Microsoft privately testing Work Assistant app for Windows Phone

Cortana could be your Office secretary

After having debuted Cortana for Windows 10, Microsoft is now privately testing a new Windows Phone app called Work Assistant. Though not much is known about Work Assistant, the project could be related to a project that Bill Gates is working on for Microsoft called Personal Agent.

Originally uncovered by Windows Mobile Power User, Work Assistant currently exists as an internal beta and is designed to help users perform Office tasks on Windows Phone. The app is a 2 MB download on the Windows Phone Store and is compatible with devices running at least Windows Phone 8.1. Work Assistant also requires permission to access appointments, contacts, the Internet, and the device's microphone to function.

Last month when Microsoft showed off Windows 10 for the desktop, it demonstrated how the Cortana personal assistant that originally debuted on Windows Phone could be used to find Office files stored locally on the PC or on the cloud in OneDrive.

One speculation is that Work Assistant could help extend Cortana's capabilities on Windows Phone and provide deeper tie-ins with the new touch-optimized version of Office 2016 when it launches for Windows 10 for phones.

Bill Gates' Personal Agent project

Another possibility is that Work Assistant may be part of Bill Gates' Personal Agent project. On Reddit during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, Gates said that he was working on a Personal Agent project.

"One project I am working on with Microsoft is the Personal Agent which will remember everything and help you go back and find things and help you pick what things to pay attention to," Gates said. "The idea that you have to find applications and pick them and they each are trying to tell you what is new is just not the efficient model - the agent will help solve this."

Personal Agent will work "across all your devices."

According to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Work Assistant is developed by the Digital Life & Work Group inside Microsoft, which is part of the Applications and Services Group (ASG) under Qi Lu.

"Julie Larson-Green, Chief Experience Officer of ASG, is believed to be spearheading the Work Assistant effort, and Gates has been involved, my source said," Foley said.

Without much detail about either project, it's unclear if Work Assistant and Gates' Personal Agent are related.