Yesterday, Microsoft revealed the future of its mobile ambitions at Build 2017 yesterday and unsurprisingly enough for Nadella’s Microsoft, it’s less of Windows and more of iOS and Android.
The history of Windows Phone as Microsoft’s mobile platform has been long, chequered and fraught with tears and triumph — but that’s all in the past. Microsoft is trying something new for mobile this time around, and it involves the phones 99% of people in the planet are holding.
For most of the world, computing means using a desktop or laptop powered by Windows. While some will use ChromeOS, and much more still will use macOS, Windows is still the most used (non-mobile) PC platform in the world. For many, it is often a home base of sorts, where your devices are managers, your photos are organized, etc. It makes sense, the bigger storage sizes in PCs means we can store more on them. The bigger screens make it easier to work with photo albums, and when you need to get work done, you’re more likely to pull out your Dell PC than your Galaxy S8.
With Build 2017, Microsoft is using its position as a home-base of sorts, not to launch an attack — that time is over — but to embrace and extend those platforms.
This isn’t a new tactic for the firm. Right now, using Android, you can already get a tightly integrated experience — with Cortana on your lock screen and syncing your notifications, Bing as your wallpaper and (a version of) Skype handling your SMS. With iOS, you don’t quite have the same integration, but you can enjoy a pretty seamless mobile experience on either one of the two excellent mobile platforms.
That’s not all, however, Microsoft actively wants to improve and enhance your iPhone and Android and how they work with Windows — your home base. Using OneNote on your iPhone? With Timeline and Pick Up Where I Left Off, Microsoft will alert you when you get back to your PC. Marking up that document on your PC? Continue to do so on your Android phone on the tube and so on.
Another instance of this cross-platform mission was evident in Story Remix. I have long wanted Microsoft to bring its Photos app to the iPhone and Android, and the firm seems to be obliging. Story Remix is essentially a souped up Microsoft Photos app — incorporating features such as people tagging, photo search, and automatic creation of movies from similar Photos. It works on the Microsoft Graph, is deeply personal and ideally, seamlessly should work in the background.
In the past, a feature like this would have been exclusive to Windows on release, but Microsoft is finally accepting this new reality. Microsoft knows you won’t be using Windows all the time, heck it knows most people won’t be using it most of the time. The hope here is by hooking it into your services when you get your next PC, you’ll opt for a Microsoft one. When you want a music subscription, you’ll opt for a Microsoft one, when you store your Photos — you’ll eschew Google Photos for OneDrive. They won’t be front and center, but they’ll be at the back making everything run smoothly.
For consumers in 2017, Microsoft on mobile truly means — to steal a buzzword — a mobility of experiences, and that’s a good thing.