Among the many announcements that came out of the first day at Build 2015, was a new feature called Continuum for Phones. Those Windows 10 users will know Continuum as the feature for convertibles which automatically detects if you’re in keyboard and mouse, or tablet mode and adjusts automatically. When it comes to phones, Continuum is far more interesting.
The feature will allow users to sit down at a workstation and connect to the display, keyboard and mouse and continue working. This is really the first time we’ve the device in your pocket being able to realise that we are actually carrying around a mobile computer. This means that you’re not logging into a generic terminal, but rather using a computer that contains all your personal data and apps. Because developers are rewriting their apps to scale for any display size, the OS will use feature detection to decide how to render the image, much like a website checks the browser capabilities.
All of Microsoft’s top apps will work including mail, contacts, calendar, news, weather, music, video, Office and more. So if 3rd parties get on-board, this could really be a different way of computing.
In a video explanation from Joe Belfiore, he explains that it’s possible to power an external display while running a completely different app or even taking a call on your phone. This dual display technology from the phone will only be possible on new hardware after Windows 10 ships. This means if you are considering a new device, you should hold off till those new generation devices arrive.
If the phone in your pocket is powerful enough to drive a desktop experience, then it really begs the question, what is the future of limited devices like Chromebooks and entry level laptops. These offer a lower cost than a full laptop, but run Chrome OS a very restricted operating system. With encouragement like the opportunity to build universal apps that scale from the phone to the Xbox and even Surface Hub, it’s possible we’ll see this take off.
While Continuum won’t replace the most powerful computer in your life, it certainly raises the question of why you’d buy a cheap laptop if you’re phone can already do what you need. It’s possible we’ll see businesses have hot desk areas setup for mobile employees to drop in and use their own phones, connect to the network and get on with their job. As mobile processors increase in speed and app developers consider this new option, it’ll be interesting to watch what impact Continuum has on the industry.