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Continuum for phones works over Miracast but still needs new hardware too

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore took time from his presumably busy schedule to share a little more on Continuum for phones. Now that Windows 10 for PC is out the gate the focus for the team at Redmond is on the mobile side of the OS.

For a while now, Microsoft has been saying that Continuum for phones requires new hardware. Despite the demos at Build 2015 and speculation to the contrary only newer, high-end phones can second-screen to an external display. In fact, the only reason I am mentioning this is some people who don't follow every drip and drab of Microsoft news may still have questions. Hopefully, this answers them.

Belfiore has added a few more notes to the conversation:

"Yes, Continuum for phones requires new hardware. It's a high-end feature-- uses dual separate screens. Continuum for phones DOESN'T require you to carry a device to connect. It's wireless (BT/Miracast) *or* wired (eg. could have a dock)."

Of course, the dock Belfiore is referring to is codenamed Munchkin as we revealed a few weeks back. I have heard that the dock, which features USB and display ports, will run for $99 once released this fall with the new flagship phones. Essentially, a user plugs their phone via USB Type-C into the dock and the dock connects to a display, mouse and keyboard to act like a full PC. Alternatively, maybe just like a Surface RT, to be more precise. Microsoft has yet to speak publicly about the accessory.

Regarding Miracast, this too was recently shown to some of us in the media at a private event in New York City. As noted by Belfiore, the hardware used are simple engineering samples, much like he showed in a photo on Twitter today (see below). These devices look like normal Lumias, but their updated Qualcomm chipsets can handle the dual display output needed for Continuum.

The Miracast demo I saw was just that: the phone connected up to a TV and wirelessly beamed a second screen. Universal Windows apps (UWA) like Outlook were demoed with Continuum specifically displaying how the phone app can scale up to a full display for a computer or TV.

Overall, the demo was fast and impressive, although only one UWA can run at a time. It is unclear if this limitation sticks around or is a restriction on the hardware. We should keep in mind that Continuum for phones is still a very new technology, and we likely have a few generations to go before it is that 'PC in a pocket' dream.

Perhaps that rumored Intel phone is the next evolution.

Microsoft is still in the late stages of developing Continuum for phones with a few for more months before it is ready for public release. We are likely to hear more about the feature and new hardware later in September or October.

