Scott Hanselman

Living a Microsoft lifestyle using Apple iOS products - Lync, OneNote, Xbox for iPhone and iPad and more, oh my

December 22, 2011 Comment on this post [31] Posted in Apple | Mobile | Tools
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My iOS Home ScreenSure, I work for The Man in my day job, but I have an iPhone, a few iPod Touches, and two iPads in my personal mobile life. I have great respect for the Windows Phone 7 UX and I have a Samsung Focus that runs Mango that I swap my SIM into every few months to check out, but I'm invested in the iOS app store enough now that switching doesn't make sense for me. I'm teased by some co-workers and community folks who think I should blindly use only Microsoft products. That's fine. I use what works for me and I encourage you to do the same.

I am, however, a Microsoft Office fan and use OneNote (I switched from Evernote recently when Cloud sync via Skydrive for OneNote become available. I also use Lync (formerly Office Communicator) extensively at work as I'm remote.

Recently Microsoft released Lync for iPhone and iPad (as well as Google Android and Microsoft’s Windows Phone). The addition of Lync to my iPhone and iPad was effectively the last link in the chain for me as far as making sure my iPhone was connected to work.

I thought I'd take stock of the Microsoft apps that I'm using on my iOS devices, how they work and how I use them.

Microsoft Lync for iOS

I love Lync. Truly. It's corporate instant messaging, sure, but it's also VOIP, presence information, a company directory and it's integrated nicely with Office 365 and Outlook.

I've got a work phone number in the 425 area code that will simultaneously ring at my 503 mobile phone. Lync on the iPhone will also let me make calls from my 425 number by starting the call from Redmond then calling me immediately. Lync gives me iPhone-style access to my Voice Mail. It's a lot like the Google Voice app, except for Corporate VOIP.

The Microsoft Lync iPhone Application - Voice Mailsphoto 4

It supports notifications as well and I've sorted it to the top in my iOS5 notification center. It'll keep you signed in for 36 hours and send you notifications as long as you've enabled push notify. If not, it'll run in the background for an hour. There's no reason not to turn on notifications on iOS5 as far as I can see, so 36 hours is fine as I'll be launching it more often than that and keep it alive. Even better, it'll notify you to sign in (relaunch) if you don't go back in within 36 hours. Because the notifications are server-side, there's no battery hit.

The Microsoft Lync iPhone Application - ChatsThe Microsoft Lync iPhone Application - My Profile

There's a complete matrix of what mobile platforms support what in Lync over on TechNet.

Bing for iPhone

It's funny, I mostly Google for Web Pages but after my "give Bing a month" challenge, I use Bing for Movies, Weather, Travel and stuff that isn't web page searching. In fact, right now my home page is actually three tabs: DuckDuckGo, Bing and Google. Then I use the one that will give me the best results.

On the iPhone, Bing is a great app with a lot of depth. On the iPad it's AMAZING. If you have an iPad, no joke, check out the Bing App. You'll be impressed, especially when you realize how long ago it was released. It's innovative UI on the iPad predates the Twitter iPad release.

Bing has a great image search, but it's also got three nice features that use the iPhone camera. It'll search tags and QR Codes, it'll search books and CDs using just cover art, and it'll look at text and auto-OCR (Optical Character Recognition) the text then let you search on it.

Bing iOS Application - Home ScreenBing iOS Application - Movies

Frankly, the real crime here is that Microsoft does tell enough people about these features. Rather than trying to uncomfortably fit "let me Bing that" into popular TV shows, why not just have a main character USE the application for a real world problem and not make it so in your face? The Bing iOS app shines when you just use it.

Bing iOS Application - Image Search with CameraBing iOS Application - Camera and OCR

Here I've pointed it at a book cover and it's found the book then linked me to shopping. In the other screenshot I've pointed it at some text, it recognized it, then I can click the words I want to use to search with. Nice for translating signs or searching for ingredients on menus.

Microsoft OneNote for iPhone and iPad

I recently switched away from Evernote in favor of OneNote because I find OneNote's "freeform" notes more flexible over EverNote's more constrained "bullets and lists." OneNote also integrates nicely with Outlook and Office.


When OneNote added cloud syncing with Windows Live SkyDrive, that was nice as I could use OneNote on multiple machines. Then OneNote for iPhone and iPad came out and I was sold.

Microsoft OneNote on IOS - NoteMicrosoft OneNote on IOS - List of Notes

OneNote supports up to 500 notes for free and then they charge. I use it a LOT and I'm still only at 180 notes.

Microsoft OneNote on IOS - SectionMicrosoft OneNote on IOS - Searching

They could still stand to improve it on the iPad with ink support but generally, having OneNote and Lync together on my iPhone or iPad along with my mail makes me a pretty good little corporate tool when I'm hanging at the Holiday Inn Omaha.

