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torque
Microsoft’s Bing Torque app on Google’s Android Wear

A new Microsoft app called Torque, released for Google’s Android Wear watches, eliminates the need for users to say “OK, Google” to ask a question. Instead, they can twist their wrist to activate Bing on Google’s smartwatch platform, and get their question answered by the Microsoft search engine instead.

Welcome to the new Microsoft.

The app is one of 16 apps emerging from the internal Microsoft Garage hackerspace and incubation lab, where Microsoft employees work on side projects. Most are for Windows and Windows Phone, but three of the apps are just for Android. (Note: Post corrected at 8:20 a.m. to reflect accurate number of Garage apps.)

“We live in a services world now,” explains Ronette Lawrence, principal product planner with Microsoft’s Digital Life & Work Development, in a Microsoft story about the apps. “Software has evolved from something that needs to be specific by device, to largely Web hosted and cloud supported — and we think the device someone uses shouldn’t matter. We want to bring better experiences to whatever device they choose to use.”

Depending on customer feedback, Microsoft says the apps will ultimately work across platforms, available for iOS, Windows and/or Android. But the fact that three are initially targeting Android is notable inside a company that rode Windows to became a giant of the technology world.

Of course, Microsoft hasn’t released its own smartwatch, at not yet. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Torque or something similar as a feature or app for the company’s widely rumored wearable device.

Microsoft says the new apps represent an extension of the Microsoft Garage from an internal effort to an initiative that will also be releasing “incubation” apps for customers. The apps released today are described as a “lightweight, single-scenario” apps that were conceived and developed quickly.

Here are the three Android apps released by the company. See all of the Garage apps by clicking on “Workbench” here.

Next Lock Screen, available on Android: Next Lock Screen brings the most relevant apps and information to your lock screen.

Torque, available on Android: Torque brings the web to Android Wear with a twist of the wrist.

Journey and Notes, available on Android: An MSR-developed app out of FUSE Labs that connects commuters using public transit with others doing the same.

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