Windows 10 full desktop will run on new smartphones

Seth Barton
30 Apr 2015
Windows 10 phone continuum demo

Microsoft extends its Continuum concept to smartphones with impressive demo

We’ve already how Microsoft’s Continuum concept adjusts the Windows 10 interface to work on desktop, laptop and tablet interfaces - essential stuff for all those hybrid devices out there. Today though Microsoft demoed the concept as applied to smartphones running Windows 10.

Now this was just a demo, as new hardware will be required, but it was a very impressive one. A Windows Phone handset was plugged into a monitor via HDMI, and connected to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, turning it into a PC-like device.

The demo showed how Windows 10 office applications, that share code across phone and desktop versions, could instantly switch to their usual desktop layouts - allowing for familiar use of these powerful productivity tools. Better still the handset still functioned independently, driving both screens, allowing you to receive and answer a text message or take a call while you continued working on the monitor.

Windows phone 10 Continuum demo screenshot

^ The start screen on the left comes from your phone, will the app on the right is the full version of Powerpoint

And that’s where the new hardware has to come in, as the current generation of Windows Phone handsets (as with most smartphones) can only mirror their display onto a second screen not display a proper extended desktop. However, we should see such new hardware this week from the Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco, possibly even later today.

The possibilities for such technology are potentially huge. Imagine being able to carry a full windows office suite with you everywhere in your pocket, hook it up to a hotel TV and you’ll only need a compact Bluetooth keyboard and travel mouse to complete the set. In a few years time, if this catches on, you should find those in your room, or be able to borrow them from reception.

It’s also a big deal for developing countries, where an internet cafe where you could then buy a phone instead of a PC base unit, and have the best of both worlds with the addition of a monitor.

Now this kind of thing has been tried before, most notably with the Motorola Atrix back at CES in 2011. However that didn’t have the benefit of a familiar Microsoft desktop environment and applications.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on Continuum for Windows 10 phones this week and bring you all the latest as it happens.