Microsoft has bought a popular Android app called Echo Notification Lockscreen, which lets you personalize what appears on your phone or tablet when it's in lock mode.
This actually makes Echo the second Android lockscreen replacement that Microsoft owns.
Last year, the company's Microsoft Garage research division launched the popular Microsoft Next lockscreen for Android, which promises to provide you enough information and control at a glance that you don't have to unlock your phone nearly as much.
It may seem weird that Microsoft would have one lockscreen for Google's Android, let alone two. But Microsoft Chief Experience Officer Julie Larson-Green says it's all in the name of "[taking] productivity to the next level" and "[keeping] you in the moment."
The problem with the current default lockscreens on Apple, Android, and even Windows Phone, Larson-Green says, is that it's not at all personalized — it's just a list of alerts, one app at a time.
"It's a list of what apps want you to know, not necessarily what's important to you," Larson-Green says.
This problem falls right into her role as Chief Experience Officer, which she's held for the year or so since Satya Nadella came into the CEO role at Microsoft and shook things up. A big part of Larson-Green's mandate there is to come up with new ways for people to access their information, in ways that are both contextual and personal.
To that end, Android is a great platform for rapid experimentation, Larson-Green says. Android has lots of users (compared to Microsoft's 3% mobile market share), and gives developers like Microsoft a deep access to the operating system compared to Apple. In other words, it's the perfect research testbed.
Echo Lockscreen has 50,729 reviews on the Google Play app store at the time of writing: That's a lot of feedback that can make its way back into the product.
A lot of what Microsoft comes up with via the Microsoft Next and Echo lockscreens will make it back to Windows 10, Office, and any other Microsoft products that send out notifications.
But by handling it as a separate app first, Larson-Green says, it means that they won't accidentally ship a half-baked or just user-unfriendly feature to the millions of Windows users out there. That's especially important when dealing with Microsoft's main revenue stream of business users.
"You buy Microsoft for your business, you want to feel good about the products we've been building," Larson-Green says.
It's also the logic behind recent experimental Microsoft apps like screen-grabbing tool Snip, mailbox sorting tool Clutter, and the forthcoming GigJam, Larson-Green says.
By releasing them as standalone products, it helps Microsoft refine concepts and play around with ideas, without the baggage of making them an integral part of the operating system.