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Microsoft testing ‘NewsCast’ mobile app that reads you the news

Until car drivers are freed up from the necessary duty of steering, braking, and generally doing whatever it takes to avoid crashing, looking at a smartphone screen while motoring along will always be a no-no. While news addicts behind the wheel can always get their fix from the radio instead of engaging with their handset, Microsoft is apparently hoping to offer a compromise of sorts that reads you snippets of news from sites across the Web.

“NewsCast” was spotted in recent days by the folks at tech site Neowin. The app showed up on the Microsoft Azure cloud-based site, an apparent hiccup on the part of the Redmond-based company as 1-there’s been no official word on the app, and 2-the link to it has now been removed.

However, screenshots reveal that the software is currently being tested internally and aims to offer users “a more productive commute.”

Related: Here’s how to fix 17 common problems with Microsoft Edge

Microsoft’s app, which reads out the first 30 seconds of each story, is likely to offer users the ability to configure feeds to deliver the desired balance of local, national, and international news stories, giving users more control than with a regular news show.

The feed is apparently created by pulling news stories from media outlets across the Web and can be easily saved to a read-it-later tool offered as part of the app.

The mobile software reportedly uses Bing speech software to deliver the audio, and seeks to provide a distraction-free way of listening to news from chosen categories while in the car, though you may of course find it useful for a variety of situations.

Related: Pocket for iOS now offers a handy text-to-speech feature

Neowin’s Brad Sams, who was quick enough to load up the app while it was showing on Microsoft’s site, says that in its current form NewsCast is still “a bit bare-bones as you cannot change the source lists or customize the feed in any way,” adding, “The voices, while not quite natural, are not too robotic but there is definitely room for improvement when compared to Cortana.”

Many of the major tech players are taking an increasing interest in delivering news to users – Facebook, for example, is thought to be developing a breaking news app, while Twitter is known to be testing a tab for developing news events.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft to ask if and when NewsCast is likely to be rolled out and will of course update if we hear back.