Microsoft released Windows 10 Mobile build 14356 to the Windows Insider fast ring this week, allowing participants in the early-access program to test some of Cortana’s new cross-device capabilities.
“Cortana will now surface your phone notifications and critical alerts, including messages from messaging services, SMS or social media as well as missed calls from any Windows 10 phone or Android device, to your PC, so you never miss a beat while staying focused on your PC,” announced Dona Sarkar, the new head of the Windows Insider Program.
On June 1, Gabe Aul, the former Windows Insider lead, announced he was handing over the reins of system software testing program to Sarkar, a software engineer who joined Microsoft during Windows Vista’s development and recently served as the Windows Driver Signing portal for Windows 10 product lead. Aul will be taking a more behind-the-scenes role as he devotes more time on the tools and processes used by Microsoft’s Engineering Systems group to develop future builds of the operating system, he explained in his farewell blog post.
Build 14356 is an early step in enabling seamless Cortana-based interactions between Windows 10 smartphones and PCs. Some functionality, like muting notifications on a per-app basis, will come in later builds, said Sarkar. Microsoft is also still working the kinks out of features like replying to forwarded messages from a PC, she added.
Cortana can also now transfer photos to a PC with a voice command. Finally, the tapping on the microphone icon, which triggers Cortana’s listening mode, will display a new animation that resembles an audio waveform.
The latest preview build is also kinder to SD card storage. After taking a photo, the OS now creates a small thumbnail and generates larger ones on demand, freeing up storage space for users with a large number of pictures on their phones.
While Microsoft continues to invest in the Windows mobile ecosystem, its future as smartphone maker was cast further into doubt last week.
On May 25, the Redmond, Wash., technology giant announced layoffs affecting 1,850 workers in its smartphone business. Among those losing their jobs are 1,350 employees at Microsoft Mobile Oy in Finland, formerly Nokia.
“We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation—with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same. We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in a statement.
Microsoft closed the acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services business in 2014, in a deal worth $7 billion. Despite the move, it failed to have much of an impact in a smartphone market dominated by Android and iOS, from rivals Google and Apple, respectively.
During the first quarter of 2016, Windows phones captured just 2.7 percent of the smartphone market in the U.S., according to a report by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. By comparison, Android held 65.5 percent of the market and iOS took home 31.6 percent.