Xbox for iOS

There's even an Xbox app for iPhone. Madness. You can keep track of Achievements, answer messages, set beacons, but also watch videos and game trailers.

Xbox Achievements on iPhoneXbox Avatar editing on iPhone

You can even change your avatar's look. Jazz hands!

Xbox Videos on iPhoneHalo Waypoint for iPhone

By the way, there's even a Halo Waypoint app for iPhone.

Lots of Microsoft apps in the Apple MarketplaceOther Microsoft apps on iPhone

There's a bunch of other apps from Microsoft on iOS, including:

  • Microsoft SkyDrive for iPhone - Exactly that. It's a drive in the Sky. They give you 25 gigs for free. I keep my OneNote files up there for syncing but you can put anything there like photos, documents, etc.
  • Kintectimals - A nice tie-in with the actual Xbox game for kids with Kinect. It's really cute on the iPad and actually lets you unlock 5 new cubs from the iOS device that your kids can then use on their Xbox directly.
  • Photosynth - This app has been downloaded 4.4 MILLION teams on the iPhone. You kinda have to see it to believe it, but it's kind of a 360 degree panorama on steroids.
  • Windows Live Messenger - If this is your IM of choice, they've got that also.

I'm pretty stoked about Microsoft's (apparently) new focus on services being available everywhere, rather than sweating whether someone is using those services on a Microsoft piece of hardware.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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December 22, 2011 5:41
It is telling that the MS apps for iOS are better than the MS apps for Windows Phone. I love the WP7 look and feel, but the apps are trash. (My hardware (Samsung Focus) can die in a fire, though.)
December 22, 2011 5:48
Are they? Examples?
December 22, 2011 5:54
Admitting you are effectively locked into the iOS ecosystem, despite your <a href="")hate of iTunes</a> is fascinating. Not judging you - it just highlights the power of ecosystem lock-in.
December 22, 2011 6:01
True, although recently I have moved over to Spotify. I never use iTunes for anything. Now that iOS 5 lets me do everything including backups and software updates from the phone, I never have to use iTunes.

Still, your point is well taken.
December 22, 2011 6:06
Overall, apps like Facebook, spotify, Weather Channel app (it takes FOREVER to open on WP7), and evernote (just to name the ones from my homescreen) are between worse and MUCH worse than their iOS variants. (I have a 3gs and an iPad2).

For the MS apps, the One Note just doesnt seem to "feel" right to me. Very quirky. I had it just "loose" one of my notebook pages until i went to the web and downloaded it to my desktop and hit "save" in the full One Note.

The XBox app is goofy too and not nearly as smooth as the iOS version.
December 22, 2011 6:12
The entire University of Connecticut IT staff is very very disappointed that Lync for iOS does not have video calling. :(
December 22, 2011 6:43
Glad to see Microsoft being a software company - amazing :)

(I don't get the 'us vs. them' mentality really, I mean, use what is a good fit for the person)

Honestly, I'm surprised it's taken this long for Microsoft to roll our their products for iOS, with the sales of iPad's going out the roof, it means more business for them, Office is one of the big money makers for MS.

So, some sort of Word/Excel/Powerpoint should be next, unless Microsoft wants us all to convert to Pages :)

December 22, 2011 7:00
I've noticed lately Microsoft are slowly getting shows to use the apps as a part of the system. The TV Series Leverage is a good example.

Microsoft does do a lot of product placement in it, however they actually use the stuff. In particular, a Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone and Skydrive uploading of pictures and sharing.

Now if only it was in more main stream stuff.
December 22, 2011 7:03
Any plans to have those apps available in Android?
December 22, 2011 7:17
How about some Android love? (I was a loyal Windows Mobile user right 'til the end.)
December 22, 2011 8:01
Nice post Scott - I totally missed that Lync had been released for iOS - only spotted because of this post.

It's great to see that Microsoft are finally releasing that Windows Phone isn't going to overtake iOS anytime soon and instead are focusing on building great apps for the platform.

We just need the Office suite now and I've heard that it might be coming soon!

December 22, 2011 8:18
Can you speak briefly to any update on your video conf options with lync and IOS? I know you've posted extensively on your video conf setup, was wondering if that has changed with Lync on IOS. Thanks!
December 22, 2011 8:33
At this point, the options are basically Skype. The question is/will be, what does Lync/Skype integration look like?
December 22, 2011 9:03
You're such a fanboi Scott... a fanboi

Oh dear, we can label you now... this will send people into a tailspin...he's..he's brand liberal... this wont do, i'm signing you up as a BeOS Fanboi...ahh..better, everything is back to normal as it should be...BeOS Fanboi.
December 22, 2011 10:00
The first issue you would face with Windows Phone doing such review - no screenshots feature. meh
December 22, 2011 10:32
OneNote for iOS is awful!
You can't create new notebooks or sub categories with the app. I think it's even not possible to assign new notes to specific notebooks/categories.