Source: Twitter

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

119 Comments
  • That's actually really cool.
  • Well.....the typo is gone....so is my comments!!!
  • This is a game changer for businesses n particular.
  • For college and high school as well too (especially because Office), and of course, to developers. :) But Microsoft needs launch a version of Visual Studio Code for Win10 Mobile. Do it, Microsoft. Just do it. :)
  • Visual Studio Code for Windows 10 Mobile? I definitely like that idea!  
  • Now that's a good idea. the full stack of Visual Studio might be too heavy, but VS Code should be working well enough on these high end phones.
  • I think the continuum feature would be a basic support for some applications. I find that businesses would use the continuum more because it is about cost that that will replace tablets and laptop inthe future. I also think this phone would be better suited for people always on the go.
  • More like a gimmick. While at the office there are already real computers in place. While on the road needed peripherals are not available. What are the use cases for this?
  • Cause in the near future our phones would be powerful enough like a full blown PC.
  • Like a hopelessly outdated PC. A PC is waaay better powered and cooled.
  • Actually, a lot of offices these days don't use desktop PC"s or workstations anymore. Insteaed, a lot of companies opt to use business class laptops. All that's at the office is a docking station for the laptop and a monitor. Using a smartphone with continuum is not very different from this which is very popular in offices now. The two most common laptops I see used like this are Lenovo and HP laptops. This method doesn't bind employees to their desk and also allows them to work from home with one laptop. The smartphone is just the next evolution of this feature. Sure a desktop PC will always be more powerful, but how much computing power do you need for typical office jobs like word processing or excel spreadsheets? I work in software development and we also use docked laptops, but unless Visual Studio is available as a universal windows 10 app, we can't make the switch to continuum. But hardwase-wise, these phones are capable enough, especially once the Intel phone comes out. As it's always been with Windows Phone, it's just a matter of apps, not the hardware.
  • Yes maybe in 5 years. But perhaps there could be earlier some thin client scenarios, running rdc etc. Yet if the investment for hardware alone is ~ 1000$ it will be a hard sell.
  • vhyr I understand your point. The only thing I can imagine that microsoft could possibly envision is that although the infrastructure for perhipherals still needs development and initial reative high cost investment, because microsoft said windows 10 will be the last version, they're aiming for the long run game. This means that cost of ownership could be low in the long run. Thus although an initial investment of a windows 10 mobile capable phone and monitor perhipheral may be a 1000 dollar investment, you would get back the initial overhead and investment back by a lower cost of ownership, thereby losing less profit over time. The disadvantage of a new OS and new hardware every  6 months-2 years will mean you will mostly likely have overhead costs in the future. But now you might not need that with a clean slate an a windows 10 core that will not change in the foreseeable future. Maybe far fetched but the only one that could make sense to your concern.
  • Corporations already spend over $1000 per computer these days, possibly less with volume discounts. It's not like corporations are going to best buy and picking up the cheapest laptop or desktop they see. They usually opt for business class laptop with special business features like security or docking station support. This easily makes a laptop cost more than $1000 individually. So switching to smarpthones with continuums, even if they cost around $1000, it's not really too much different than what they've always been doing for awhile.
  • I'm not sure Continuum is for "the office" (as in your own office). I believe the target would be anyone who is currently working on a document, spreadsheet, presentation, etc. from their own office or home using real desktops or laptop workstations, then just carrying their phone with them to give the presentation or continue edit that document or spreadsheet for school or work. All that's needed for this to work is a display that supports Miracast (or Microsoft's own wireless display adaptor) and a BT keyboard/mouse (which are available almost anywhere). I'm fairly sure the peripherals will be in place to support this, if there not already available, when the new Windows 10 Mobile lineup hits the streets.
  • so that you can continue doing what you were doing with your phone with a full screen
  • Watch Build conference where he talked about use cases.  One use case is low income countries or families.  For some around the world they cannot afford to buy both a $700 phone and a $700 computer.  Well, with continuum you would only have to buy the phone, keyboard and monitor.  Or what if I come home and have some emails or need to get on the computer, all i would have to do is connect my phone to the tv get my BT keyboard and there you go. Sometimes is hard to understand why we need a new invention.  But when you use it for a while you think how could you have ever lived without it.   
