Windows 10 was unleashed upon the world at the tail end of July 2015, but despite already having been installed on over 110 million devices (as of 6/10/15) there’s one key feature nobody has yet been able to enjoy and it’s arguably the operating system’s most powerful ability – Continuum.
Imagine being able to connect a standard computer mouse, keyboard and monitor to your smartphone and interact with it as if it was a full blown PC, that’s the promise of Continuum.
What are the benefits of Continuum?
After the mess of applications on Windows 8/8.1, which were built for either the Start screen or the desktop, Microsoft has refocused how they should behave in Windows 10, giving rise to what it calls ‘universal apps’.
Universal apps are programs built to work across any device that runs Windows 10, from PCs right down to the smartphone in your pocket.
From a developer’s perspective universal apps are great because they only have to code for one application, safe in the knowledge it’ll work across a whole range of devices. For users it ensures their files will work irrespective of whether they access them on a phone, tablet or PC running Windows 10 and in some cases (think emerging markets) might negate the need to by a separate PC altogether.
With Continuum, provided the smartphone you’re using is powerful enough, you’ll be able to plug familiar peripherals like a keyboard, mouse and monitor into your smartphone and have the mobile experience scale to a full-blown desktop one.
Note: We’ve also reached out to Microsoft to confirm whether Xbox One owners will be able to stream and play with their consoles via their smartphones whilst using Continuum. Streaming games from Xbox One is already possible on conventional Windows 10 PCs. We’ll update this section when we hear back.
What do I need to use Continuum?
As was just touched on, in order to enjoy a desktop computing experience that’s powered by a smartphone, said smartphone has to pack some pretty beefy hardware. Presently there are three Windows 10 smartphones confirmed to support Continuum and all are flagship class-devices hitting the market in late 2015/early 2016.
Microsoft unveiled the Lumia 950 and 950 XL during its September Windows 10 event, both of which feature high-end Qualcomm processors (a Snapdragon 808 and 810 respectively) whilst Acer teased the Jade Primo at IFA in Berlin earlier this year with the promise of a 2016 launch.
Whichever smartphone you end up choosing you’re also going to need a dock of some sort that will let you connect keyboard, mouse, display and any additional peripherals (think USB sticks or hard drives) to your smartphone.
Luckily Microsoft has just pulled the wraps off its new Display Dock too, intended to arrive alongside those Lumia smartphones later this year. The dock has connections for both DisplayPort and HDMI monitors (supports 1920×1080 resolution), two full-sized USB 2.0 ports and a USB-C connection to connect to a compatible smartphone.
When can I get Continuum?
Unless Microsoft says otherwise, Continuum will launch as part of the out-of-box experience from either of its two new smartphones, the aforementioned Lumia 950 and 950 XL. Whilst pricing hasn’t been finalised the 950 is expected to sell for around £450 and the 950 XL for around £550, with both handsets arriving in November.