Ina Fried

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Microsoft’s Latest App Lets You Tinker With Your Smartphone … If It’s an Android

Microsoft released an interesting piece of mobile software on Tuesday.

Dubbed on{X}, the software lets smartphone owners set conditions under which the software will perform various actions, such as showing the weather after the phone’s alarm goes off.

But what’s most interesting is that the product runs only on Android. It’s not the first product from Microsoft that runs on Android. Nor is it the only one that doesn’t run on Microsoft’s own Windows Phone. Until this month, Photosynth, for example, only ran on the iPhone.

It is however, the first program I can recall that runs only on the Google operating system that Microsoft insists in courtrooms across the globe is violating its patents.

For its part, Microsoft notes that Android provides an easy environment for customization.

“Microsoft is investigating implementing the technology on several mobile platforms,” Microsoft said in a statement to AllThingsD. “We started with the Android platform because it is well suited for deploying early stage technology previews.”

The company says the technical preview will allow the company to get input and feedback and decide where to go next with the technology.

For Microsoft, it’s part of a notion the company has advanced in Windows phone that not everything one does should be its own app.

“Apps are great when we know we need to use them, we know they exist, and we actually put them to use at the right moment,” Microsoft said in the blog post announcing on{X}. An overwhelming majority of apps in existence today require you to do something in order for them to deliver value. When was the last time you started jogging but forgot to launch your running app or got stuck in gridlock because you forgot to launch your traffic app?

The idea behind on{X} isn’t totally out of left field. It’s somewhat similar to the notion that Motorola has advanced around “smart actions,” though Motorola has focused more on the battery saving types of settings. It’s also kind of a modern twist on macros, long a staple of Microsoft’s desktop software or the kinds of tasks Apple computers have performed, first using AppleScript and more recently with OS X’s Automater.

And, while the choice of Android is somewhat surprising, Redmond has been doing plenty of work on smartphones other than its own, launching a slew of iOS apps late last year and early this year.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus