Microsoft Continuum – First thoughts

Microsoft has released Continuum for their line of Lumia 950 phones.  Continuum is the ability to use your phone as a desktop.  By plugging the phone into a dock, you can control the phone with a regular keyboard and screen.

Let’s look at the phone.  The Lumia 950 is ok.  It’s not spectacular, just ok.  It’s the first time I’m using the Windows platform (just having migrated from Android).  The first thing that is obvious, is that the app store for the Windows phones are not nearly as mature as the Apple store or even the Google Play store. With a small user base, its no surprise.  Developers wouldn’t develop apps for Windows if there aren’t many users on it, which is understandable.  I didn’t purchase the phone for the apps, but it is something that stands out.

I do like the integration between the phone and my Windows 10 Surface Pro 3.  With everything running on Windows 10 and Onedrive, it seems that Microsoft is working towards the idea of having the phone and the desktop becoming one.  I had a missed call on my phone, and my PC popped up with a message to send a text.  That was cool.

Now the main feature – Continuum…

The strategy is to have the phone replace your desktop.  There are some advantages here.  I can work on a document at work, bring it home, and just continue with it, regardless of where I’m at, because it is all on my phone.  For this to work, you need to use a Universal App.  This is a term that Microsoft has coined for apps that will run on Windows 10, their phones, Xbox, etc.  So the same app will run everywhere.  So when we say the phone is a desktop, it is not.  It is a “desktop” for their universal apps only.  All the office apps are Universal Apps, so with your Office 365 subscription, you can continue to edit any Office document straight from your phone.

Any other app can not be accessed via Continuum.  You still need to access it on the phone.  This is a problem for me.  Even if the phone app is not built in a universal mode, surely Continuum must be able to at least render it in a smaller Window.  No, the whole app is grayed out, and needs to be used on the phone.

I was surprised to see apps like Remote Desktop is not a Universal App, so a key IT tool we use every day is not ready on Continuum.  This is a let down.

I am not impressed with Continuum.  Sorry Microsoft, I think you need to do some more work in this area.

  • Performance of the phone on Continuum is sluggish.  I tried using it as a desktop, and got frustrated by it, to the point that I had to switch back to my Surface Pro.
  • There is no option to tweak my mouse.  I want the resolution much higher (move quickly around the screen), a setting that is available on Windows, but not on Continuum.
  • My keyboard has swapped the @ and ” around.  This is frustrating, considering I use the ” quite a lot in scripting.  Alas, again no option to tweak this in the keyboard settings.
  • The Continuum dock does not have Ethernet port.  If it’s going to be a desktop replacement, I would expect the port to be standard.
  • I had to get a proper HDMI screen to use the solution.  The Continuum dock did not like my HDMI-to-VGA converter (it worked, but I had issues), and also has no option to tweak the screen resolution.

Continuum is a nice idea, and possibly something we’ll see become a standard feature on Apple & Android as well in the near future.  I know it’s new technology, and hopefully it will improve in future.  Only time will tell.  For now, it’s a gimmick, and not ready yet for enterprise use.

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