Microsoft has just announced the release of what could be one of the first — if not the first — truly Mobile First, Cloud First apps.
Hub Keyboard, which Microsoft unveiled this week, is a new keyboard app that lets Android device users toggle between Office 365 apps without interrupting a screen session to access data needed to complete a task.
Need A New Keyboard?
According to a Microsoft blog post, the app released through the Microsoft Garage keeps users in a conversation while bringing relevant information to complete common tasks.
Microsoft Garage is a project lab that lets employees work on projects that often have no relation to their primary function within the company, much like Google's "20 percent time" initiative.
Steve Won, a senior designer on the Office team, explained, “I don’t like switching between apps to do different things on my smartphone. But all these different apps on a smartphone, they have to conform to rules of a keyboard and that got me thinking about the project as an interesting idea I wanted to explore more. We’re giving users a wider gamut of tools.”
With Hub Keyboard, you can copy and paste recent items, search and share documents, share contact information, and translate parts of messages. All of these tasks are integrated into the keyboard enabling users choose which ones they want to use in any app that requires a keyboard.
Mobile First, Cloud First
The release of Hub follows the acquisition of keyboard app SwiftKey for $250 million, which provided both iOS and Android users with prediction technology for faster writing to make mobile users more productive.
For this reason alone the entire Hub release is a bit puzzling. SwiftKey has been a top keyboard app for years so it’s not like Microsoft actually needed a new keyboard. But maybe the fact that it was an idea from the Microsoft Garage persuaded it to move forward with the project.
Leaving that aside, the Hub release is an interesting addition to Microsoft’s mobility portfolio and makes Microsoft’s productivity flagship Office 365 more accessible and easier to use on mobile devices.
The only thing surprising about it is that it has released it for Android first. In the past, it has given iOS the productivity love first.
But Hub fits with Microsoft's strategy to place as many apps as it can on Android, and aligns with Satya Nadella’s Mobile First, Cloud First mantra.