Last month at its media event, Microsoft took another step toward its vision for an across-all-devices user experience when it unveiled Continuum for Phones. A Windows 10 feature, the utility allows smartphones running Microsoft’s latest OS to transform into a handheld PC when connected to larger screens. It takes advantage of new universal apps that run across Windows 10 on phones, PCs, tablets, and the Xbox One.
Microsoft paired the announcement with the introduction of its new flagship smartphones, the Lumia 950 and 950XL. The company also unveiled a fleet of new devices, including its first homegrown laptop, and reboots of its tablet and fitness tracker.
MICROSOFT PUSHING FOR A WINDOWS ECOSYSTEM
Since the company launched Windows 10 three months ago, more than 110 million devices have been upgraded. The technology giant is hoping the software upgrade will kindle user interest in seamlessly transitioning between all their devices. Thus, Continuum, and it starts in the mobile space.
Windows 10 on the phone “shares many of the same features as its desktop version, including the same kernel, UI elements, menus, settings, and even Cortana,” says Jason Ward. Essentially, users will work with the full version of Windows 10, but the phone is powering everything.
“One big mistake we made… was to think of the PC as the hub for everything for all time... And today… the high volume device is the six-inch phone… But to think that that's what the future is for all time…would be to make the same mistake we made in the past… that would be madness,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Ward.
Microsoft is encouraging developers to design apps for Windows 10, a platform agnostic designed to scale different screen sizes. Continuum allows users to scale up apps such as News, Weather, Settings, Alarms, etc., on their phones like their desktop equivalents. And, users can still work their mobile like a phone for inbound/outbound calls or messages without disturbing workflow.
“We actually envision a world where the phone powers many more screens and experiences, where every screen can become a PC," Keri Moran, a Microsoft Windows program manager, told Tom Warren.
The Redmond, Calif.-based Microsoft isn’t the only one striving for mobile-PC functionality. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, released its own smartphone that users can connect to keyboards via a USB port. According to Warren in this post, “Motorola tried to sell an expensive docking to turn its Atrix phone into an Android PC. Other solutions, including the REDFLY, haven’t really taken off because of a lack of apps and wider support.”
MICROSOFT MEDIA EVENT PRODUCTS ROUND-UP
The tech giant also introduced Surface Pro 4, Lumia smartphones 950 and 950 XL, Microsoft Band 2, and shared details on the new Xbox One and HoloLens, its virtual reality headset.
Surface Book and Surface Pro 4. The new Surface Book, which combines the 6th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 and Core™ i7 processors, features an 13.5-inch optically bonded high-contrast 267 dpi display and a detachable screen, which can be used like a clipboard to sketch and take notes
The Surface Pro 4, the latest generation of the Surface tablet, features a 12.3-inch display and 6th Generation Intel® Core™ m, Core™ i5, and Core™ i7 processors. The tablet is 30% more powerful than previous iterations, says the company.
Lumia Smartphones. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL both feature similar hardware, but different screen sizes and processors. The 950 has a 5.2-inch display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 while the 950 XL features a 5.7-inch display and Qualcomm Snapdragon 810.
OTHER NOTABLE MICROSOFT PRODUCTS
Microsoft Band 2 reboots itself from its original iteration. According to Scott Stein with CNET, this iteration has an improved heart rate sensor, “a newly added barometer that tracks stair-climbing, and a UV sensor that can automatically measure your exposure over time, showing estimated minutes over a workout. The rest, for the most part, is similar.”
Microsoft HoloLens. The first cordless headset is a self-contained computer that runs on Windows 10. The company will start shipping the device early next year.
Xbox One Experience. Powered by Windows 10, this free update is a complete redesign built on the cornerstone of Windows 10, offering faster performance, vertical scrolling, and expanded social content and engagement. The product will launch this month.