Posey's Tips & Tricks

My Impressions of Continuum for Windows 10 Phones

The ability to use the same apps for your Windows PC and Windows Phone does work as advertised.

For quite some time now, Microsoft has been talking about their new universal apps. For the benefit of those who might not be familiar with the concept, universal apps are designed to address inconsistencies in Windows 8. Think about it for a moment. Microsoft has a number of different platforms that run some variation of Windows 8, even if these platforms don't necessarily refer to their OS as Windows 8. For example, Microsoft has created the x86 and x84 version of Windows 8. There is also Windows RT, Windows Phone, and even Xbox One. Although each of these platforms has a similar look and feel, they all have their own app stores. Furthermore, you can't run an app that was designed for one platform on another. You can't, for instance, run a Windows 8 app on Windows Phone 8 device.

Universal apps are Microsoft's attempt to address this problem and to bring some consistency to the chaos. The idea is that developers will be able to code an app once and that app will go into a single app store where it can be downloaded and used on any Windows 10 device. On the surface this seems like a good (and long overdue) idea, but in all honesty I have wondered for quite some time how universal apps will really play out. After all, there are major differences in the various device types. My phone, for instance, has a much lower screen resolution, a slower processor and less memory than the desktop PC on which I am writing this.

While I don't claim to have all of the answers to how universal apps will cope with differences in hardware capabilities, I saw some demos at Ignite that gave a bit of insight. These demos were related to Continuum for Windows 10 Phone Edition (or Windows Phone, as I will refer to it throughout the rest of this post).

If the word Continuum sounds familiar, it's probably because Microsoft has been talking about Continuum for Windows 10 for a while now. Continuum is the feature that will allow Windows to detect the device type and then use the best mode for that device. A device that has a keyboard and mouse for instance would boot to the desktop, while a tablet with no keyboard might boot to a Windows Start screen.

Continuum for Windows Phone seems to be all about displaying universal apps in a way that makes sense for the device. In one of the demos that I saw, the presenter installed Office 2016 onto a Windows 10 PC and onto a Windows 10 phone. While it was cool that the same application could be installed onto both devices, the experience felt somewhat lacking. The Windows Phone didn't have the screen resolution of the desktop PC, so Office was reformatted to take advantage of the smaller screen. It almost felt as though the phone was running a lite version of the application.

At this point, however, the presenter began resizing the Office 2016 window on the desktop PC. As he made the window smaller, the content reformatted itself automatically to accommodate the window's new dimensions. Soon, the copy of Office that was running on the desktop PC looked exactly like the copy that was running on the phone.

In another demo, someone connected their Windows Phone to a large screen and to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Not only did Office expand to accommodate the larger screen size, but the experience was identical to that of working on a PC.  The presenter even said that with some of the higher-end phone models it will be possible to use your phone as a phone and a "PC" at the same time. It would be possible, for example, to work on a spreadsheet on the big screen while talking on the phone, playing a game or watching a video on the phone's built-in display.

Using the phone as a PC seemed like a completely seamless experience. The only indication that the presenter was not using a PC was the fact that there was no desktop mode.

I was thoroughly impressed by the Continuum for Windows Phone demos, but not everyone shared my sentiment. Being that Windows Phone doesn't have a desktop, I heard someone refer to it as "the next Windows RT." Someone else tweeted that the PC is dead and so is Windows Phone, and that Microsoft's efforts are too little, too late.

In my opinion, there will always be naysayers. Not everyone is going to adopt Windows 10 or Windows Phone, just as not everyone has an iPhone or an Android Phone. For those who want to use their phone as a true productivity tool, the Windows 10 Phone seems like an obvious choice.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.


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