In addition to making smartphones running its Windows Phone operating system the best Windows companions they can be, it appears Microsoft may have a new strategy for toppling iPhone and Android and its directly related to its Xbox One console. A new look at the People app coming to Windows 10 for Phones includes a feature so obvious that it almost boggles the mind that it wasn’t there already: direct support for Xbox gamertags.
Microsoft hasn’t released the working People app for Windows 10 or Windows 10 for Phones, but it did showcase the app in a presentation during last week’s BUILD 2015 developer conference in San Francisco, California. In video of the presentation from Microsoft’s Channel 9, we get a pretty full look at lots of the new interface for devices running Windows 10 for Phones.
Choosing a contract seems to work just as it did before, with a search bar at the top and profile pictures of each contact on the left. Individual contacts have gotten a slight update, with app calling and video calling all rolled into one interface. It’s the drop down menu for messages that’s attracting the most attention though.
Listed among the possible ways to send messages is Xbox. It looks like anyone with a device running Windows 10 for Phones will be able to seamlessly message their friends over Xbox Live as if it were a replacement for a messaging service. This means that owners of Windows phones could just update their friends and family on what they are playing and more directly from the Messages app. This isn’t how it works today at all. This also means that Microsoft is treating Xbox Live like any other service that can be connected to a contact, meaning when you pull up a friend’s contact card their Xbox Live profile information can be added, or will be already available if they’re using a Microsoft Account.
To understand why better Xbox Live integration for Windows 10 for Phones is a great thing, you have to think about how badly Xbox Live is treated by Windows Phone 8.1, iOS and Android. The Xbox SmartGlass apps contain a subset of the Xbox Live experience. Microsoft has steadily improved on them with video stream, Xbox Live profile customization and an auto-updating television guide, but the app is still more of a companion experience than what it should be considering Microsoft has added tons of social networking features to Xbox Live in recent months.
Windows Phone does have an app for customizing Avatars and games that allow players to earn achievements, but that’s about It. Robust support for Xbox Live would finally give Xbox One owners a reason to consider purchasing an iPhone alternative running Windows Phone. At the very least, this is something that people can’t get on other devices. Devices running Windows 10 for Phones need all the help they can get as they continue to take on the juggernaut that is the iPhone 6. Of course, this Xbox Live integration will only go so far, and that’s where other announcements made last week come into play.
During BUILD 2015 Microsoft announced that Windows phones running Windows 10 will have what it describes as an “Android subsystem.” This subsystem will allow Windows Phones to run some Android apps that aren’t dependent on the services that Google provides directly to developers. This subsystem doesn’t exist in a vacuum — developers have to still port their apps into the Windows Store, but it’s one of the big ways Microsoft is hoping to win over developers. In theory, repacking apps from Android is something developers can do in a lot less time than they could before. Microsoft also announced new tools that’ll give developers what they need to convert iPhone apps more easily for Windows 10.
Microsoft says it plans to launch Windows 10 for notebooks, desktops, tablets and 2-in-1s sometime this summer. When it’ll launch Windows 10 for Phones remains unclear, but most expect a fall 2015 release.
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