  • Actually I could see this happening. Give me one of these: http://amzn.to/1VRlY57 (Foldable Keyboard) And one of these: http://amzn.to/1Iue5sj (Arc Touch Mouse) And one of these: http://amzn.to/1IudJli (Miracast Dongle) Connected to a TV in a hotel room, which these days often give 1080P, and I have full-screen Office and Edge in a package that fits in a small case and weighs less than any laptop. I can literally stuff an entire mobile workstation in my pocket!
  • Absolutely not a gimmick, we have hot desks at our over 40 national locations and we have over 500 staff of the 12000 that are always traveling. We have standardised on windows phone so this will be a perfect for for us.
  • At some point maybe, but as Dan points out, the 'PC in your pocket' dream is a few generations (i.e. years) out. Basically, hardware needs to get better.
  • It's a game changer for me!!!  I want I want I want. They should release a ridiculously premium Intel phone that's a real PC when in Continuum mode (or whatever you call it.)  The top-of-the-line iPhone is $399 on contract, so this should come in at $499 on contract.  It needs to be a status symbol.  Even if they only sell 10 of them, it would, at least, light up the blogosphere and make iSheep ever-so-slightly envious to not be carrying around the "best" phone anymore. If I were MS, I'd be working on this ASAP.  Then I'd hold a big press event and give out two to every attendee, just to chum the waters a little..."We have an extra Surface Phone, who wants it?  Send us a tweet with [yadda yadda] hashtag for your change to win!!!"
  • Hope they bring those new hardware as soon as possible
  • yknow, Microsoft is doing all these new things like holograms and Contiuum and just the whole ecosystem itself....this is INNOVATION.....yet other companies invest millions into R&D and start using 1 USB type C port on their new slim line of products and yet they get awards for "INNOVATION"..... Im all in with Microsoft so far.
  • I totally agree. But at the same time we should some how be grateful for the beatings MS have gotten over the past years. It has gotten MS on edge and really pushed them forward. Competitions is a win (real or not) for us consumers.
  • I don't think Apple actually got any awards for adding USB type C to their latest macbook. But I totally agree with you still. Microsoft is the true innovater here.
  • So,in short my 1320 won't get it ... Sad
  • It has been pointed out in every single article about Continuum for phones that new hardware will be required.
  • It's a mid range phone from two years ago... What do you expect.
  • So my Xbox 360 won't play Xbox One games...It's sad.
  • It's not sad - outrageous! MS has no shame.
  • STAHP.
  • It's like playing Gta 5 on a PC with Windows XP!
  • I think there is still a misunderstanding. You can with Windows 10 mobile wirelessly mirror your display your phone to a bigger display and possibly use a Bluetooth keyboard. Continuum is more than that. Continuum allows you to be connected to peripherals and have a desktop like experience while still employing the phone as a phone. So you have Word open on the big display while using text messaging or making a call or playing angry birds with the phone
  • Well, to my huge disappointment, you actually can't mirror your phones display to a bigger screen anymore in Windows 10 Mobile...
  • Is Microsoft the first and only one bringing this? Those owning an apple iPhone 6 or latest Android flagships, is there anything similar to this? Thanks
  • Continuum is the only thing like this. The closest is Ubuntu phone, but 1) People claim it doesn't work good 2) Ubuntu phone is not popular at all.
  • Continuum is nowhere to be found on the current market my friend. Way to go Microsoft.
  • Thanks for your answers. BTW I'm a complete Microsoft products lover, so don't worry, I'm with you, lol
  • I'm really excited to see more on Continuum in a couple of months! And, like, I don't see why the hardware couldn't work for at least two apps next to each other, with the powerful Snapdragon processors. I mean, Tegra 3 was plenty enough to do this, and that processor wasn't exactly powerful.
  • I hope its just the current limitation because of being just a demo. Continuum Mobile with only one app can run doesn't give any value and DOA. I don't think also its simply because that ARM SoC can handle multiple app windows, Windows RT runs a recompiled real desktop on ARM SoC and it works fine. I hope that they don't try to even think about releasing Continuum with only single app can run, it ruins the point of it and expectations of the masses. I'm bit worried since they can say "We will update it" excuse statements. I'm really hoping that it would be really a lite desktop exprience as everybody looking forward too.
  • Yes it does sometimes feel like a flip of the coin  to here microsoft say "we will update it". But so far the things they have stated that would be updated, in my experience have been updated. The difficult part is that we expect a shortterm result. But microsoft did state they're in this for the long run. And microsoft has set big goals for themselves for millions of people globally. It's not a small achievement. Maybe in not in coding, but in executing and global distribution yes.That's no easy task when innovating. Elon Musk also took years to get the tesal model s on the road. I agree it would be better baseline if at least two app snapping was part of continuum for the phone. It would greatly add value to the phone as your mobile pc and increase productivity and be in line with windows 10 tablet mode. But I am already amazed at the concept of continuum via the phone. The idea may not be groundbreaking but implementing it to work effortlesly and accessible more easily on a gloabal scale is.
