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Posts tagged with "Microsoft"

Using ‘Phone Link’ Between iOS and Windows for iPhone Notifications and iMessage

I enjoyed this explanation by The Verge’s Tom Warren on how Microsoft’s Phone Link app – which has long allowed Android users to connect their smartphones to a Windows PC – has been updated to support iOS notifications and sending texts via iMessage. From the story:

The setup process between iPhone and PC is simple. Phone Link prompts you to scan a QR code from your iPhone to link it to Windows, which automatically opens a lightweight App Clip version of Phone Link on iOS to complete the Bluetooth pairing. Once paired, you have to take some important steps to enable contact sharing over Bluetooth, enable “show notifications,” and allow system notifications to be shared to your PC over Bluetooth. These settings are all available in the Bluetooth options for the device you paired to your iPhone.

And:

Microsoft’s Phone Link works by sending messages over Bluetooth to contacts. Apple’s iOS then intercepts these messages and forces them to be sent over iMessage, much like how it will always automatically detect when you’re sending a message to an iPhone and immediately switch it to blue bubbles and not the green ones sent via regular SMS. Phone Link intercepts the messages you receive through Bluetooth notifications and then shows these in the client on Windows.

I got access to the updated version of Phone Link on my PC today, and this integration is pretty wild and it actually works, albeit with several limitations.

First, the setup process is entirely based on an App Clip by Microsoft, which is the first time I’ve seen and used an App Clip in real life. Essentially, my understanding is that this works similarly to how an iPhone can pair with an old-school Bluetooth car system: the iPhone and PC pair via Bluetooth, and you can then provide the PC with access to your notifications and contacts from iOS’ Bluetooth settings. This is the same UI I have for my KIA Sportage’s system, which uses regular Bluetooth to pair with my iPhone and can also display contacts and missed calls.

The setup process based on an App Clip.

The setup process based on an App Clip.

The difference between my car and Phone Link, of course, is that with Phone Link you can type text messages from a PC and they will be sent as iMessages on iOS. This bit of dark magic comes with a lot of trade-offs (check out Warren’s full story for the details on this), but it works for individual contacts. I’ve been able to start a conversation with John, reply to his messages from Windows notifications, and even send him URLs1, and they were all correctly “intercepted” by iOS and sent over as iMessages. I’ve also been impressed by the ability to clear notifications from a PC and have them go away on iOS’ Lock Screen immediately.

The Phone Link app paired with my iPhone.

The Phone Link app paired with my iPhone.

This was then sent as an iMessage.

This was then sent as an iMessage.

The limitations of Phone Link for iPhone users mean you’ll always have to fall back to the actual iOS device for something – whether it’s posting in an iMessage group or sending a photo or acting on notifications – but for quick messages, glancing at notifications, and clearing them, I think this integration is more than good enough.


  1. Fun fact: raw URLs sent from Windows are delivered as rich links from iMessage, but the card’s preview doesn’t load by default on the recipient’s device. ↩︎
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Microsoft and Netflix Aim to Challenge Apple in Mobile Gaming

Two pieces of mobile gaming news caught my eye this morning.

The first was an interview that Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming, gave to the Financial Times. The annual Game Developer Conference began today, and Spencer wants developers to know that Microsoft intends to publish games on mobile devices:

We want to be in a position to offer Xbox and content from both us and our third-party partners across any screen where somebody would want to play.

He continued:

Today, we can’t do that on mobile devices but we want to build towards a world that we think will be coming where those devices are opened up.

Spencer is banking that the EU’s Digital Markets Act will force Apple and Google to open up their devices early next year. Microsoft is having troubles of its own with US, UK, and EU regulators over its proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Part of Spencer’s strategy to win regulators over appears to be the prospect of bringing competition to mobile gaming with its own store and a native Game Pass app that isn’t relegated to streaming via a browser, which is the case for it and services like NVIDIA’s GeForce Now under current App Store rules.

