It’s the bane of a techie’s existence: providing tech support to family and friends, especially at the holidays. But the winners of Microsoft’s Hackathon app think they have a new twist: a remote-access app for smartphones to help out family members.
Family Tech Support is a proposed app that will be submitted to broader review at Microsoft and eventually chief executive Satya Nadella for approval. (The link goes to the team’s page, where you can sign up for further information.) Nicole Berdy and her team beat more than 10,000 other applications at Microsoft’s recent Hackathon, which included more than 68,000 employees, Microsoft said.
Microsoft already provides options for family members to support friends and family via solutions like Remote Desktop, a fantastic PC-specific solution that allows a trusted computer to remotely access a far-away PC, control it, and solve any problems. (Remote Desktop requires the affected PC to be running Windows 10/11 Pro, however, which is why there are sometimes better third-party solutions.) But what Berdy and her team are proposing is a solution for a smartphone, which is a different track for Microsoft altogether.
Though Microsoft killed off its mobile phone platform, Windows 10 Mobile, at the end of 2019, Microsoft has continued to maintain a strong presence in Android, with numerous versions of its Office apps, Outlook, Bing, and so on. The Windows “Your Phone” app essentially allows a PC to remotely control an Android smartphone, running remote apps and interacting with the screen, as well as placing phone calls and sending texts. It’s likely that the same principles would underlie a Family Tech Support app, either via PC-to-mobile or a straight mobile-to-mobile experience.
The latter is certainly a direction Microsoft is talking about, based on a quote from Rajeshwari Godbole, a developer for Microsoft’s Nuance Dragon Anywhere app. “Whenever I would visit, I would set up the home screen for them with their favorite apps, but then they’d accidentally delete the shortcut, and they’d call me thinking the app was gone and they broke it, or they’d hold the phone with a finger on the volume button and end up putting it on mute and couldn’t hear it ringing anymore, and I just wished I could see the screen to know what was wrong,” Godbole said, referring to interactions with parents and in-laws.
There are already numerous remote-access apps for Android, including TeamViewer and Android-VNC-Viewer. But Microsoft apparently thinks that there might be room to bring its brand and its ecosystem into the space, too — assuming Nadella signs off on it.