Microsoft may have just purchased SwiftKey, but today it's releasing a new Android keyboard of its own. It's called the Hub Keyboard, and it provides quick access to your Office files, your local clipboard, your contacts, and a translation tool.
From Microsoft's experimental Garage group
A small bar sits on top of the keyboard, and tapping on its icons lets you grab information from elsewhere on your phone without having to hop into another app. Tapping on the contacts button, for instance, let me search for a friend and then have their name and phone number automatically inserted into my document. The translate button let me type in English and have it automatically transformed into Spanish, or a selection of other languages.
The Hub Keyboard comes from Microsoft's Garage group, which makes experimental apps with the goal of trying out new ideas. There are some interesting ones in this keyboard, like the translation tool, but other aspects of the keyboard may make it a nonstarter for daily use. You can't view autocomplete suggestions while the quick access buttons are up, for instance, and the documents button is only useful for people who store their files with Office 365. On the other hand, Microsoft suggests that new quick access options could come to the Hub Keyboard over time, and you'd be able to turn off the ones that you don't find useful.
Microsoft has been putting more and more apps out on Android over the past year, with it now offering the Office suite, a home screen launcher, and popular email and calendar apps. It doesn't necessarily need a keyboard app now that it's the owner of SwiftKey, which has been a top keyboard alternative for years, but Hub gives it another opportunity to see what features might catch on and how it can better integrate services like Office 365 and translation. Microsoft also released an Android app called Sprightly this week, which is meant to let businesses quickly put together fliers.
While there's no word of an iOS launch for the Hub Keyboard, Microsoft does have an iPhone keyboard in the works, too.