Microsoft Releases Second Wave of Garage Mobile Apps

The company publishes apps for frequent conference call participants and Visual Studio developers as part of a new round of experimental app releases.

Microsoft Garage

Microsoft Garage, the software giant's cross-platform consumer mobile app initiative, wants to help Windows Phone users quickly connect to conference calls and spend less time juggling dial-ins and PIN codes.

As part of a second wave of Garage apps, Microsoft has launched Join Conference, an app for Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 that streamlines access to conference calls, collapsing the typical multistep dialing or log-in process into a single tap or voice command. According to the app's listing, users can hit just one button or speak the "join conference" command to Cortana, Microsoft's voice-enabled virtual assistant.

"We'll automatically figure out which meeting is about to start and what conference system it uses, then connect you in the right way," claims the company. The software works with "all conference systems" and will launch Lync and GoToMeeting apps, if needed.

Join Conference exemplifies the type of software that Microsoft Garage specializes in, namely experimental apps that go from idea to product in a relatively short period of time.

"For Join Conference, [Microsoft Garage] lets us test the concept with a wide variety of real life corporate conference systems, to prove it works well and flesh out any issues when it doesn't," said Microsoft senior architect Bret Johnson in a Feb. 25 company news article. "Plus Join Conference arose as an intrapreneurial app and the Garage is great for supporting us intrapreneurs."

Also released today is DevSpace, an app for Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones that allows Visual Studio developers to check in on coding projects without logging onto their PCs and corporate networks. "DevSpace, which took about five months from creation to completion, provides fast access to work items and queries, including the use of push notifications to get build status on the start screen, and access through secondary tiles," wrote Microsoft author Athima Chansanchai. Like Join Conference, the app "responds to voice commands using Cortana integration."

For Chinese users, the company has released Your Weather for Windows Phone. The app provides personalized air quality and weather reports for the country's cities, leveraging one of Microsoft's most buzzed-about technologies: machine learning.

"We worked closely with Microsoft Research Asia and [the] government (China Meteorological Administration) on this app," stated Microsoft's Jacky Hsu, principal program manager in Asia Research and Development. "Air quality is a hot topic in China, and MSR Asia has a team that focuses on this issue. We decided to work with them to bring their algorithms using Azure Machine Learning to the China market."

Your Weather features Live Tile and Lock Screen integration, helping users keep track of weather conditions without having to launch the app. It also sports a distinctive interface, in which Chinese artwork is integrated into the app's interactive reports.

Rounding out the second wave of Garage releases is Keyboard for Excel (Android), a virtual keyboard that prioritizes numerical input, and the new SquadWatch (Windows Phone) app. Featuring a map-based interface, SquadWatch provides "real-time information on friends and loved ones so you don't have to text or call about their whereabouts or availability," wrote Chansanchai.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...