This week's updates from Redmond range from courtroom news to Microsoft Garage creations.
Microsoft kicked off its news cycle from Barcelona, where the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC) took place. There, HP unveiled the Elite x3 smartphone, a Windows 10 Mobile handheld intended for an enterprise audience.
HP wants the Elite x3 to be the smartphone, laptop, and desktop you use for business. Its accessories enable the Continuum feature in Windows 10: A Desk Dock lets you connect the Elite x3 to a desktop monitor, and the Mobile Extender is a laptop shell powered by the phone.
[Red Hat Enterprise Linux is on Azure. What took so long?]
Partners debuted a range of Windows 10 PCs and tablets at MWC. Huawei brought its first desktop device, the hybrid MateBook; Panasonic launched the rugged Toughpad FZ-F1, and Lenovo released the Yoga 510 and 710.
Windows Insiders in the Fast ring received two new builds this week: Build 14271 for PCs and Mobile Build 14267.1004 for smartphones. The latter is the same build released Feb. 19, said Microsoft in a blog post, with a couple of fixes and the introduction of visual voicemail on dual-SIM devices.
PC build 14271 comes with several fixes but there are a few issues worth mentioning: Some PCs will freeze or bluescreen when coming out of hibernation; older apps like Windows Live Mail and Expression Encoder 4 may crash; and certain security programs (Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Internet Security, Kaspersky Total Security Suite) may not work due to a driver bug.
On the mobile front, Microsoft has confirmed its purchase of Xamarin, a company focused on cross-platform mobile app development. The two companies are longtime partners and first started their collaboration in 2013.
Xamarin enables mobile app developers to use the C# programming language for creating fully native apps across platforms including iOS, Android, Mac and Windows. Microsoft can use its tools and talent to broaden its mobile offerings across different devices.
The Microsoft Garage rolled out new business apps for Android this week. Sprightly, a marketing-focused app, makes it easier to create promotional content like catalogs, flyers, or pricelists. Kaizala tracks team communication with group or private chats, and manages resources like time and bills.
The Hub Keyboard, another new Android offering, aims to make you more efficient by keeping relevant apps onscreen so you don't have to switch between them. For example, if you need to send a document, the app will let you select from an Office 365 app while you're writing a text message.
On a related note, Microsoft has also confirmed it will kill Project Astoria. The project was originally created to make it easier for developers to create Android apps and port them to Windows. The Windows Bridge for iOS, aka Project Islandwood, is still ongoing.
iOS updates include the integration of Box storage in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on iPhone and iPad. Microsoft also announced Power BI reports can be viewed on iPhone and Windows 10 Mobile devices; the capability is on its way to Android smartphones.
As for courtroom news, Microsoft has voiced its support for Apple in its fight against the FBI. In a hearing this week, President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the company will file a brief to officially share its argument in favor of Apple next week. Recent updates indicate Facebook and Alphabet will be filing the brief with Microsoft.
Legal action aside, Microsoft cofounder and former CEO Bill Gates seems less firm in his stance on the matter. In interviews conducted this week, he initially expressed sympathy for the government's cause but later said he did not officially back the FBI, noting the case will be left to the courts.