  • I understand the achievement of what they have done. I personally know how hard to develop softwares and plan things out, its really challenging as a programmer. But thing is here that we are all dealing with consumers, and all they do mostly care about is the end results. Not alot of people cares about how you able to deliver and make pizza, they only care that you able to deliver it within expected time, its hot, looks good, smells good and taste good. They don't much care about how awesome bike you use or shortcuts you know, they just want the pizza. Same as here, general public wants things that work and work well within our expectations, they can be pretty demanding (even sometimes unreasonable). We here are fine, we appriciate and love processes and that's why we even here in this site. We are happy to witness how awesome they are. But yeah, Continuum for phones in concept is truly an innovation. If they play their cards right, this can change how we think about smartphones and how we use them, at least for many of us. :)
  • This is one windows across all devices. All I'm saying is that even HoloLens supports more then one window at once. It's not like they announced that limitation. They showed dual display capabilities, that is what we should talk about. There is absolutely no reason for that limitation so no reason to talk about it.
  • Because the hardware is allowing you to use two apps simultaneously on two desperate displays. Like using Word on the big display while reading Windows Central on the phone.
  • One app at a time ? Immediately lost interest in it. Worse than RT even though there's more power than a Tegra 3 or 4 , no thanks
  • Dude, it very clearly says continuum is in the early demo stages, and that the one app limitation might go away later on...dont you think you're being a little too critical too early on?
  • Don't forget it's powering two screens simultaneously... Whilst at the moment it seems you can only run one app at a time on the external screen, they've already shown you can have a different app running on the phone screen, and I'm sure they said you can interact between the two... e.g. Copy text from browser/email on phone screen and paste it into a Word doc on external screen. In some ways this kinda negates the need to snap etc.
  • It doesn't make sense if Continuum really only run single app at a time in the external monitor. The point of Continuum for Mobile is to have almost same desktop experience from a smartphone when connected to external monitor. Even you have apps from the phone, that doesn't count. But yeah, this is just a technical demo and may not be even pre-alpha. So we have to wait for a little more for any official word about it. Let's just hope that Continuum will live up to its promise and there won't be an excuse "Update later" thing.
  • proof that Microsoft will never please everyone..... when they release a phone that can teleport you.... somene will say "you cannot teleport your dog.... fail"
  • Continuum for phones is sounding less and less interesting.
  • OK bye
  • WP community admires criticism
  • Only​ one app at a time? No two app multitasking with snap would kill any interest I had out the gate.
  • This. You can already multitask on Android phones. What's the point of all the new hardware and a giant screen just so you can run one app in front of a background image? Might as well screen-mirror your phone at that point.
  • You peeps don't understand. This is just a start for that feature. Using your phone as a pc. As things are your phone will most likely blow up if it were to do everything a pc does. Well devices that can do one at a time in continuum will do more than any of the available devices can do now as a phone.
  • It's a long run for phones. Not any time soon because phones don't have considerable cooling and power source. That's why they will lag behind. The question is why would people want it? What are the use cases?
  • Business users who travel would find it useful I think. It will be great for putting on presentations for clients. Or a meeting where everyone could carry their spreadsheets with them and each take it in turns to display their figures to the group on a large screen TV. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • some people can only see two days into the future
  • Aren't there already usb stick sized devices that have either x86 or ARM CPUs capabale of solid performance? I'm sure this is just a software limitation, one that'll be remedied pretty soon into this feature's life.
  • and btw he said android :3 something that android doesnt have is even this little continumm xD. and wtf how can they say awesome multitasking while only high-end phones run android well and usable. android is full of viruses too and if you dont know about stagefight on androids search for it :3 and androids only lag in phones that microsoft sells how can they just drop it down so easy? xd
  • currently one one app at a time on the EXTERNAL Monitor. You can still use the phone as a phone as well.
     
