Microsoft has announced it will release new software called Phone Companion forWindows 10, as well as new and mobile apps that will give Android and iPhone owners a better experience when they use their phones with both the new desktop OS (currently in a beta release phase) and the company’s cloud services.
Although the Phone Companion software is not available yet, Microsoft’s screenshots suggests its main function is to tell you which mobile app to install on your Android phone or iPhone. And, again based on Microsoft’s screenshots, most of these mobile apps are available today. The two exceptions are the Xbox Music and the Cortana digital personal assistant apps for Android and iPhone.
The Cortana digital personal assistant is similar to Apple’s Siri and Google Now services, which can respond to spoken commands and questions (read our hands on
for more details). Cortana is currently only available for Windows Phone 8 and in the beta release (Insider Preview Edition) of Windows 10. Microsoft already has OneDrive, OneNote, Skype, Outlook, and Microsoft Office apps for Android and iPhone. All are free. Note that the OneDrive app can be used to automatically backup phone photos.
The soon-to-be-released apps will let you see photos taken your phone in Microsoft’s Windows 10 PC Photos app. You can, however, get most of this benefit now by turning on automatic backup of photos from your Android phone or iPhone, and then heading to your browser to view the phones on OneDrive.com.
Microsoft also highlights ability to store digital music files in OneDrive and then listen to the music for free on your phone. You can do this today using Google Play Music All Access or Amazon Cloud Drive. However, both of these services require recurring annual fees. It remains to be seen what Microsoft delivers for free and whether there will be paid tiers beyond increased storage options for OneDrive, either as a standalone service or as part of an annual Office 365 subscription.
A third feature is the ability to synchronize OneNote notes between a PC and an Android phone or iPhone. You can essentially do this today as well, by synchronizing both OneNote for Windows and OneNote for either Android or iPhone with OneNote Online. OneNote Online is one of several Office components that Microsoft offers web-based versions for within OneDrive or OneNote.com. Note that the OneNote PC software became free for everyone in 2014. So, you do not have to buy Microsoft Office or have an Office 365 subscription to try this multi-way synchronization right now.
Next up is the ability to synchronize Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). This again can be done today using the free mobile apps and Microsoft’s own OneDrive file synchronization support for Windows 7 and 8.1.
Finally, Microsoft highlights the ability to use it Cortana digital assistant, which started as a service exclusive to Windows Phone users and, more recently, as a service that Windows 10 beta-testers can try out. iPhone users already have access to both Apple’s own Siri service as well as Google Now (built into Google’s iOS search app). Cortana will have the most value to Windows 10 users who use and, thereby, train Cortana about what information they find useful. Google Now does this today for Android and iOS (iPhone and iPad) users. It learns about what information you might find interesting every time you use Google Search while logged in to your Google account.
Here’s Microsoft’s release schedule for the new apps:
- June: Phone Companion app for Windows 10 PC
- End of June: Cortana for Android
- End of June or sometime in July: Xbox Music app for Android and iPhone with beta OneDrive music playback
- “Later this year:” Cortana for iPhone