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Microsoft everywhere: MSN apps head to iOS and Android, company buys app service

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Microsoft's got a weird history when it comes to strategy: popular software like Office has always been best on Microsoft's own operating system, Windows. In recent years, that's begun to shift -- Office is now everywhere, including Apple and Google's tablets, and the company's apparently taking a similar approach with other parts of its app library. The MSN suite of apps (News, Sports, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink and Money) is now available on iOS and Android; MSN Weather is out on Android, with an IOS release in the coming weeks. The mobile apps are just getting revamped after a relaunch of the MSN website earlier this year.

Moreover, those apps are probably pretty okay on Microsoft's competitor's platforms: Redmond just acquired mobile app testing company HockeyApp. Wait, before you write off that name forever as incredibly silly (it is, you're right), know that it's just the moniker for a company that offers crash analytics and a test environment for mobile apps (from iOS to Android and even Microsoft's mobile Windows platform). Yes, it is a pretty unexciting sounding acquisition, but what it means for the big picture is more important: if, say, Google were to buy the platform, Microsoft could lose a strategic part of the mobile puzzle. And Microsoft isn't in a position to lose any ground when it comes to mobile -- the company's beyond a distant third place spot when it comes to mainstream adoption.

In the meantime, folks already using HockeyApp will be able to keep using it. "The service remains available to new and existing customers so they can continue to leverage the great crash analytics and beta distribution services," says Microsoft's announcement of the acquisition, penned by corporate VP of the Developer Division Soma Somasegar.

Never heard of HockeyApp? We hadn't either until today -- it's similar to the TestFlight service on iOS, enabling developers to distribute and test new mobile software. The difference between the two is that, while TestFlight is owned by Apple and only runs on iOS, HockeyApp is multiplatform. Had Google scooped it up, it could've gone Android-exclusive. Given Microsoft' cross-platform approach as of late, we expect HockeyApp will remain as such going forward.

[Image credit: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images]

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