The second piece of news comes from Netflix, which says it has 40 mobile games coming to iOS in 2023, which will join the 55 already available. Working within the constraints of the App Store’s guidelines, Netflix’s games are released as separate App Store downloads that Netflix subscribers can download and play at no additional cost. I’ve been impressed with the quality of the games released by Netflix, which include titles like TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, Kentucky Route Zero,Reigns: Three Kingdoms, Oxenfree, and Lucky Luna.

However, perhaps even bigger than the news of Netflix’s growing catalog is that the first two Monument Valley games are coming to the company’s mobile game catalog in 2024. That’s a big deal because both games are currently part of an Apple Arcade subscription, as well as being available as separate App Store purchases. It’s not clear whether the games will remain part of Arcade after they’re published by Netflix, but even if they are, it will provide another avenue to play the games at no additional cost, which will dilute the value of an Arcade subscription.

Microsoft and Netflix are already competing with Apple in mobile gaming to a degree, but their hands are tied by App Store guidelines. Microsoft has settled on streaming games, which is clunky and constrained, while Netflix has launched dozens of individual games without a good way to organize and market them under their brand.

What Microsoft and Netflix have done so far demonstrates that a little competition is a good thing. Developers have more avenues for publishing their games, and consumers have more choices. The Digital Markets Act has the potential to be the catalyst that opens the door to competition even wider, which I expect will create all sorts of new opportunities for developers and consumers alike.


Microsoft Outlook for Mac Is Now Free to Use

Yesterday, Microsoft announced that Outlook, its email and calendar app, is now free on the Mac App Store and doesn’t require a Microsoft 365 subscription, which has been the case for a long time on iOS and iPadOS.

That’s great news for Mac users. Outlook has been optimized for Apple silicon Macs and supports iCloud, Gmail, Outlook, IMAP, and other email systems. And, because it’s native, Outlook supports features like widgets, Handoff between devices logged into the same Apple ID, and rich notifications, plus it includes a menu bar app for quickly checking your calendar. In its announcement, Microsoft also said it is working on support for Focus modes through an Outlook feature called Profiles.

Source: Microsoft.

Source: Microsoft.

Microsoft’s move came as something of a surprise and in the midst of rebuilding the Windows version of Outlook. The company is also experimenting with a progressive web app version of the app but told The Verge that it is committed to native apps on Apple’s platforms.

Microsoft Outlook is available to download free on the Mac App Store.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming Beta Launches on the Mac, PC, iPhones, and iPads

As we reported earlier this week, Microsoft began inviting Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to beta test Xbox Cloud Gaming yesterday. The beta is invitation-only, but if you’re a Game Pass Ultimate subscriber and are invited to test the streaming service, you can use it on PCs and Macs via Edge, Chrome, or Safari, as well as on iPhones and iPads.

At The Verge, Tom Warren has a short walkthrough video that tours the service’s UI on a Windows PC. Although the games run on older Xbox One S hardware in Microsoft’s data centers, which means longer load times than current hardware, the UI appears to scale nicely across devices. Warren describes the experience as follows:

Once the connection settles down, it’s very similar to xCloud on Android. If you run this through a web browser on a PC or iPad, you’ll even get a 1080p stream. It feels like I’m playing on an Xbox in the cloud, and there’s a dashboard that lets me access friends, party chats, achievements, and invites to games. This is all powered by Xbox Game Pass, so there are more than 100 games available — and even some original Xbox and Xbox 360 titles that can be streamed.

Warren also notes that some games work with touch, but as you’d expect, most are best experienced using a Bluetooth-connected controller.

I’ve had a chance to play with Google Stadia on an iPhone 12 Pro Max and the experience was far better than I expected, even over WiFi. Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming beta has just begun, but it looks like a promising way to enjoy your favorite games on more devices than ever.

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Microsoft to Begin Beta Testing Xbox Cloud Gaming on the iPhone and iPad

Tomorrow, April 20th, Microsoft Xbox Cloud Gaming, also known as xCloud, is coming to the iPhone and iPad and the PC as a limited, invitation-only beta. The service will allow invited Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to stream over 100 games using the Edge, Chrome, and Safari browsers.

