Continuum: Microsoft has got an ace up its sleeve

In a space filled with phones of all seeds, colors and form, it's increasingly hard to stand out. Only a few companies can implement the sort of ground-breaking deep change required for meaningful differentiation.

Microsoft just showed one.

It's called Continuum. And it might just allow you to live a life without a desktop PC. Naturally, there are a few 'ifs'.

Continuum is remarkably simple. It's an extension of the direction Microsoft took a couple of years ago towards Universal Apps for Windows 10. The whole idea of a Universal App is to have one application that adapts to the screen: Microsoft Word on a phone is mostly used in portrait mode and strips many menus and other details that would be seen as irrelevant on the small phone screen, while Word on a 20-inch monitor is a totally different story. Yet, it's one app: Microsoft Word.

With Continuum, you can now connect your phone to a monitor and use the Universal Apps you already have installed on your phone in their much more comfortable and more productive large-screen versions.

At the center of all this is the new Microsoft Display Dock. This is the connection, the link between that monitor and your phone. A tiny block the size of a hockey puck, the Display Dock connects to your phone via a USB-C cable on one end and to a monitor via DisplayPort or HDMI. It also has 2 USB ports so that you can connect a keyboard and a mouse and transform this into a true destkop-like setup. You can even alt-tab between apps, once you run Continuum with a desktop and a keyboard!

If... there are Universal Apps

With all of this hooked up, you can start using Universal Apps... and that's where the clarity ends. So far we know that Facebook is 'all in' on the Universal Apps idea and is building a Facebook, Messenger and Instagram universal applications, and games like Candy Crush Soda Saga are also on board, but the question about which developers will support this idea is far from solved. Naturally, Microsoft has all of its native apps coded with the universal concept, so chances are that you will have at least the basics covered when the new Lumia 950 phones ship in November.

If... the phones are capable to carry the weight

The other big 'if' is all about performance. Will the Snapdragon 8xx series be powerful enough to handle the load? The presence of liquid cooling even on the Snapdragon 808-powered Lumia 950 is an indication that Continuum will put the chip to an exhausting test, where this will be needed. Do keep in mind that while Continuum is running on your brand new desktop-like setup with a 20"+ monitor, keyboard and mouse, your phone will still function separately so that you can text, call and just use it regularly. That's quite the load on the processor.


There are many 'ifs' around Continuum, but one thing seems certain: a huge number of people don't run AutoCAD on their home desktop PCs, nor do they edit videos in Sony Vegas or the like. Yet still, that same huge number of people is browsing the web, is on Facebook, is looking at YouTube videos, browsing through Flickr images... it's doing stuff that does not require an Intel Core chip and a separate desktop computer.

Continuum will give them the freedom to break away from the small phone screen without the need to spend hundreds of dollars on an expensive computer rig. Call it a disruption or a breakthrough, but this way - by 'killing' the desktop that the company itself created - Microsoft is liberating users.

"No single device will be a hub of activity forever," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said at the conclusion of today's big event. And that's revealing. After years of turning a blind eye to the booming mobile market and after years of denial under former executive Steve Ballmer, Microsoft seems to have finally accepted the truth about this new world, where consumers' first and often only computer is actually a phone. Continuum comes as a result of this new understanding from Microsoft and it opens a new door of innovation, a new and brighter future for phones. 

And this time, Microsoft has taken the lead - even Apple and Google have not yet dared or had the capacity to put the phone on the high 'desktop' pedestal. 

If Continuum succeeds, they will need to catch up.



60. cdgoin

Posts: 614; Member since: Jul 28, 2010

In THEORY this is fine and all.. but in application unless they have a phone with all the bands, then only AT&T customers will have access to the phone and its ability. Unless they make phones for the other carriers and sell them in their stores, or at Best Buy. Which has never been done, also wont be able to buy through carrier plans. I personally am leaving WP for the BB Priv as soon as it releases on T-mo.

54. whoyou

Posts: 17; Member since: Apr 09, 2013

The demo that we saw in microsoft event maybe just the tip of the iceberg for continuum.

59. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

I am waiting for a x86 chip to be in the phone, like the ASUS phone. Install x86 apps and let them run in continuum mode, and keep arm apps on the phone.

