Microsoft's new plan for mobile relevance: Use Windows to make other devices better

Microsoft's new motto: "If you can't beat them in mobile, join them." The coming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and some under-the-cover developer technologies are key to trying to make this happen.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's got a new plan designed to keep the company in the mobile game even though it doesn't have a successful mobile-phone platform.

The plan, unsurprisingly, involves making sure Windows remains a necessary part of any new mobile scenarios. During its Build 2017 developer conference Day 2 keynote on May 11, Microsoft officials will show off a number of these scenarios that are meant to highlight how Windows can make iOS and Android users' computing experiences better.

The next version of Windows 10 -- "Redstone 3," which Microsoft has decided to christen officially as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update -- and the Microsoft Graph, the company's unified application programming interface, are the centerpieces of this new strategy.

Microsoft is building new features into Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that can work seamlessly with iOS and Android devices.

For example, the Pick Up Where You Left Off capability that Microsoft is hard-wiring into Cortana will allow users to automatically pick up in an app, document, or website where they left off, with Cortana acting as the broker between Windows, iOS, and/or Android. Microsoft describes the effect as "having your PC and your phone finish each other's sentences."

Credit: Microsoft

Another example: The coming Clipboard in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. The new clipboard will allow users to copy and paste almost anything (text, photos, maps, GIFs) between their Windows PCs, iOS, and Android devices as long as they have Microsoft's SwiftKey keyboards installed.

Microsoft's coming replacement for its Placeholder technology, known as OneDrive Files on Demand, will allow users to access all their files on their various devices through Windows 10 Fall Creators Update's File Explorer. Even the new Xamarin Live Player, introduced today at Build, which will allow developers to build, test, and debug iPhone applications from their Windows PCs, could be seen as part of this idea that users' Windows experiences can move with them across Windows, iOS, and Android.

It's the Microsoft Graph technology and the company's Project Rome's app-to-app communication layer (which works similarly to Apple's Handoff functionality) that enable many of these new capabilities. Microsoft is making its Project Rome software development kit (SDK) available for iOS today; it's already available for the Universal Windows Platform and Android.

The Microsoft Graph is a unified gateway for multiple Microsoft programming interfaces and graph data that was formerly known as the Office 365 Unified application programming interface (API). Microsoft initially made Microsoft Graph generally available in November 2015, and has been focused on making Microsoft Graph more consumable by developers since that time.

Microsoft added a number of new API endpoints to its Microsoft Graph at Build this week. In addition to the existing Azure Active Directory, Outlook (mail, calendar and contacts), Office 365 groups, OneDrive drives and files and Excel, there are also APIs for Planner, OneNote, and SharePoint sites now. Preview/beta versions of APIs for Microsoft Teams, Insights (powering Delve), SharePoint Lists, Outlook Tasks, Intune, Office 365 Reporting, and Project Rome are all available, as well.

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