Microsoft Garage is likely one of the edgier groups at Microsoft, full of self-described “hackers, makers, artists, tinkerers, musicians, inventors.” This internal community works on projects outside of normal channels and has produced some fascinating apps on Android and iOS. The Fire Hose took a few paragraphs to describe some app updates and availability in new markets and platforms.
First up is Picturesque Lock Screen, an Android app that pulls in images from Bing to spice up the lock screen’s appearance. That’s not all, however. Version 2 that releases today, October 1, adds a number of nifty features:
- Universal search covering apps, contacts, browsing history, and bookmarks, all available from the lock screen
- Ability to access contacts and make calls without unlocking
- Security, with PIN, password, and pattern
- Music controls including playing, pausing, and toggling music
- Notifications with a new categorized view
- Optimized data and memory consumption and one-swipe shortcuts
Picturesque already offered up weather and news information on the lock screen, along with icons. A quick drawer with pull-down provides quick access to flashlight, Wi-Fi, brightness, and volume settings. The development team had great things to say about Microsoft Garage:
“We believe the Garage provides teams like ours the right platform to plan, strategize, develop and take to market products that can deliver high value to our consumers,” says Ajayababu. “The Garage team at various stages helped us tremendously by hearing our plans, suggesting ways to improve as well as anticipate and mitigate potential blockers and also help different apps leverage each other’s assets to grow the ecosystem of Microsoft products.”
Next up is Your Weather, a pollution mapping app for metropolitan China that’s garnered a following. Your Weather has migrated from Windows Phone and Android to iOS, and so now covers the major platforms in China. The app taps into Microsoft Azure Machine Learning to generate fine-grained reports on air quality and weather, and offers localized custom tile and lock screen options.
Send, an Office 365 IM/email mashup originally published on iOS, is now available on Android. Send makes email feel like texting, allowing natural conversations that feel like email but avoid the hassle of subject lines, salutations, and signatures. The advantage of Send is that it utilizes email addresses to converse with anyone without additional setup, and even those without Send can respond to messages originating in the app.
Finally, Microsoft Garage is releasing two new apps that are available only in specific markets. On Windows Phone, Home Team matches local service providers with people looking for their services via recommendations. Parchi is an Android app that enables the capture of snippets of information right from the lock screen. If the response in the initial markets are positive, either or both apps could see expanded markets and platforms.
Microsoft Garage epitomizes Microsoft’s new cross-platform spirit, and has been producing some fascinating apps aimed at helping people get things done–quite apropos for “the productivity company.” We’ll keep out eye out for new offerings from the Microsoft hacking community and let you know what we find.