Microsoft Garage Brings Productivity Apps

Experimental apps from Microsoft's Garage incubator are designed to enhance productivity.
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Microsoft is releasing a number of new experimental apps from its Garage project. The cross-platform offerings are the product of more than 10,000 Microsoft staff members and interns collaborating in Garage chapters around the world, the software giant announced Feb. 25. 

Garage was founded in 2009 in an effort to spur grassroots innovation at Microsoft across disciplines and geographies. The goal is to allow employees to "embrace their inner innovator," according to Garage manager Jeff Ramos, through side projects.

"The Garage focuses on connecting people with diverse perspectives to quickly bring an idea to life, share it and learn from that experience," says Ed Essey, senior program manager in a news post from Microsoft.

In October 2014, Microsoft announced it would be transforming the Garage into an incubator focused on delivering apps to consumers. The apps are first subject to review from Microsoft employees, who provide feedback and suggestions to developers before rolling the programs out to consumers. Garage apps are updated according to user feedback.

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The most recent collection of experimental apps is the second wave of offerings from the Garage. Its newest releases are free and ready to download. Many are designed to facilitate enhanced productivity among business users. Interested in testing? Here are a few highlights:

  • Join Conference: Allows users to quickly hop on conference calls with a single button or command. Available on Windows Phone.
  • DevSpace: Gives engineers working in Visual Studio Online the ability to check on projects through their mobile phones instead of booting up their laptops and logging into the corporate network. Available on Windows Phone.
  • Squadwatch: Provides information on the whereabouts and availability of family, friends, and others in real-time. Available on Windows Phone.
  • Keyboard for Excel: Replaces the phone keyboard with one designed for Excel use. Available on Android.
  • Your Weather: Chinese-language app that delivers information on air quality and weather for cities in China. Available on Windows Phone.
  • Picturesque Lock Screen: Brings images of the Bing home page to Android lock screens, along with other features like calendars, weather, news, and search. Available on Android.

Microsoft's news also included the re-release of older Garage apps that now boast new features. These include improved versions of Developer Assistant, Mouse Without Borders, and an updated Torque app. The 2.5 update for Torque allows users to shake their Android phones to make a call, launch an app, text people, or take notes through dictation.

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