Microsoft showcases its Garage full of Android apps

Saqib Shah
October 23, 2014

Anyone wondering what Microsoft employees do during their down time at work may be puzzled to find out that they build Android apps.

The tech giant says it has been encouraging its workers – in other words, cracking the whip – to create cross-platform apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices. Jeez, guys, just let the poor folks chill out during their spare time.

Alas, what do we know. Maybe those Microsoft tech geeks can’t get enough of building apps – hell, they probably even dream about them. And if the results are this good, then perhaps they should be made to work around the clock.

The first Android app that Microsoft chose to showcase from its Garage initiative is Next Lock Screen – Nadella and co’s attempt at creating a better Android lock screen. Next Lock Screen focusses on productivity by adding calendar items, missed calls, emails, and text messages to the Android lock screen.

Although Google’s OS has plenty of similar apps, including Cover Lock Screen and GO Locker, Microsoft’s baby has some nifty unique features of its own, such as one-swipe dialling, which lets all you busy business types dial into a conference call, using calendar entry info, with the pin automatically entered. Additionally, Quick app launch lets you pin your favourite apps and tools to it to create a hub not unlike iOS Control Center.

Another Android app entitled Journeys and Notes takes its inspiration from the recently relaunched Foursquare, allowing users to get tips from fellow travels for selected routes.

Finally, Microsoft Garage brings with it another Android Wear app, hot on the heels of its intriguing new keyboard – unveiled last week. Torque will consequently be its first app out the gate for Android Wear devices, such as the LG G Watch R and Motorola Moto 360. Torque is Microsoft’s attempt at overriding Google Now, as it allows Android Wear users to simply twist their wrist to access the Bing search engine. It could arguably offer an easier, and discrete, way to search online, without having to shout “OK Google” at your smartwatch.

As it turns out, Microsoft has taken a page from Google’s book for its Garage project. The Google ’20 percent’ programme lets employees use their free time to work on projects they think will benefit the company. Still, it obviously does not permit them to create apps for Windows. Perhaps now it will stop being such a sour lollipop and return the favour. Lord knows, Microsoft needs it for its stagnant Windows Phone Store.

About the Author

Saqib Shah

Tech/gaming journalist for What Mobile magazine and website. Interests include film, digital media and foreign affairs.

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