direct quote and it is like to read a torturous story for me.