Last week, I wrote about my longing for Windows users to have the same robust experience macOS users have for accessing iMessage on their Mac devices. Intel’s Unison app, now available on select Intel Evo-certified laptops from HP, Lenovo and Acer — and possibly more Windows laptops in the future — is a modest step in the right direction.

With that in mind, I’ve moderated hopes for Microsoft’s updated Phone Link app, which is now available in Windows 11’s preview build 22623.1325. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s attempt to forge robust iPhone text messaging support in Windows is equally weak.

Microsoft formally provides access to iMessage on Windows using its Phone Link program. For Windows Insiders, a preview of the upgraded app is now possible. With the upgrade, the updated Phone Link app enables iPhone users to make and receive calls, send and receive messages using iMessage, and view their phone alerts from inside Windows 11. The program also allows iPhone users to connect their handsets to Windows laptops or PCs. ,

What is phone link?

Unlike the Intel Unison app, which users will need to download from the Windows App Store on both their PC and iPhone, Phone Link is embedded in this new preview build of Windows 11. The app connects Windows machines to iPhones via Bluetooth, sending instructions and messages. iMessage App.

microsoft phone link app messaging

Phone Link (Image Credit: Microsoft)

Sadly, Phone Link has the same limitations that plague the Intel Unison app. You can communicate directly from your PC with contacts who also have iPhones. However, you will not be able to participate in group messages or send pictures in communications. PC users will see their iMessage conversations in truncated form.

limits, limits, more limits

Only messages sent or received through the phone link are shown in discussions, so you won’t be able to see the entire communication history with the other party. This Microsoft app cannot differentiate between a text message received via iMessage and a regular SMS message; Phone Link uses neither a blue nor a green bubble, which is a significant text messaging experience concession compared to using an iPhone with a macOS device.

Since Phone Link can only display photographs on your phone, the app lags a lot when using a macOS device. The image limit is only 2,000 of your recent pictures; Neither video files nor albums are supported. Also, you can’t transfer files and images from your computer to the phone, and there’s no way to transfer files from phone to computer. These limits are almost laughable compared to using a macOS device with an iPhone.

on the bright side

Microsoft has never enabled calls or messaging for iPhone users until now, and iPhone integration for Windows still isn’t comparable to what’s offered for Android. In addition to being native, Phone Link is part of Windows 11, unlike previous PC Link apps from Intel, Dell, and other companies that provided a basic level of iPhone integration.

It looks like with Phone Link, Microsoft seeks to provide the same positive Android phone experience that Windows users now have for iPhone users. In that regard, Microsoft’s heart seems to be in the right place, although its execution with Phone Link falls short.

While the Phone Link doesn’t have any Photos connectivity, I should point out that Microsoft’s Windows 11 Photos app already has iCloud Photos integration. Eventually, this capability may appear in PhoneLink as well. In addition to this new Phone Link capability, other important new features in the Windows 11 Preview update include AI-powered Bing on the taskbar, a screen recording tool, and advanced touch customization.

Microsoft began testing this week with a “limited number” of testers. If interested, you can try out the new Phone Link functionality for iOS via the Dev, Beta, and Release Preview channels for Windows Insiders. Microsoft’s Windows team has indicated that it will broaden the preview’s availability to additional Insiders over time based on the feedback the company gathers with this first set of Insiders.

same old ecosystem story

I’ve mentioned this repeatedly in previous analyses, but the lack of tight integration between the iPhone and Windows is a significant problem for the industry.

Solutions like Microsoft Phone Link, Intel Unison, and Dell and others are all workarounds that feel gimmicky and patchwork-like, especially for users who have played in Apple’s ecosystem for a limited amount of time.

While I give credit to Intel and Microsoft for trying to solve the problem, both companies’ hands are tied until Apple fully supports the iPhone in Windows.

With the overall PC market returning to its pre-pandemic flat (or even contracting) levels this year, perhaps coupled with recessionary conditions that will lengthen the PC buying cycle, there will be real growth in the Windows ecosystem. The lack of iPhone integration is hard for both the consumers. and business.

windows 11 high points

Keeping the iPhone integration issue aside, there’s a lot to like in Windows 11, which has turned into a compelling alternative to macOS.

Compared to Windows 10 and earlier versions, Windows 11 offers faster startup times, better resource management, and better laptop battery life. In the user interface area, Windows 11 features a redesigned UI with new animations and visual effects. It also introduces a new Start menu design that places app icons at the center of the screen, which promises usability benefits.

Windows 11 also sports new productivity enhancements with a new feature called Snap Layouts, which allows users to keep multiple apps side-by-side with predefined layouts.

A new virtual desktop feature in the latest Windows 11 lets users create multiple desktops for different tasks and several new security features, such as a built-in ransomware protection tool, hardware-based isolation for sensitive processes, and better security for remote working scenarios. make capable. ,

Finally, Windows 11 is designed to be backward-compatible (a historical Windows strength) with most Windows 10 applications and hardware.

While Windows’ lack of iPhone integration ultimately doesn’t undermine Windows 11’s value proposition, iPhone integration is a missed opportunity for Microsoft that may never be resolved.

Cross-platform interoperability is a critical element of the Apple ecosystem, and it’s hard to imagine any scenario where Apple hands Intel or Microsoft the “keys to the kingdom” because there’s no business upside for Apple.

The losers, of course, are the millions of Windows users who own iPhones and have to sub-optimize their overall productivity.

Microsoft Build is Microsoft’s most interesting event because it focuses on the people who build stuff, mostly code, but often, as is the case this year, hardware.

