Microsoft wants to make it easier for you to use your iPhones and Android phones at work — part of a broader plan for continued office dominance that it outlined on the second day of its annual developers conference Thursday.
This combines its recent consumer focus with its historical focus on dominating the workplace. It’s also in keeping with the realistic, and humble, tone chief executive Satya Nadella has struck since taking over Microsoft in 2014. Microsoft’s announcements Thursday show again that it knows it’s lost the fight for mobile — acknowledging that its competitors’ devices are where work gets done on the go — even as it prepares to battle for the next, AI- and voice-controlled era.
Announcements focused on products that optimize productivity and creativity. This includes a new program, Story Remix, that uses artificial intelligence to find the best pieces of video footage, then cuts them together to make entertaining videos for work or home.
Microsoft is also trying to bring competing products together, making it even easier to use its products on phones running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
Every consumer — particularly those who work with Microsoft Office and other programs but prefer a different brand of phone — has likely felt some pain hopping between platforms. The “platform wars” have made it difficult for people to do their work, said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of Windows and devices.
But a new Windows upgrade, the “Fall Creators Update,” will make it possible to hand tasks off from your PC to your smartphone. That, too, will be powered by the Cortana voice assistant — it will be able to remember where you stopped in an article on your Surface and ask whether you want to pick up in the same spot on your iPhone.
Microsoft also announced a universal clipboard that will let you copy text from one device and paste it on another — similar to a feature that Apple has for pasting text between its devices — but that will also work across platforms.
Other additions included in Microsoft’s update include the ability to download Apple’s iTunes through the Windows Store — a little move that gives students looking at Microsoft’s Windows 10 S the option to use the program. That operating system allows consumers to use apps only from the Windows store.
On Wednesday, the first day of its annual conference, Microsoft showed off ways that work and life blend when it demonstrated programs and products that could monitor workplaces. Companies could use facial recognition and artificial intelligence, Microsoft suggested, to look at whether a worker was holding something in a way that could cause a workplace-related injury.
It also showed off the way that home and the office could mix, with its Cortana voice assistant. One demonstration showed a woman using Cortana through a smart speaker to remind her of a meeting, then using the assistant in her car to notify her boss about her location and call into a meeting from the road.
Nadella addressed some privacy concerns about the potential for this sort of close monitoring, saying that companies should have guidelines about how to responsibly use this technology.
He said that companies must work to avoid creating futures that look like George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” — novels where technology controls or distracts citizens enough to create a dystopia. “Neither of these futures is something that we want,” he said.
Other announcements included new mixed-reality controller to work with Windows-compatible virtual-reality and augmented-reality headsets. The company promised more mixed-reality updates at next month’s gaming conference, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. The firm is also hosting a hardware event in Shanghai later this month.