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Microsoft is using Android apps as mobile testbeds

Microsoft is using Android apps as mobile testbeds

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This past Friday, Business Insider revealed that Microsoft had acquired Double Labs, a small shop that makes an Android app screen replacement called Echo Notification Lockscreen. That seems like a weird thing to do, because Microsoft's Garage Labs already makes a similar app, called Next Lock Screen. But if you look at what Microsoft has been doing on Android (especially with Garage Labs), it actually makes a bit of sense.

The key is that Microsoft is trying to experiment with a lot of different ideas on mobile instead of betting the farm on some big concept (like it did with Windows 8). So it has its own lock screen on Android that focuses on showing contextually relevant apps and faster access to stuff like making conference calls. Echo is slightly different, it lets you only wake the screen for prioritized apps and snooze those notifications for later.

Both are sets of good ideas for your lock screen, but combining them could end up being a mess. But that's not the goal anyway. Instead, Microsoft apparently wants to see how users interact with these apps for its own research — not just to create the One True Android Lock Screen App (yet). What it learns there could make it back to its core products, like Windows 10 or Outlook.

Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green spoke to Business Insider about the strategy, and it makes sense that her company needs to balance being conservative with its business customers with being innovative in the mobile space. By trying a lot of stuff on Android, Microsoft gets to do both.