Microsoft Continues Cross-Platform Push with Upcoming Android Port of Cortana

Microsoft Continues Cross-Platform Push with Upcoming Android Port of Cortana

May 28, 2015

If anyone is wondering is Microsoft is bashful about being the go to source for most things mobile, there’s one less reason to doubt: Microsoft just announced that its well regarded mobile personal Cortana will be available on Android (and iOS).

According to the official announcement, the roll-out will allow Android users to use the app as an extension of Cortana on upcoming Windows 10 (also announced).

Some specific excerpts from the bogpost:

Part of the power of a personal assistant comes from being available on the go, on the device you carry with you everywhere. And for people who don’t have the benefit of a Windows phone, we want to extend the advantage of Cortana in Windows 10. How will this work? Today, we’re announcing a Cortana application for Android phones and for iPhones which works as a companion to Cortana on your Windows 10 PC. The ‘Phone Companion’ app on the PC will help you install the Cortana app from the Google Play or Apple App Store onto your phone so you’ll be able to take the intelligence of Cortana with you, wherever you go.

The Cortana for Android should be available by the end of June.

[Source: Blogging Windows]

The Hills Are Greener: Is a Fresh Coat of Paint Really Innovating?

The Hills Are Greener: Is a Fresh Coat of Paint Really Innovating?

Jun 17, 2013

Last week at WWDC, Apple made their big reveal of iOS 7, the massive visual overhaul spearheaded by Jony Ive. Most notably, the OS has been flattened like a steamroller. There’s definitely still some three-dimensional elements and hints of skeuomorphism, but this is a fresh new coat of paint for the OS. But really, in comparison to Android, that’s largely all it is: a new coat of paint. The core product underneath is still the same, and still lacking in certain areas.

It’s easy to accuse Apple on a macro level of stealing ‘flat’ design from Android and Windows Phone 8, both of which used this kind of design first, and it’s right in a certain sense. Apple is playing follower here. But then again they weren’t the first with a touchscreen phone, either.

However, much like how Android and WP8 don’t really look alike, iOS still has its own individual look. It’s basically a more abstract version of iOS, with no more buttons. There’s lots of color gradients too. Looking at the OS, it still looks different. There are natural similarities, but many things that separate all three OSes still.

In fact, really, iOS 7 is so familiar because all that really appears to have changed is the look of it. It’s largely a fresh coat of paint, the structure is still largely the same. The most drastic change was gutting of Game Center into something way different. But the massive feature overhaul that iOS 7 could really use at this point just isn’t there.

iOS7 Game CenteriOS7 Home Center

Customization is still largely left to just wallpapers. All apps still clutter the homescreen, and default apps can’t be hidden away from view, like how Android allows for users to choose what they want on homescreens. Widgets are still not an option, though I personally am not the biggest proponent of them. Most of the changes are minor feature tweaks. It’s still largely the same OS that it was back in 2007. Sure, it’s a lot better now with the added features, and I still overall like my iPhone (reviewing a lot of iOS games will make you go down crazy paths like that) but it just still doesn’t feel like the ideal mobile OS experience.

Google has been far less conservative, having overhauled Android not just visually but also making major feature changes with Ice Cream Sandwich and later Jelly Bean. The spirit of the OS has remained the same, but stock Android proves that there doesn’t have to be a compromise between design and functionality. And I believe that more changes will be on the way with the next big Android update.

Microsoft can’t be accused of resting on their laurels with Windows Phone, either. These operating systems just feel more…modern. iOS looks more modern, but at the end of the day, it’s still a closed and cluttered OS. There are advantages to Apple’s approach, but their strength remains as much the developer community around iOS as much as the OS itself. A new coat of paint can’t really change that.

Want to Switch to Windows Phone? Microsoft Has an App For That on Google Play. Seriously.

Want to Switch to Windows Phone? Microsoft Has an App For That on Google Play. Seriously.

May 1, 2013

Android’s a funny platform. Because its store is open, it’s possible to actually promote different operating systems on it pretty easily. Like if you’re Microsoft and want people to switch to Windows Phone, you can release an app on Google Play called Switch to Windows Phone where it will check for apps that are installed on an Android device and see if they’re available on Windows Phone. You know, so if people were curious, they can definitely know what’s available. Try doing that on iOS!

Well, that’s exactly what Microsoft has done: you can download an app that will check to see if the apps on your Android device are also available on Windows Phone. And if you log in with your Microsoft account, it will save the list to the cloud for if and when you switch over, you can easily re-download them. And Google allowed this through. Hilarious.

