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On Monday, Microsoft introduced a new lock screen app on to Google Play called Picturesque. Yet another sign that Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella is a proudly cross-platform company, Picturesque isn’t Microsoft’s first Android-exclusive app. It’s not even Microsoft’s first Android lock screen app — that honor goes to Next Lock Screen, released last fall.
Picturesque was developed in Microsoft’s Garage program, started in 2010 as an outlet for certain Microsoft employees to “explore ideas they might normally tinker with in their nights and weekends.” Apparently, Microsoft Garage employees would like to write Android apps in their spare time.
The app is cross-platform within limits because it heavily relies on Microsoft’s Bing search engine, as opposed to Google Search. Picturesque takes advantage of the big splash images on Bing’s front page and plops them onto your Android phone’s lock screen. The launcher also throws a Bing search bar at the top that can be accessed without unlocking your device. Users can scroll through up to six Bing-provided images, as well as access quick settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness and volume. The app can also show notifications from your phone and messaging app, and weather and news from Microsoft. There are also a few India-specific features, such as regional calendars.
For Microsoft, developing and testing these kind of Android apps now puts it in a better position in case a company like Cyanogen (which Microsoft is rumored to be investing in) decides to launch a device or Android operating system variant using Microsoft’s services instead of Google’s.
Picturesque isn’t a launcher, so after you unlock and get to your device’s home screen, you’ll have to use a different app — although there is no shortage of third-party launcher apps from independent developers as well as from companies like Yahoo, the Nokia engineers Microsoft left behind, and yes, Google. If you’re looking to spruce up your lock screen and you’d like the Bing look on your Android phone or tablet you can download Picturesque from Google Play now.