52. Mikk0

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 07, 2015

Hah! They stole the idea from Ubuntu. Ubuntu tried to do this a few years back, but didn't get enough funding. Now, according to Mark Shuttleworth, someone is actually doing it for them. It seems that Microsoft also paid attention ;)

50. lbblock

Posts: 34; Member since: Apr 20, 2015

What I really could use today is a full Windows 10 computer in a phone/phablet form factor. We've come such a long way in hardware that this should be far more practical than when OQO came out. I don't care about the screen size/usability issue many here would be brainwashed into raising, because we're hooking up to a monitor aren't we? Why not get full windows? After years of frustration, I concluded that having the full-PC windows, not truncated, not RT, not any of those other bleep, is what truly matters. Freedom from app developers, freedom from OS overlord constraints, from mobile apps and sites that don't give you the whole experience. Example, remember when Windows Phone did not have VPN for a few years just because MS didn't see fit? And we can find many more examples throughout Android and iOS too. Continuum in its current form would be worthless to me -- usually I'd be humble and say that's just me, but look at how many more (full) Windows convertibles every PC maker has sold compared to the RT-version Surface models. One'd think someone at MS ought to have learned a lesson.

41. deleon629 unregistered

Excellent write up...Brave, bold move into the future by Microsoft. I'm practically on the edge of my seat waiting to see how this pans out. They've not only presented a very innovative concept to the market, but are also challenging other OEMs to refrain from further attempts to give loyal customers the run-around with the inundation of different devices, tons of unnecessary peripherals, and apps to suit the demands of UX inconveniences & not the consumer. I really hope this works.

27. hitmantb

Posts: 79; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Microsoft fans are going to be disappointed when the reality hits. The problem is the "universal app" here is basically surface RT apps, not x86. That is an extremely small audience. Currently Microsoft does not have enough market share for anyone to invest the development resource and support cost for its platform. Example: Hearthstone first came out for x86. Blizzard added iOS/Android versions and mobile players now outnumber and outpurchase its x86 counterparts. Is Blizzard going to even bother to support Windows Phone / Surface RT? Not until it cracks single digit market share. The "universal" app is not universal at all. You need to build platform specific UX to stand a chance, that means heavy investment. You don't see top grossing apps from iOS/Android on Windows Phone, why would it change with Continuum? Continuum is basically surface RT with a phone/tablet UI. Sorry that is not going to cut it unless you can run x86 applications on your phone.

34. Penny

Posts: 1882; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

The part that you seem to be missing is that non-x86 apps is the direction Microsoft is pushing, as is the desktop Windows 10, as is the personal computing industry as a whole. They're betting on a future where marketplace apps are more likely to be developed and fill our functional needs than x86 software. If you look at the industry as a whole, I don't think they have the wrong idea here, even if it is a very long term play. Apps suffice for most people's daily needs and their limitations in comparison to x86 will gradually continue to dissipate. What we consider mobile "apps" today is the future of software -- at least that is Microsoft's bet.

40. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Actually universal is both custom UX and Adaptable. Meaning you can code and let the program do it for you....or insert custom UX. Custom UX is NOT REQUIRED. REPEAT NOT REQUIRED. Every time you spill this drivel of lies, I will post this to you. "Yes, you can create a single UI and use it for all devices—you don't have to create a custom UI for each device family. Our design guidelines can help you create a single UI that works well on all devices." now go forth and stop lying Also x86 can be turned into universal apps as well. Also you talk about time and investment you think ios and android did not take time and investment to turn an x86 app into a mobile game? Also you forget, and dumbfounded that Windows tools can now convert ios and android apps into windows apps, with nearly the flick of a switch. Your arguments are again invalid.

48. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

The biggest problem with that is that app developers don't seem to care about Microsoft, in general. Their desktop app store is a wasteland, and their mobile app marketplace is filled with more knock-offs than anything else. Until Microsoft sees some money generated for developers, they will continue to lag behind the iOS and Android app stores. Yes, you have to build it for them to come, but if they never do, it's just another idea that I'll either on the vine.

57. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Out of the 1.5million apps out there...there is about 20 that are needed, the rest are simply knockoffs. Games different story, but then again how many city builders does one need, how many goat simulators, or farm etc etc etc. Don't act like any of the other stores offer some unique 1million apps that are all different. They are not. MS devs make a really good chunk of change right now. Problem is simply customer base. While I think 200million user base is nothing to scoff at, snapchat thinks it is.

49. hitmantb

Posts: 79; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Successful iOS/Android games were all built from scratch targeting mobile devices from the get go. Desktop UI has no chance on mobile and vice versa. You have no idea how software development works and how expensive it is. There is no "flick a switch" in software development, seriously if it was that easy, you would see Clash of Clans and Hearthstone (originally a x86 app) available for Windows devices already. Hearthstone was written with Unity engine which is already cross-platform, why doesn't Blizzard release a Windows phone version? Sorry doesn't work that way when your market share is Blackberry-like and there is no money to be made.

58. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

I have no idea what it takes?...speaking to the wrong person bud. The simple fact you didn't know that you don't need custom UX shows how little you do know. As well, you talk about money, fine here: Why haven't they? because they haven't, seriously a stupid question. And actually yea, flip of a switch argument is valid and proven. While it will take work, yes, nothing is 1-1. They will not be starting from scratch. Of course iOS and Android apps had to be started from scratch, their code is non compatible without some sort of emulator on another platform. However, with a little work, yes I say little, they could have those on MS platform. Why they don't, they don't want to simple as that. Currently universal app will reach 200-500million customers (windows 8 and 10, desktop/mobile that support universal apps), they are being retarded, nothing more.

23. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

I think the article is missing one important: those ifs won´t really matter. This is the first iteration of something that will come does not matter how many belive in it. Motorola did it too early with their docks for phones. Asus did it wrong with their extendilbe devices as the extensions were expensive. Now with the USB 3.1 being capable of USB + HDMI Microsoft nailed the rigth time and way to do it. They will have time later to fix the ifs: more applications will come and more powerful SoCs are already on the way. Because that is the future, simple as that.

33. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I dont think Moto did it too early. IIRC Moto tweaked it at one point to not need the laptop dock anymore to go into desktop mode. Also dont agree about Asus and their Pad phone line. They may have been expensive but the execution was fine IMO. But I do agree now its should be better with tech advances.

53. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

All I´m saying is that neither manage to stick for long. Motorola never tried again and Android still does not have a good "desktop mode", ASUS has given up on their transformer line for Android.

21. bodzio1809

Posts: 407; Member since: Aug 28, 2013

I am waiting for Surface Phone with x86 processor. Core M maybe? :D

16. kefalin

Posts: 292; Member since: Feb 08, 2015

Yes,its a big revolution. Of course its not. Snapdragon is not ready for it, universal apps cant replace full Windows programmes and to take dock with bunch of cables,cmon....

19. Plutonium239

Posts: 1266; Member since: Mar 17, 2015

Microsoft likely clocked the processors higher, thus the need for liquid cooling.

28. Subie

Posts: 2476; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

Waiting for a tear down to see how Microsoft has implemented this "liquid" cooling.

43. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

just put tiny water pump, and 2 tiny fan to cooldown the water, and some big battery to power that "liquid cooling" or just make waterproof phone, use metal back cover and fill it with mineral oil

39. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Of course it wont replace full work programs....but I know of 3 business right now that will benefit from this. And going forward my new contacts will be made knowledge of this saving them money.

13. FreeDraickin

Posts: 18; Member since: Jan 09, 2015

Great day for microsoft. That was true innovation indeed. Keep it up

11. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

I'm going to get a 950 to compliment my s6 edge plus. This feature is the reason thst pushed me over the edge

10. saiki4116

Posts: 413; Member since: Mar 31, 2011

Ubuntu has done that years ago.

9. slannmage

Posts: 289; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

I don't see the point, you need a monitor, keyboard and mouse + a dock... Just get a Desktop PC or Laptop, it'll be better.

15. ihavenoname

Posts: 1693; Member since: Aug 18, 2013

Exactly. I get an email on my phone with Word-file attached and I need to edit it. If I don't have my laptop with me, why would I have monitor, keyboard, mouse and dock for my phone? lol

30. gazmatic

Posts: 822; Member since: Sep 06, 2012

you can edit it on your phone........ the continuum is to basically project your phone on a big screen. it's not saying that you NEED a keyboard, mouse and monitor. it's saying that IF you HAVE a keyboard, mouse and monitor you CAN connect your phone and STILL be productive. that's the point.

38. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

This going forward can now be different. Example how this can be done. Current colleague. Has a work laptop, then a phone. The laptop uses a large hp dock that connects to a monitor. Reason? The desk is shared by many many people but the laptop is not. Now he has to go home, at home he has a pc, work gave him a second docking station for his home. So here we have, a phone that is used to edit stuff, then a pc, then a desktop, then another docking station. All in all...for work that isn't needed to be 'powerful', we have, and yes I priced it...over 2000 in products. New moto? 130$ monitor, phone 950xl. Keyboard/mouse (30 bucks), and a docking station that is so tiny you can slip in your bag or simply tote along with you. For half the cost, and only a single device needed....we now have a full work setup. I have an old desk with an aging pc, by getting this, I can throw away my old pc, keep the monitor. Free up the PC that every one loves to use in my house (my old gaming rig)...and boom I have a pc in my hand that is a phone. Using space I already own/have. Getting the 950 for the kiddos...since every 10yr old I see has some sort of 500+ buck phone at school. Now my kid can literally have their pc, with no need to buy the laptop I was going to buy to upgrade their tablets....saving me money. I can think of a dozen right now, scenarios from work to home, through just my family alone where this is king setup.

47. justrt

Posts: 446; Member since: Jul 10, 2014

It's good for the business.. If you're on the go.. Meet up with people and all.. You have everything in your phone.. You just work at different offices. I'm sure lots of offices will be equipped with docks and monitors..

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