Microsoft's quest to find a place in your pocket continues. At its Build developer conference, the company announced a new desktop app that syncs data with your phone and the ability to bring one of its key desktop features to Android and iOS devices.
Dubbed "Your Phone," the upcoming, first-party app will allow you to copy files such as photos from your PC to your handset and will also provide access to your notifications and text messages, directly from the desktop.
Microsoft is far from the first to provide a way to control your phone from a computer. macOS has offered seamless integration between Macs and iPhones for many years. In the PC ecosystem, everyone from Samsung, which makes an app called SideSync that works with Galaxy phones, to Dell, which preloads its Mobile Connect software on laptops, is trying to bridge the gap between your mobile device and desktop.
The Your Phone app won't even be Microsoft's first method of controlling your handset from within Windows 10. The Cortana mobile app for Android allows users to send and receive SMS messages from their PCs, but the interface isn't threaded, making real conversations difficult. The Microsoft Launcher for Android provides a "Continue on PC" option that sends the web page you were looking at on your phone directly to your computer.
So, while it would be nice to see a really good first-party phone syncing utility from Microsoft, the company is unlikely to break any new ground with Your Phone.
Microsoft also said that it plans to bring the Timeline feature, which shows a history of all the apps and files you've opened, to Android and iOS devices. If you have an important Word doc or web page open your phone, it should show up on the timeline on your PC.
There are other ways to have a cross-device workflow. In Google's ecosystem, for example, you can view your Chrome browser history and access all your Google docs across devices. However, if Microsoft gets this right, it could be compelling.
No matter what the Redmond software giant does, it will have a difficult time staying relevant in the phone space without its own devices. Though Windows Phone is now dead, the long-rumored Surface Phone, which is alleged to have two screens, could make a splash... if it ever comes to fruition. But that likely won’t be anywhere at Build.