What's the real goal with Microsoft Garage?

Why is this group constantly making apps that only run on the iPhone?

microsoft garage apps

There’s an entire team at Microsoft that just made an app that can identify your dog.

Called Fetch!, it uses AI to determine -- based on a photo you snap -- if you have a Doberman or a Border Collie. It’s obviously a proof of concept (and, sadly, won’t work with my Border Collie-Lab mix named Abby because she’s not a purebred). You can also take pictures of people and then see which dog they resemble, one of the strangest features in an app Microsoft has ever released.

“You’ll make fun of each other, comparing which breeds you look like and posting the tagged descriptions,” says the app description on the Garage site.

Ostensibly, the apps are always meant to showcase the talents of the team and Microsoft Research. Image identification is not easy because it involves comparing the shape of the image to a massive photo library in milliseconds. It also showcases the speed of the cloud and app development itself. The Garage team just released a news reader app called News Pro. There’s no question these apps are innovative, fun...and a little perplexing.

First, it’s an obvious admission that innovation takes place on the iPhone and iPad. It’s curious Microsoft Garage rarely releases any Android apps or (shudder) something for Windows 10 mobile. It destroys the entire concept of universal apps, those created for a laptop that run just fine on a tablet or a smartphone. You’d think they’d at least make a Surface version.

It points to a problem in the Microsoft ecosystem. They know perfectly well that Apple sells millions and millions of iPhones and iPads all over the world. And it is not just the Garage team. The Outlook app for iOS is one of the best emails apps around, while the Outlook app on the desktop has lagged behind. I even use the mobile app instead of the Gmail app. (It helps that you can quickly switch between mail and cal using a tab). I've typically praise these iOS apps as useful and powerful.

What I want to see is a bigger push with Microsoft touch apps. It’s a graveyard. There are quite a few games, a few tent poles like Skype and Evernote, and then a collection of pure mush. I don’t even bother with touch apps on a Windows 10 laptop anymore and just install desktop apps, but when I want to try something new with a phone or tablet, I tend to use iOS.

I’m not alone. Microsoft owns the enterprise market still, and they have had great success with the Surface tablet. Windows 10 is a hit. The tech giant needs to stop sabotaging their own efforts. The equivalent of this would be if Apple decided to make some brand new innovative app and released it only for Windows 10 desktop. We’d laugh. And, we’d wonder what they were smoking. Staying true to your brand is incredibly important in tech. It’s another reason Apple keeps their ecosystem so locked down (try renting a movie from Amazon some time). You keep things in the family or the family breaks up and moves to South Dakota.

This is not a ding against the Garage team. It seems to reveal a few things about the popularity of platforms, and possibly how easy it it is to code for iOS these days. My suggestion? Start making your apps work on Windows 10, IOS and Android.

Try it, OK?

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