In an announcement on Xbox Wire, Catherine Gluckstein, Microsoft’s head of xCloud said:

The limited beta is our time to test and learn; we’ll send out more invites on a continuous basis to players in all 22 supported countries, evaluate feedback, continue to improve the experience, and add support for more devices. Our plan is to iterate quickly and open up to all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members in the coming months so more people have the opportunity to play Xbox in all-new ways.

Xbox Game Streaming was launched on Android last year but was delayed on iOS and iPadOS when Apple told Microsoft it couldn’t stream the games to a dedicated app unless each game was approved by Apple App Review.

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Microsoft Is Rolling Out iPad Pointer Support to Its Office Suite

Microsoft’s suite of productivity apps, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are being updated on a rolling basis over the next couple of weeks to add pointer support to the iPad versions of the apps. According to a Microsoft blog post, the update will:

give iPad users using a mouse or Apple’s new Magic Keyboard easy cursor control, fluid navigation, and precise adjustments. When moving a finger across the built-in trackpad of Magic Keyboard, the cursor transforms into the tool you need depending on the content you’re pointing to.

Microsoft is also updating the start screens and ribbon of each of its apps and mentioned that it has further updates planned in the upcoming months, including contextual menus and offline support for documents stored in the cloud.

I don’t have the new features announced yet, but I’m glad to see Microsoft adopting iPad pointer support. Especially with apps like Excel, the ability to use a precise pointer is useful when selecting cells in a large spreadsheet.

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Microsoft Previews New Office Mobile App, Unifying Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and More in a Single App

Today Microsoft previewed a fascinating new experiment in mobile: a brand new iOS app, simply dubbed Office, that houses versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in one place, integrated with OneDrive, while also including Sticky Notes, Microsoft’s OCR-powered Office Lens camera, and a variety of mobile-friendly actions. Until test slots are full, you can sign up to access the beta version of the app through TestFlight.

For now, the beta version of Office is iPhone-only, but Microsoft states it “will bring this experience to tablets as well.” It will be interesting to see how that pans out, since currently Microsoft requires Office 365 subscriptions to edit in its Office apps on iPads over a certain size, while devices under that size can edit documents for free. It’s likely the new Office app will follow the same restrictions, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

I’ve spent a little time working with the beta version of Office, and I think Microsoft may be on to something here.

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Microsoft Office Debuts on the Mac App Store

Promised at WWDC last June, Microsoft Office 365 has arrived on the Mac App Store today. Office 365, which includes the company’s flagship Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook productivity apps are free to download but require a subscription available via an In-App Purchase to create and edit documents and to send and receive email messages. Before today, the Mac versions of the apps were only available as direct downloads from Microsoft.

At WWDC 2018, Apple announced a redesign of the Mac App Store. During the presentation, the company said the following apps would be coming to the Mac App Store:

  • Microsoft’s Office 365
  • Adobe’s Lightroom CC
  • Panic’s Transmit
  • Bare Bones’ BBEdit
  • Snap’s Live Studio
  • Houseparty

The addition of the apps announced has been slow. Houseparty debuted on the Mac App Store several months ago, but Transmit didn’t appear until last November. With today’s addition of Office 365, that leaves Lightroom, BBEdit, and Live Studio to go.

Office is a significant addition to the Mac App Store. The apps in the suite are used by millions of people worldwide, and the convenience of downloading them and updating the apps from the Mac App Store alongside other apps should be a welcome addition for many users. Hopefully, the remainder of apps promised aren’t far behind and will help reinvigorate the Store, which has not seen the same level of success as its iOS sibling.

Office 365 is available on the Mac App Store as a bundle. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook can also be downloaded individually.


Microsoft Announces iPad Edition of Minecraft for Education Coming in September

Today, Microsoft announced that it was expanding Minecraft: Education Edition to include the iPad. According to Microsoft:

Now, students can tap into the power of iPad to build historic monuments, swim through coral reefs with the Update Aquatic, bring creative stories to life, experiment with chemistry, and document their learning with the camera and portfolio features.

The latest expansion of Minecraft: Education Edition adds to the existing 35 million teachers and students in 115 countries that were already using the app on other platforms. The program includes training and curriculum resources for teachers too.

Minecraft is being offered as part of Microsoft’s 365 for Education program and will be available on the iPad beginning in September.