Continuum - Microsoft's Killer Phone Feature?
Continuum - Microsoft's Killer Phone Feature?
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 07 October 2015

Microsoft has just unveiled new hardware, but what might be more important is the first look at its Continuum system that allows a phone to be used as a PC. Some are claiming that this is a game changer.

The problem is that it all depends what you mean by a PC. 

As a long time Microsoft programmer, I am on the lookout for anything that might make me think that Universal Windows Apps are the way to go, so Continuum, and the impact it might have, is an important development.

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The idea is simple enough. You take a phone, one that has sufficient power, and connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse - and you have a PC. You can use your phone to get real work done without having to cope with on-screen keyboards, tiny screens and touch.

Microsoft has even got a dock that you simply slide your phone into for an instant transformation. The phone is still active while being used in this mode and the dock also serves as a charger. The dock connects via USB and provides expansion to 3 USB sockets, HDMI and DisplayPort. 

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Microsoft and many news sources are selling this as "your phone becomes a PC". 

This is true - sort of. 

The whole point is why buy, and perhaps more importantly manage, two devices when one can do the job. This argument really is a game changer and it is all made possible by the way hardware has grown more powerful and by the increasing use of the cloud both for data storage and for apps. 

While in PC mode the screen looks like a Windows 10 screen and you can copy and paste and generally work with it just like a full Windows 10 setup. At the moment you can't show multiple windows on the screen a the same time, but this seems to be a feature that is on its way. 

This all sounds great, but this isn't a PC replacement - yet at least. The reason is that the CPU is still an ARM processor and the OS is the ARM port of a subset of Windows which supports mainly Windows Universal Apps. This is, in many ways, the whole point - Windows Universal Apps run on all Windows 10 platforms including a phone with a screen, keyboard and mouse. This means that there are still going to be lots of applications that you can't run on a phone in continuum mode that could run on a desktop, laptop or even some tablets. 

The phone is still restricted to Windows Universal Apps and these are in short supply. 

Microsoft still hasn't managed to find a way to escape its chicken and egg problem: if there was a big user base then we would write lots of Universal Apps and if there were a lot of Universal Apps users would buy the phone. 

To be clear, Continuum is a good thing. It might even be great if Microsoft manages to make the final version close to a desktop use of Windows 10 with Universal Apps - but a desktop PC it isn't. 

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Add to this the fact that at the moment it only runs on the newly announced Lumia phones, that aren't available yet, and you can see that there is another chicken and egg problem. 

It was also announced that Windows 10 will be available for phones in December, but of course the majority of Windows Phone owners will not be able to use Continuum. 

This might be an excessively bleak view - after all you can run Office and Outlook on a Windows Phone and for many users this is all that matters, even on a desktop machine. Perhaps the myth that this is a PC is enough to sell it. 

 

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 October 2015 )
 
 

   
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