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In the demo, an emoji with a heart and smile, a unicorn and a microphone were shown off, popping up from the toolbar, as examples of incoming “shoulder taps,” which is what these emoji messages are called. (This doesn’t sound like it would get annoying at all, does it?)
While cute, the larger goal of the “My People” feature is to place those who matter the most front-and-center in the operating system’s interface.
“Over the last decade, we have seen an explosion of ways to communicate with people across our devices,” explained Microsoft’s Allison O’Mahoney, who presented the feature at the event. “While the benefits of our growing social networks is very clear, it also comes at a cost: complexity,” she said.
With the “My People” feature, you can designate important contacts whose icons will then reside in your bottom taskbar. You can then do things like drag and drop files right onto a person’s icon in order to share with them via Mail or Skype.
Meanwhile, built-in sharing functionality within applications will also arrive in the update. For instance,O’Mahoney clicked to share an annotated video from the new Photos app, and instead of just showing your applications you could use to share that content, a row of people appeared at the top of the screen.
The idea here is that sharing is primarily about the “who,” not the how. That same sentiment extended to how Microsoft is merging its communications apps for use in this My People feature, as well. “It’s all too easy to miss the communications that matter the most,” explained O’Mahoney.
Using this concept of favorite contacts, Microsoft will filter your incoming mail messages and Skype chats so you’ll get those messages that are most important first. These messages will appear as notifications that pop up above the person’s icon in the toolbar, so you can quickly respond.
What makes this interesting is that the feature makes it easy to switch between communications apps, so you can answer the message using the app of your choice.
In another demo, O’Mahoney showed how she could move between incoming Skype chats from a person, and the emails the texts referenced, right from within this pop-up interface. From the pop-up notification above the person’s icon, you can respond to the message directly, or switch applications. This is actually a fairly clever feature, as it could speed up the time it takes to respond to important messages.
The My People feature works with email, Skype and SMS, thanks to SMS relay from Windows and Android mobile devices. Skype for Business and Xbox Live will arrive next. The feature will also be extensible by partners, for third-party app integrations in the future.