  • Still defeats the purpose of it, especially if you are shelling out another $99 for "Munchkin." As someone said above, you might as well just mirror your screen; at the very least, it should be able to run more than one app and allow for snapping.
    ------------
    Anyways, im pretty sure, when it arrives, we will be able to use more than one app, otherwise continuum wouldnt need flagship hardware to run and MS would have included it for all their devices as it would be a great selling point for all Windows phones.
  • If you just mirror your screen, you'd have to stop working when you got a call. Continuum let's you take the call and continue working in your app on the external monitor. Yes, there is a use for it. It's just not going to be a desktop experience, so no PC in a pocket yet. However, still quite useful.
  • The one advantage I can see with the munchkin is that it could support the phones battery life and maybe have a small graphics chip to support the phones graphic chip for a more smoother less choppy experience on the screen. That way your phone would drain less quickly and also heat up less quickly which is better for the durability of the phone in the long run. Mirror cast of wifi I could imagine drains your battery faster than a connection over usb c. But its only theory and some of my own tidbits based on experience.
  • I think continuum is limited by the way Windows mobile handles multi tasking, this seems to be the one app limit
  • Agreed. There is a more fundamental question at play here. Windows 10 Mobile is supposed to be for small tablets and phablets also, but currently doesn't seem to support snap/multitasking, nor have the edge gestures been aligned with Windows 10 tablet mode.
    I can see no reasons why this shouldn't happen, in fact it must if Windows 10 is to deliver on the one experience promise.
  • @Dan : Any idea what phone is being used for demo by Belfiore?
  • Lufiore continuum only phone, lol
  • where is my surface phone?
  • Your surface phone??? So funny
  • Spoiled brat lol
  • Looks like new Tupperware coming soon from Microsoft...:D
  • There's a hidden Miracast view app installed and also the connect toggle in action center on w10m. Did ms bring miracast support to existing devices running preview?
  • Miracast works since 8.1 on devices with snapdragon 400 or better
  • I'm running a snapdragon s4 plus (msm8960)
  • Losing interest in the upcoming windows 10, which will be released in waves, not bring many features to existing devices, and so what is the BIG thing if we get it?
  • What big thing do you need.. I know what I need. I need windows!!
  • You just don't get it do you.
  • That's great, if the accessory was a must have to use continuum, it would put off casual users and the tech press would be jumping about the extra 100$.
  • Let them jump. I can aford it.
  • Sounds great!!
  • So, I know this gets brought up ALL the time; however MS really need to distinguish these new high end phones from the existing Lumia range. Otherwise, there is going to be loads of confusion about which phones can do what.  It's OK if you follow MS news, however the average Joe in the street is going to think all Windows Phone/Mobile will be able to do this & that will harm MS & Windows 10 Mobile. Lets have a premium name to match the premium features & undoubtable the premium price.  Go Surface Phone!!!!      
  • That is a great call and totally agree. Continuum feels very 'surfacy' ;)
  • They really ought to bring a limited version of this to all phones... And the best implementation can be reserved for high end... This would also help prevent a run only one app scenario
  • Still think $100 is excessive for the accessory. I'd maybe bite at $50, but at $100, plus the prices of a decent mouse and keyboard, I might as well buy an ASUS Transformer.
  • yes, because an Asus Transformer fits neatly in your back pocket.
  • It could fit if you were morbidly obese and have huge trouser pockets... ;)
  • Yeah, like I'm stupid enough to put my phone in my back pocket.
  • Actually since they say it is able to run through Miracast, if you get the MS Miracast dongle (about $50) you could do the same thing without paying $100 for 'munchkin'. I already have a miracast dongle hooked up to my TV and mirror my 1520 onto it all the time.
  • So does it or doesn't it "require" new hardware? It says Miracast "OR" dock...
  • By "new hardware" they mean new phones, as in, the existing phones won't do it
  • The new hardware is an updated chip set from Qualcomm. Internal hardware of the phone has to be updated to take advantage.
  • Continuum for phones is not connecting to peripherals like a big screen and keyboard. Continuum for phones is the ability to use an app like Word on the connected display while still using phone, messaging reading etc on the phone. How you"dock" to peripherals can be done wirelessly with Miracast and Bluetooth or wired with a USB c connection to a physical hub / dock. Of course physically docking with a powered dock has the advantage of keeping your phone charged while using Continuum.
  • October 4,2015  
  • ​I think to be a success, continuum must be used as an app on Windows 10. So operate your phone with the mouse and keyboard as a sort of remote desktop app on a desktop that also runs its normal stuff. The only places I have a mouse, keyboard and screen available are on PC places and I am not gonna replace the PC by my phone, but would love to operate my phone with keyboard ​ ​
  • Yea so just wait until it is a finished product rumor central. Try and find some real Windows phone stuff to write about.
  • Actually this is real news and people enjoy this sort of stuff. I for example enjoy this sort of news. It gives me a glimpse into the future. Do you think this is all they write about? Different strokes for different folks.
  • Hmm...I have the feeling that the 950/950XL are shaping up to be the Surface RT of Windows 10 devices, and the 2016 Surface phone is going to be the Surface Pro.  
  • Only if universal apps is a failure.
    At that point I would worry about any windows mobile device, as an x86 would also lacks a lot of the mobile apps people would want.
    Apps is also one of the reasons for rt not doing well.
  • And x86 would have many apps people would not want on a phone. Malware and always insufficient anti-malware. Or x86 mobile would be also locked down like ARM version.
  • Another acronym added to my brain (UWA).
  • I really wish they would get the app Windowing for Continuum for phones, that will make peoples jaw to drop there is no reason they can't do it Wired.
  • Will it work with 1520,M8,930?
    They all have new hardware
  • 'New Hardware' means phones that are not on the market yet. All of those phones are a few years old, not new.
  • hmm for the low end ones they could try to make them like project my screen to work like a pc on the big screen but your phones screen wouldn't be able to function apps there etc. so you would only be using the big screen with the mouse and keyboard but only on one screen the big one ^^
  • I like it. Hope Continuum matures from hereon.
  • Nit picking here, but isn't it UWP Apps (Universal Windows Platform - https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn894631.aspx)
  • The UWP (platform) is what the UWA (app) runs on.
  • Very cool but I hope MS has better plans for the near future. Continuum via phones will have no value for companies at all in the next few years. I am actually very worried that MS is about to drop their phones. I see no valid reason to buy a Windows phone again (running one app at a time slowly via Continuum is cool but adds nothing in practicality). MS has given all their good stuff to the competition and seems to focus on fees for Windows, Office, Azure, Groove etc. WHEN, you can run Office, Outlook and programs like SAP at full speed from your phone via Continuum THEN it’s something useful but then, why should SAP go for Microsoft and not let Android/iOS get the functionality? iOS/Android could have their Continuum long before the technology is useful  and then MS has no uniqueness at all (as it is today for the phones). 
  • Where did you see it running slow, could you post link?
    In article it said it was fast so I'd like to see what you saw.
    One app limitation, not very clear in article, if MS said it will be like that once it launches, or just current development builds. Not even sure if MS said it or was just noticed to be honest. From the build conferences etc I don't remember them saying it.
  • One app at a time... Windowed Office, SAP etc running on a mobile CPU/GPU. It will be slow (for many years to come).
  • That dock is just like Intel computer stick. Except it lacks computer and is much much bigger. But