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Operating Systems

Microsoft makes Windows play nice with Android and iPhone

Microsoft, of all companies, is knocking down the walls between Apple, Google and itself.

Many tech companies just don't get it. They build tools and features that sound amazing, but only if you use them in a tightly controlled way.

For example, Apple's built useful features into its MacOS computer software, making it easy to copy text on one computer and paste it using your phone. Or to unlock your laptop using your Apple Watch. But if you have a phone powered by Google's Android software, or a Windows PC in the mix, things aren't so easy.

Microsoft hopes to fix all that with a new update to its Windows software for PCs called The Fall Creators Update, which was announced Thursday at the company's Build developer's conference in Seattle.

The most ambitious new feature is one that breaks down those very barriers many companies put up to keep you buying their products. For example, if you begin work on a presentation on your PC, your phone will ask if you want to continue working on it once you're on the go. Copy something off a webpage on your PC, and paste it on an iPhone. You can even save files on one device and pick them up on another.

Called Microsoft Graph, the company describes the idea as an "intelligent fabric that helps connect dots between people, conversations, projects and content within the Microsoft cloud -- ensuring experiences flow seamlessly between Windows, iOS and Android devices."

Before you snidely point out that this is built around Windows, yes, if you're a Mac laptop or desktop user it doesn't appear all these features work for you. But the larger idea of making devices from multiple companies work together is refreshing. It's something Microsoft has been working toward for the past several years.

The system is built around two things: File sharing through Microsoft's OneDrive service, and the company's digital assistant Cortana.

Using those two, Microsoft has built tools like "Timeline," which shows you a list of the websites, files and apps you were working on regardless of the device. If you choose something you'd like to work on, it'll pull that file from Microsoft's OneDrive service and open it.

"For the first time, Windows PCs will love all your devices," said John Belfiore, speaking at the conference.

There's good reason for Microsoft to do this of course. Windows phones remains a virtual nonentity outside the corporate world, so any cross-device-sharing would have to include easy access from Apple iOS and Google Android phones and tablets.

timeline.jpg

The new Windows 10 Timeline view.

Microsoft

Whether these new features will be able to help Microsoft change the way we all use technology is still yet to be seen. But it is a further sign Microsoft wants to help make our devices work together. Well, ideally if you have a Windows PC anyway.

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