Windows 10 Continuum: Turn Your Phone Right into a PC

Over the past month approximately, we’ve been going over a few of the glitzy new stuff in Microsoft’s next-generation operating-system, like Hello, for biometric authentication; Surface Hub, designed for business productivity; Cortana, the digital assistant to help you find stuff around town or on the internet; and HoloLens, one of the first truly useful holographic display systems.

That tour continues today with Continuum, that is an attempt to make Windows 10 as useful as possible across all sorts of devices, whether it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. The fundamental idea behind Continuum is the fact that Windows 10 will sense what sort of device you’re using, and push the best display for your device. So if you’re using Windows 10 on a Surface 3 tablet with a mouse and keyboard connected, it defaults to desktop mode. Which means it presents a screen that’s perfect for a mouse and keyboard combination.

Should you remove the mouse and keyboard, Continuum will automatically change to touch-first mode, adding a picture interface (GUI) similar to that found on Windows 8/8.1. The bottom line is that you don’t have to do anything; Continuum knows what you need, and provides it for you personally.

Windows Phone Magic

Continuum goes further, though, especially with Windows 10 on a Windows Phone. Should you give a keyboard, mouse and external display, it scales to fill the screen properly. Think about that for any minute: if you are using a phone and want for doing things more like a desktop or laptop, just connect some external hardware and bam! You’ve got a PC in moments.

At a demo at certainly one of its recent conferences, Microsoft showed this capability inside a real-world scenario. In it, the presenter hooked up the peripherals — display, mouse, keyboard — to his Windows 10 phone. On the phone, he had Microsoft Excel (a spreadsheet program that’s part of the Office suite) open.

On the phone, it looked like Excel would look on a phone — much smaller, fewer menu options, etc. This is, obviously, necessary, since there’s so much less property on the phone. But around the external monitor, Excel expanded, looking like it should on a bigger display. The presenter then worked on Excel using the mouse and keyboard, however it was all still coming from the phone.

Apple Can’t Do It

That it is pretty remarkable whenever you consider it: using any Windows Store app on any Windows 10 device. That’s something can’t do, for instance, on Macs. When you switch from an apple iphone to a MacBook Pro, for instance, you’re moving from iOS, the touch-based operating-system used for iPhones and iPads, to OS X, the separate — and far different — desktop/laptop operating-system. They are not effective nearly exactly the same way.

There are several warnings, obviously. First is the fact that there are likely to be some bugs in the system at first. This is complicated technology and will take awhile to shake out (as it will for Windows 10 in general). Quite simply, have patience.

Secondly, there’s not a lot of apps obtainable in the Windows Store yet, at least compared to what’s available for iPhones and Android phones within their respective stores. But which may be changing, especially as Windows 10 gains market share and developers start seeing the opportunity to earn some cash creating apps for it. Microsoft undoubtedly wishes to lure them with the simplicity of creating one program for those Windows 10 devices, instead of separate ones for various operating systems.

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