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Microsoft brings its Hub Keyboard app to iPhone

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/04/2016 Sarah Perez

Microsoft today released its first standalone keyboard application for iOS users. No, it’s not the rumored version of its Windows Phone keyboard that’s being ported to the iPhone – it’s an iOS version of the Microsoft Hub keyboard, which hit Android this February. Like the prior release, the iOS Hub keyboard lets you quickly share Office documents and those stored in the cloud, share contacts, and access your clipboard.

Yes, it’s a very Microsoft keyboard. But that’s the point, of course.

The project is one of many applications to emerge from Microsoft’s internal incubator, Microsoft Garage, and is aimed at those who basically live in the Microsoft universe. This may make more sense on the iPhone, however, given that iOS has a stronger precense in the enterprise than Android. It could also be useful to students who have an iPhone.

However, the iOS version of the Hub keyboard doesn’t have quite the same feature set as on Android, likely due to platform restrictions. For example, instead of offering up a list of all your previously copied text items, the iOS keyboard only shows you your most recently copied text. You can then press a button to paste it into your document, email, or chat.

In addition, it lets you grab and share the URLs for Office 365 documents saved in OneDrive and SharePoint, and it lets you share contact information that’s saved in Office 365 or stored on your phone. The translation feature – which translate what you’re writing into another language – appears to be missing at launch, however.

The features require that you login using your Office 365 account information, in order to access the information stored in the cloud. You can do this from the Settings section, where you can also adjust other preferences like enabling or disabling auto-complete or sounds.

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The keyboard itself was dreamed up by senior designer on the Office team, Steve Won, who was frustrated with having to switch between apps on his smartphone to perform certain tasks. The idea was to take some common functions, like grabbing contact information or a link to a file being discussed, and make those accessible right from the keyboard itself.

Work on the project began in earnest at Microsoft’s internal //oneweek Hackathon in 2015. It then ended up being a team of seven, and got funded for further development.

At the time of its launch on Android, no mention was made about porting the application to other platforms, however.

The Microsoft Hub Keyboard is a free download on iTunes.

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