They'll have to work on that to get me on board.
December 22, 2011 11:45
Hmm, seems like the Bing app isn't available in Germany (it was, but seems to have been pulled). Sad, would've loved to give it a try. :/
December 22, 2011 12:03
Does the Xbox app allow wp7 xbox or windows games to be downloaded or anything. I myself switched to WP after both android and IOS to check it out and its performance and feel is brilliant, the back button is ingenious none of my last phones did that.

Can I ask what you use to do actual work on your iPad, I don't mean office documents I mean programming and the like. Personally I wish I had the dosh to get an exo pc.
December 22, 2011 13:50
After using iPhone since 2005 (or 2006), I switched to Windows Phone 7 (HTC Trophy 7). The chances of switching back to iPhone are, like 0.00000001%. I love it. True, it does not have all the cool apps that iPhone and Android have (especially skype), but it has everything else I need for my work.
December 22, 2011 18:07
I will never give Apple one penny of my money with all the patent crap they pull. They are an evil, evil company.
December 22, 2011 19:01
Bing for iPad is not available in Canada either. Sometimes it really sucks to be Canadian (well, to live in Canada anyways).
December 22, 2011 19:55
Scott, thanks for the post! Just an FYI, I'd sure like to see some of this iOS app love come to Android!!!
December 22, 2011 20:52
It's great to see Microsoft getting their services on different platforms. I really hope Zune is in the works. I love Zune Pass and it's a great alternative to Spotify and Rdio. But only if you have a WP7. I know several Android and iPhone users that would sign up immediately once Zune comes to their platform. I don't understand why Microsoft continues to leave this money on the table.
December 22, 2011 23:12
Interesting to note, MS used the Unity 3D library to create Kinectimals. Unity 3D uses Mono for it's scripting language.
December 22, 2011 23:41
Nice post, any idea if photosynth will be ported to Android?
December 23, 2011 10:45
I follow half the people in MS on twitter and yet I don't notice it till it's blogged by Scott! Duh!

Thanks for the skydrive app tip. Had been missing it since I walked away from DropBox...

Oh wait, looks like it was released earlier this month! So I am not so far off...
December 23, 2011 13:46
Suggestion for new title of page:
"Microsoft makes Apple suck a little bit less"...
I'm a bigger MS fanboy than Scott Hanselman!

(Or, I hope you're not easing in a career transition to apple?! lol)
December 25, 2011 2:13
I like Windows Phone but I love iPhone :)
Great post Scott.
December 25, 2011 7:03
Great post Scott. Although, I can't wait till you switch to your WP7 full time! With the new Mango update it really is a decent piece of kit (as you've expressed). Why not switch?

At the end of the day I use my phone to make calls, email and view my calender (and check the time) - the GPS, Lync, Office etc are all features I enjoy using but they're just nice to haves, and it seems I can get all this on either phones.

I see too many people rave about their iPhone these days, and it annoys me. "Have you seen this app it makes fart noises?" - gimme a break, seriously. I admit, there's some cool apps out there. But few are taking the right step - a unified device that you use daily needs more focus, this is where apps like Bing local search, TabbedOut etc grab my attention.

My point being, a device we carry around on a day to day basis, to me, is our second computer. It has great potential. I believe cross-platform technology (HTML5, JS, HTTP) needs to be leveraged more, but that's another story.

Anyway, I say this candidly, but an evangelist in your position should be promoting the vision and exploring the capabilities of the WP7 over the iPhone. I say this because you are (at least in my eyes) the foremost spokesperson in the Microsoft/.NET development community. You're great. When it comes to WP7 I have to head over to channel9 - I hate seeing your posts about your new iGadgets =[

It's great to see Microsoft products on other devices, but c'mon now is the time to jump on the WP7 bandwagon - would you really be sacrificing that much?

Happy holidays!
December 27, 2011 21:29
I am loving how Microsoft is embracing iOS. It's a good start anyway. The only things really missing are Zune and Office, and I hope those are coming soon. iTunes is absolutely horrible and I wish I didn't have to carry a separate piece of hardware (Zune) just for music and video. I've looked at WP7, but none of the phones are even close to being as rugged and sturdy as my iPhone. Seems like I'm dropping my phone all the time. If any of the hardware vendors could make decent hardware for WP7...wait, can we get a port that will run on the iPhone hardware? That would be genius! Joe Belfiore are you listening? And Joe, while you're at it, call your old buddies over at the eHome division and get them to convince AT&T to integrate uVerse with my Media Center PC (not just my XBOX360), and then link the Zune software remotely back to my Media Center content at own private cloud. When is Microsoft going to grab this bull by the horns?
December 28, 2011 18:42
It's sad that Bing on iOS looks like it's better than Bing on WP7, which is a total piece of crap.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.