Actual Android users have found this not so hilarious, though: the app has a rating of 1.5 stars, with a smattering of user reviews complaining about Windows Phone, but others saying that the actual accuracy of the lists is rather suspect.

If you’re interested in seeing what’s on Windows Phone, the app is available from Google Play. And if you do make the switch…don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

The Hills Are Greener: A PC Home For Android?

The Hills Are Greener: A PC Home For Android?

Jan 15, 2013

While Windows Phone still is kind of sauntering around in the background of the iOS and Android scene, waiting for an opening, it should not be ignored. Its App Store is growing and phones are selling. But there’s one particular aspect of it that long-term could have Windows 8 doing well: OS integration with Windows.

Yes, the big sexy trend is moving away from desktops and moving in to the mobile space, particularly with tablets. But Windows is definitely starting to make a move in to tablets, or at least with hybrid devices. And with the Windows 8 experience being more consistent across different devices, there’s the potential for Microsoft to use this to sell the OS on phones, tablet, or PCs, wherever appropriate.

It would be a move in the direction of Apple, who increasingly make their mobile OS and computers cross-compatible with one another. iCloud has helped to make Macs and the iPhone a more seamless experience. There’s definitely a lot more that could be done, yes, but it’s something Apple’s got a heads up on. If Microsoft does it well, they can sell Windows as a cohesive OS from the phone up, especially with the modern interface formerly known as “Metro” across different devices.

Because Android is not connected to a specific OS, there’s an inherent disadvantage. They can’t push that kind of deep-level integration that Apple and potentially Microsoft can. However, there is the advantage that by connecting to software like Chrome and web services like Google+ and its Instant Upload. Not to mention all the things like Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts that already exist in a cloud service capacity. Google has a heads up there. But internally-integrated solutions are as a general rule more user-friendly, and Google will always exist as an outside provider on these platforms.

Is there a chance that Windows integration just never plays out? Sure. Android could still be the biggest fish in the sea on mobile (as far as raw numbers go) without this kind of integration? Sure. Heck, the personal computer could be a dying concept for many people and so this won’t matter. Or perhaps Chrome OS is the next huge thing. But if not, this does come off as a potential point of weakness for Android.

The Hills Are Greener: Maybe?

The Hills Are Greener: Maybe?

Apr 30, 2012

When talking about the competition for mobile operating systems, it seems as if the discussion has focused around iOS versus Android. Sure, Microsoft is tilling around with Windows Phone, and Blackberry’s still making phones, but the two contenders in the ring are definitely iOS and Android.

That may be the status quo at the moment, but does anyone believe that it will be this way forever? Of course not. Technology changes too much for it to stay this way forever. Short of the entirely unexpected happening, there are a few plausible scenarios out there that could reshape the mobile market as we know it.

Maybe Apple refuses to take up larger device sizes, and users begin to flock to Android in droves as they become more useful?

Maybe Google, through diplomacy or by force, shrinks the number of devices on the market, drastically shrinking the number of current issues that the OS has, making it more on par with iOS, and it starts to even overtake iOS in more than just user numbers? What if it’s regarded in the mainstream as a superior product?

Maybe Windows Phone 8 will give Microsoft a real contender. Perhaps by offering the kind of top-down OS integration that Apple has played with, they can fill a need with interoperable phones, tablets, and computers that will spearhead Microsoft’s mobile push.

Maybe the new Lumia 900 and its marketing campaign along with low 2-year contract price will get people using WP and anticipating the aforementioned WP8.

Maybe developers will get tired of trying to deal with the thousands of Android devices out there, and just abandon the platform, setting it back for a while.

Maybe that rumored Facebook phone, especially if it comes with access to their vast library of apps and games that run on their web platform, will become a key contender.

Maybe Amazon decides to stop forking Android and go with their own OS, and developers start to abandon Android for the possibly more-profitable platform. They could start selling Kindle phones, and suddenly Google might find Android far gone.

Maybe those Google Glasses replace the phone as we know it, as we all walk around in an augmented reality world, and actual phones become a thing of the past.

Maybe the Mayans were right.

It’s hard to picture a world in the near future where iOS and Android aren’t duking it out as the top 2 operating systems, but what were we saying three years ago, when BlackBerry was still strong and the iPhone was popular, and the iPad was still a rumor?

Maybe something unexpected will happen.