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January 26, 2016

Microsoft Innovates for iPhone, But at What Cost?

It's a strange proposition, but Microsoft is about to deliver a feature for iPhones that isn't even available on Windows 10 phones. The development in question comes from the new Microsoft iPhone keyboard, which will deliver a kind of improved one-handed typing mode.

The Word Flow keyboard, as it's known, is still unreleased, but comes with a one-handed mode where the keys fan outward from the corner. That's a step up from Windows 10 Mobile's version, in which there is a one-handed mode, but it generally just compresses the keyboard down and moves it to one side of the screen. Word Flow is currently in a private beta with a few select Windows Insiders, so it'll be a while before wide-scale reports about just how well this system works get out.

Aside from the interesting new layout, there's not much else to say about Word Flow for iOS that isn't already being done for Windows 10 Mobile. Swipe-typing, word suggestions for more rapid movement, shortcuts for emojis and similar matters are all available, and users can switch quickly between one-handed and regular modes by just tapping a button on the word suggestion bar. Of particular interest are reports that put a future version coming to Android devices fairly soon, but not much word on whether or not Microsoft will be bringing this tool to its own operations.

That may be the biggest question mark of all, why Microsoft is bringing what looks like a potentially powerful new tool to every system but its own. Maybe Microsoft is looking at this as a means of product testing. Maybe it's set to concede the mobile field to two entrenched competitors who have been in place for years now and show no signs of giving up a lot of ground to Windows devices. Maybe Microsoft is just keeping a hand in the game for when the inevitable product shift happens, potentially to wearable devices. All of these are possible, but just which is actually the case is the thing only time—or Microsoft proper—can reveal.

Those interested in Microsoft's other uses, meanwhile, may want to hit ITEXPO, currently running through January 28 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale. On Thursday, January 28, a panel discussion featuring representatives from CloudRoute, MessageOps and IntelliCom Analytics will examine the impact of making Microsoft the center of hosted operations. The panel is titled “New Revenue Opportunities from Making Microsoft the Core of Your Hosted Services,” and will run at 11:00 am.

Still, Word Flow looks like it will be a very useful and worthwhile addition to the mobile community, and should give users a lot better time typing one-handed. There may be unanswered questions around this development, but the product as presented should be welcome.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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