How times have changed at Microsoft.
For much of its history, the PC and Windows have been the central focus for Microsoft, but that era continues to fade into the rear-view as Microsoft’s new focus on “multi-device experiences” takes center stage. At the second day of its Build developer conference, much of the talk centered around breaking down the walls between phones and PCs and unifying the Windows experience between PCs and smartphones on competing operating systems.
Microsoft executives and managers introduced new apps and features as well as updates to existing offerings with an overall goal of “making the PC the perfect second screen to your phone,” in the words of Shilpa Ranganathan, general manager of Windows Mobility Experience for Microsoft. She also noted that the company also wants to make the phone the second screen to the PC.
As part of this push, Microsoft announced a new app called Your Phone that gives Windows 10 PCs a direct connection to iPhones and Android devices. The app includes the ability to pull text messages off the phone and answer them from a PC, and drag and drop in smartphone photos.
In the most recent Windows 10 update last month, Microsoft released Timeline, a long-anticipated feature that lets Windows 10 users quickly find documents or sites from their history, across devices, and pick up where they left off. The Microsoft Launcher app for Android added support for Timeline this week, and iOS users can get it through Microsoft’s Edge browser.
These moves, plus further emphasis on Launcher through new enterprise features, show how serious Microsoft is about this cross-device strategy. The company first took the lid off the plan at last year’s Build conference, announcing a host of features and apps aimed at making user experiences on Android and iOS devices better if users are also running a Windows machine.
The approach reflects Microsoft’s new reality in a rapidly changing technology world where it has been left without a competitive mobile operating system. It also indicates the company’s new direction under CEO Satya Nadella — increasingly embracing competing platforms that would have been viewed as archrivals in the past. That was on display once again yesterday, when the company debuted the long-promised integrations between its digital assistant Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa.
It doesn’t look like Microsoft’s strategy of intertwining PCs and smartphones is going anywhere, so expect more integrations and apps like these in the future.
“None of us can live without our phones,” Ranganthan said, “and neither should your PC.”