Last week, Microsoft held its latest build event and I’m pretty sure it screwed up most PC OEMs. That’s because Microsoft announced a new focused workstation for developers called Project Volterra. It has four processors and is based on ARM, not x86, and this coupled with a major effort to provide ARM native code will help that platform with the help of Qualcomm once the code becomes available in late 2022. Allows you to reach your full potential.

But ARM is only one of four processors. We still have the GPU, but Microsoft added an NPU and an ACU (Azure Compute Unit), and that last one isn’t even in the PC. Let’s talk about how Microsoft is radically rethinking PCs in the cloud world, and how disruptive this necessary change is likely to be.

Then we’ll close with our product of the week, which has to be Project Volterra because it reminds me of the old PCJR from IBM but done right. (IBM crippled the IBM PCJR because they feared it would cancel sales of their IBM PC, which is now a textbook product mistake.)

Inside 4-processor PC

Today, PCs consist of two processors, a CPU that handles numerically related information, and a GPU that focuses more on unstructured data and visual information. Together they define how a PC performs, with the current trend being load transfer from CPU to GPU as they are increasingly less structured and more visually focused, especially when it comes to how PCs store their information. Present.

But with the rise of artificial intelligence – and the fact that AI operates very differently than apps designed for CPUs or GPUs, by creating decision chains based on neural network capabilities we consider how our brains work. does – these loads operate inefficiently on the CPU, and although more efficiently on the GPU, begging for a very different hardware architecture designed specifically for those workloads.

Enter the NPU or Neural Processing Unit. On paper this can outperform both CPU and GPU with AI load with far less power and open the door for developers who want to build applications that can utilize a focused and more efficient AI processing platform . This means there will be a lot of focus on AI capabilities going forward, and Microsoft has said that, in the future, all PCs will have NPUs.

But what about the APU? Well, that’s an acronym I came up with. APU stands for Azure Processing Unit. This is the second shoe we have been waiting for since Satya took over Microsoft. This refers to a persistent connection to Azure in the cloud for additional processing power. This is actually the first hardware implementation on an endpoint that addresses the hybrid world we live in today.

By hybrid I do not mean work from home and office, although it does apply to the world we are in today. Nor does it apply to the hybrid cloud as we talk about it currently which has to do with server load. It is a new hybrid concept, where the load is transferred between the cloud and the desktop as needed.

Like PCjr – but in a good way

Project Voltera is a new class of workstation with all four processors based on ARM and focused on developers who develop for ARM-based PCs. As I mentioned earlier, it reminds me of PCJR (pronounced “PC Junior”) from IBM in the 1980s but done right.

The PCJR was a revolutionary modular design that was incredibly well priced for the time and provided an easy upgrade path that would have anticipated the coming PC-as-a-service concept decades later.

But someone in the IBM plan raised concerns that the PCJR, which was targeted at consumers, was too good because it made the much more expensive IBM PC older and more expensive. So, they crippled PCJR and effectively killed him, leaving them to learn the lesson that you never Crippling a product because it’s too good. If customers like it, you focus on that preference to ensure that customer needs are prioritized over revenue.

Which brings us back to Project Volterra. It seems to be a high-performance desktop workstation that can be built for much less cost than a traditional workstation. Moreover, PCJR is stackable to add performance like modular. But the most important thing is that it is not crippling. While it initially focused on building ARM native apps, it anticipates a future where those apps are prevalent and can perform in line with their older x86 versions.

This is a major problem for ARM PCs – that they must run under emulation and thus operate inefficiently, allowing them to perform poorly against x86 PCs – and make them compete with x86 on an even more playing field. enables to do. None of these are on the market yet and the wave they are building for is still many years out. As we approach 2025, I expect that ARM-based PCs and workstations with all these advantages will be able to compete by that time.

wrapping up

Microsoft has been one of those companies that drives personalized technology and has revolutionized it from time to time. The move to four-processor PCs with one processor in the cloud and another focused on AI load is one of the biggest hardware changes since PCs were launched. Demonstrating its in-depth knowledge of what the market wants, Microsoft gives us a view of its PC future by what it means and the need for a widespread cloud connection.

Now we can look forward to the coming world of hybrid desktop apps, NPCs (non-player characters) that are just like real people in games, and supporting apps on PC that help us achieve productivity gains We can’t even dream today.

Promising increased collaboration capabilities not only with our peers but also with more intelligent computers that can move and drive our projects, Microsoft Build this year is a very different workplace, a very different employee tool. Set and evolve expects hardware that can look and function very differently from the PCs we have today.

In short, to say that Microsoft Build was disruptive this year would be an understatement.

Technical Product of the Week

Project Volterra

The Surface line of PCs, targeted specifically at Apple, lacked a workstation or a general desktop PC-class product from the start. They have an all-in-one PC that they pit against a manufacturer user, but it lacks the focused processing performance of a workstation. With the announcement of Project Volterra, that will change.

Project Volterra

Project Volterra | Image Credits: Microsoft

While Microsoft showcased a desktop configuration, the form factor presupposes a laptop version – but given the parallel advent of head mounted displays, that laptop could also be a revolutionary design we won’t see until This platform should not be close to launch.

Initially, Project Volterra will not target traditional workstation workloads such as CAD/CAM architecture or large-scale modeling, but it will focus on an area that has had little workstation support so far, and that is ARM-based, high-performance apps. Which run natively on Windows and ARM without emulation.

But think of it only as a step. Once those apps exist, use workstations like Project Voltera will move into more traditional areas after going through the required certifications, and of course, when they can run the respective applications natively.

Project Volterra is on a critical path to make ARM a true peer to x86, and to create a new class of PC that embraces AI and the cloud more deeply than ever before, making it my Product of the Week Makes an ideal candidate.

Plus, it was one of the most surprising things — if not all — announced at Microsoft Build this year.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.