On the heels of its SwiftKey acquisition, Microsoft has launched a new Android keyboard app that lets you share documents and contacts, and instantly translate messages.
The new Hub Keyboard is the latest app from Redmond's hack labs, Microsoft Garage, which appears for now to be aimed at Office 365 users on Android and integrates services from its productivity platform with the keyboard interface.
The keyboard aims to make it easier to share documents and contacts when sending text messages or emailing. The idea is to minimize switching between apps when sharing information, so if a colleague asks for a link to a report, the user can simply click on the document icon on the top of the keyboard and search for the relevant file to send.
The app lets user search OneDrive and SharePoint documents from an Office 365 account. It also features a clipboard, translate service, and allows contacts from either the phone or Office 365 to be shared.
The keyboard's integration with Office 365 shouldn't come as a surprise, given Microsoft's Office suite is now available on Android, alongside Outlook and other recently-acquired apps, such as the Sunrise Calendar.
Also, the idea was hatched by a senior designer on the Office team, Steve Won, who says he didn't like switching between apps to get things done on a smartphone.
Won says he only had the coding skills to build a prototype, but through Microsoft's "internal //one week Hackathon 2015" was able to connect with the engineers from Microsoft Garage to realise the product. As Microsoft notes, Garage is "dedicated to developing the hacking culture across Microsoft".
It's the source of a number of new experimental apps, such as the recently-released Sprightly Android app for making business cards, the Android Arrow launcher, Windows sketching app Plumbago, and Fetch, a web and iOS app that shows off how Microsoft's AI can identify different dog breeds.
As for the more established SwiftKey keyboard, Microsoft's plan is to maintain the brand while integrating its technology with the Word Flow keyboard Microsoft has in the works for the iPhone.