(This post were originaly posted at atea.se in Swedish. This is just a quick translation without pictures (so sorry for any errors) – but I wanted to share my experiences with my English-speaking community friends as well. If you have any questions regarding this, please let me know. More posts on Continuum will follow.)
Windows 10 is an operating system for all types of devices, including phones. To get a single operating system to function regardless of the size of the screen, resolution and device Microsoft introduced Continuum for different types of computers and Continuum for Phone for mobile phones.
In this blog post we will take a closer look at Continuum for Phone. Before we continue, I need to clarify that Continuum for Phone does not work on all phones with Windows 10 Mobile. At present (in Sweden) solely on MS Lumia 950 and 950 XL. More models, however, is in the works from several different manufacturers.
If we start with the idea behind CfP, we all know that more and more of our work and tools move into our smart phones. We have them with us at all time and is constantly connected – to the internet, different types of cloud services and in some cases even to our internal network.
In the “Cloud First – Mobile First” world that Microsoft wants to create, it is perhaps the most concrete and obvious way to work. The downside of our phones today is that they have relatively small screens, and in some cases hardware limitations (performance) as well as limitations in the accessories we can connect to them.
With CfP Microsoft wants to change that and give us the opportunity to get larger screens and use our regular accessories to our phones. We are going to get a PC experience when we need it and a mobile experience when we need it.
First of all, you can connect your phone to a larger screen and accessories in two ways: Wireless or with cable, but we can of course combine the two.
Wireless, the phone use Miracast (much like Intel WiDi, Apple’s Airplay or Androids Chromecast) and Bluetooth. Miracast for audio and video and Bluetooth for different types of accessories like keyboard and mouse. To connect with Miracast, the screen, projector or TV you connect to need to support Miracast or so use a special adapter that is connected to a HDMI port.
To connect your phone with cable, we need to have a small docking station where we plug in the phone with USB-C and through that we get (with Microsoft’s dock) three USB ports, a Displayport and HDMI connector. We can connect different types of USB devices, not only keyboard and mouse but also memory sticks and external hard drives. We can, even though we have the phone connected with cable, use Bluetooth and connect keyboard and mouse wireless.
So, this past week my goal was to completely work without my computer and only use my Lumia 950 XL.
The week began in the office where the first thing I noticed was that I had forgotten my Displayport -> VGA adapter at home. My thought was that this probably is the most common (at the moment) way to connect to an external monitor. When I didn’t find any adapter or Displayport cable, I simply had to change the screen to one with HDMI.
I connected the phone, monitor, mouse, and keyboard to the dock and took off. The apps I mostly used were: Office (the mobile apps), email, calendar and Microsoft Edge. All worked fine, but because CfP at the moment only supports one app simulaniosly on the sceen there are some jumping between apps. However, for example Alt + Tab works great even on the phone.
Day number two I was out at one our customers where we are just beginning to implement Windows 10. The room I worked in had no external monitor, so I had no way to connect the phone. On the other hand, I used the phone in the first place even this day to answer mail, search for information and to read and edit documents in Word.
Midweek and back at the office. This time, with the right adapter, new screen and at first new great experiences. Still, I had trouble adjusting myself to not being able to have multiple apps at the same time on the screen, but I started to adjust to this way of working.
Funny (or just scary) enough, it’s something that starts to tingle in me when I can lock the phone by pressing Win + L on my USB keyboard… However Wednesday were the day when I had to pull my out of the bag. Skype for Business is not supported in Continuum mode on the phone and I could not share my “desktop” or other apps from the screen of the phone.
During the week, however, I used Skype for Business on the phone several times, both for calls, Conference calls and chat. Which brings me to the second-to-last day.
Something I learned to praise was the opportunity to use the phone “as a phone” while I used it “as a computer”. That means I may have an app on the big screen while using another (Skype, Mail, Spotify) on your phone’s screen. It proved useful, particularly because I was unable to connect my USB headphones to the dock in a good way. Instead I connected them to my phone directly.
The final challenge persisted though, time reports. I can do it in a number of ways, with an app, via the Web or via our my employers Citrix platform. Usually I use the Web – I feel that I get a better overview than via the app. But the page does not work very well in Microsoft Edge which is the browser I have on the phone. Therefore, I had to find a work around. The choice fell on Citrix – I connect to a Citrix-published Internet Explorer 11, viewed on the connected screen via Edge in exactly the same way as I would have expected from a regular computer.
I also finished this blog entry in Word and Microsoft Edge on the phone. After the end of the working day, I went home, connected the phone wirelessly to my TV and watched a movie together with my wife. Tacos and crisps, however, we had to organize without the phone.
In conclusion, I am impressed with how far I long I were able to manage with the phone alone. Of course, there will be a limitation when I can’t plan what hardware is available on site at our customers but the phone itself works far enough in many cases.
The apps and the management of them is the next limitation. All the apps will not work on a large screen, but it is up to the developers to Continuum-enable their respective app. Furthermore, I still try to find an effective way of working when I can’t use more than one app on the screen at the same time.
A prerequisite for the Continuum for Phone to work to 100 percent is clearly having some kind of solution to virtualize desktops and/or applications.
I have tried both via Citrix and RDS (Remote Desktop Services) and both work good enough – and improvements are on their way. It gives me really a fully-capable computer, that can fit in my pocket, anywhere I go but not without restrictions. However, it is a very interesting solution, and I’m convinced that we can use it to make our it jobs even more mobile.