What's Microsoft On(x)?

Last month Microsoft announced a beta project called ON(x), pronounced “on-ex”. Now apart from the strange naming reminiscent of the famous pop artist Prince changing his name to Symbol, this seems a little strange to say the...

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Last month Microsoft announced a beta project called ON(x), pronounced “on-ex”. Now apart from the strange naming reminiscent of the famous pop artist Prince changing his name to Symbol, this seems a little strange to say the least.

However in case you are unaware ON(x) is an Android, yes NOT Windows phone, app that allows you to automate phone functions on your Android phone by writing some Javascript. ON(x) provides API’s that allow you to access things like GPS, Camera and action things like sending a text or playing music. So with a bit of Javascript code you could get you phone to recognise that you are running (using the GPS to sense a change of pace) and start playing music, or recognise that you have left work and text the family to let them know. The possibilities are endless!

Microsoft calls these Javascripts programs “recipes” and has also very kindly created a website http://www.onx.ms where these recipes can be exchanged.

There have already been over 50,000 free downloads. So this all sounds great and very charitable right? But I can’t help feel suspicious, surely I can’t be the only one to question “why would Microsoft create useful app for Android but not make it available for it’s own phone platform?”

What could the motive be? Dare I even question this unselfish act and risk the wrath of the empire?

Enough with the drama and straight to the point: Unless you never lose sight of your phone, always have it locked, and never click on web links that you don’t recognise then there is the possibility that a spurious script could be loaded. Now given that a script can send texts, access your address book, send emails, the possibilities of a script doing something you DON’T want it to do are also endless!

For example you could write one that sent lots of texts to a premium text service where the text cost £1! Or a script that stores every number you’ve called and passes on the numbers to a cold calling agency. Being blunt as ever I guess I am asking if ON(x) is a Trojan Horse to test how bad things could get on a open source platform?

However according to Eran Yariv at Microsoft ON(x) will be developed for other platforms including Microsoft’s own, however no timescales have been put on this.

Despite the opportunity this presents both usefully and negatively, the ON(x) community forum still only has 21 scripts to share currently.

Nevertheless we should thank Microsoft for sharing the “art of the possible” with mobile phones. On(X) really highlights just how clever apps can get and how much more we can expect from the App dev community. It also makes me wonder whether there will be ON(x) for smartTV, SmartHome etc... Can you imajine your phone texting your home to switch on the heating as you leave work ;o) As I said the possibilities are endless and even more so (if that is possible) when you start thinking about devices talking to each other!

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