Redux: When is a Smartphone OS not a Smartphone OS?

April 30 2015

On the eve of Windows 10 and the reveal of Continuum for Phones, I thought it was worth revisiting something I posted three years ago.

With Windows Phone, many posit that Microsoft is moving everything to the Windows RT kernel (aka Windows 8); the phone could be as much Windows 8 as the tablet or desktop. Microsoft have been pretty candid about their duelling Metro/Desktop environments in Windows 8, but it starts to paint a familiar picture once all the information is in play. Your Windows Phone, which may run on ARM or perhaps x86, could dock and power a desktop display, with a mouse, keyboard, and even legacy Windows apps. In the future, I see no distinction between Windows Phone and Windows; for Windows Phone to fail, the entirety of Windows has to go down with it.

Indeed, with Windows 10 on phones Microsoft is delivering just that - Windows Phones will be able to power monitors, keyboards & mice and run Universal Windows apps just like you can on your Windows 10 PC. They see it as a huge opportunity for all the people whose first & only computer is their smartphone.

A whole new generation of computing, where everything can be powered by one device; that’s where Microsoft and Google are positioning themselves. They are platform makers, this is the most obvious and inevitable possible platform play. If you extrapolate a little, it’s quite clear that this goes beyond devices; if we’re talking about dumb desktop shells that you dock into, why not the same for phones and tablets? What if the computer itself is something you always wear - a wristband perhaps. Wirelessly, it could beam its display to a blank shell of a smartphone in your pocket, or the blank shell of a tablet, or a desktop PC, or augmented reality glasses.

Microsoft intends for Continuum to power 2-in-1 laptop/tablet-looking devices with no internals, wirelessly - your entire computing experience beamed from your smartphone.

Eventually the physical connectors will go away, and the docking will all be wireless - at that point, for how long will we still need distinct devices, CPUs, memory and data connections for each display and input mechanism in our lives?

The future present is kinda awesome, huh?