How many times have you sat down to get some work done on your laptop or desktop, only to be interrupted by an app notification or text message on your smartphone? This break in workflow can impact your productivity, and it feels needless in this day and age of interoperability and ubiquitous connectivity. There have been a few efforts targeted at phone integration with the Windows platform, by both Microsoft with its Phone Link app, and Windows PC OEMs as well. However, to date, what has emerged so far seems half-baked, though it seems like Intel is onto something, with the recent announcement of its Unison open software for PC and mobile device integration.
Seamlessly Integrating Phones With PCs Takes A Full Stack Solution
At Intel’s Innovation 2022 event last week, I had the chance to sit down with Josh Newman, Intel VP And GM Of Mobile Innovation, for an in-person demo of the company’s new Unison software for laptops. Josh has been involved in Intel’s strategy to help the PC ecosystem define and deliver better experiences and interoperability for many years now. He noted that Unison software was born out of an extension of the Intel Evo platform, in an effort to bring devices and operating systems together, taking advantage of Intel’s robust connectivity technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Back at CES 2022 in January this year, Intel announced the acquisition of Israeli start-up Screenovate that specializes in cross-platform software, that can duplicate and display smartphone content and apps on other devices like PCs, TVs and even cars. Together with its hardware technologies, Intel now had all the tools it needed to offer a more complete, full stack solution that can better integrate both Android and iOS phones and potentially other devices with Windows PCs.
Seeing Intel Unison In Action Is Believing
Intel notes Unison offers end users the ability to harness a multitude of functionality in Windows from their smartphone, like text messaging, voice calls, receiving and managing phone notifications, and transferring files and photos from a smartphone to a Windows laptop PC. The software runs over a Wi-Fi network through a router or even direct peer to peer connection, or Bluetooth, depending on the device types and setup. When Josh fired up Unison on his own laptop, I was pretty impressed with how it all just worked.
I’ve personally been working with Window Phone Link for a while now, and have found it to be a frustrating mish-mash of partial functionality that works some of the time, but other times just simply glitches out and then gets in the way, negating the productivity benefits it was intended to offer. In addition, Phone Link also only supports Android phones, but regardless, it seemed like Windows 11 specifically has an occasional issue with phone-to-PC handshaking, which sometimes results in dropped connectivity or slow to respond activity updates.
However, the Intel Unison demo Josh took me through looked both fully functional, fluid and fast, with seemingly instantaneous updates on the desktop, as notifications, text and other activity was taking place on the phone. For notifications, a little tile would slide in above the app tray in the right corner of Windows, while switching to text messaging resulted in a full feature experience with contact pictures and information maintained exactly as it is represented on the phone.
Frankly, it was as if Intel Unison was what Windows Phone Link should have been, or always wanted to be, but for some reason just couldn’t get it right. It does make sense, however, that it takes a tighter integration of both hardware and software, so perhaps this is a more natural problem to solve for Intel, having a better command of both sides of the platform ecosystem.
Intel Unison will be available this year on Intel Evo certified laptops from Acer, HP and Lenovo powered by 12th Gen Intel Core processors, with Intel 13th Gen Core (Raptor Lake) Unison-equipped designs arriving early next year. Further, Intel notes it plans to “continue to evolve with additional form factors, functionality and operating systems in the future.”
When Intel set out on its efforts in “purposeful computing,” it promised to bring innovations to the PC ecosystems that better served current trends in real human use cases, lifestyles and workflows. While the PC still remains the primary way most folks get things done, our phones are critical communications tools as well, so better integrating them with PCs helps keep users on task and efficient without the need to bounce from device to device.
And it seems Intel Unison may finally have gotten this fairly simple concept, that’s apparently not easy to execute, right.