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Microsoft reveals the challenges in making Continuum work in Windows 10 Mobile

Microsoft's Continuum team for Windows 10 Mobile had to deal with some challenges to make their vision of a mobile app work on a big screen monitor. Keri Moran, the Principal Program Manager Lead for Continuum, has revealed some of those struggles in a blog post.

Moran wrote that this work began three years ago when the team came to the realization that while a smartphone packs as much hardware performance as a PC, most people don't really use it for "real work" like creating PowerPoint presentations or making spreadsheets. Moran said that they first talked to customers worldwide about what they wanted to do with their smartphones. They learned that many people cannot live without their smartphone, but they wanted to be able to quickly hook it up to a large screen to do work. Others stated that they didn't have access to a true PC, so they had to do all of their computing work on a smartphone.

Moran and her team then began working on Continuum for Windows 10 Mobile to solve these consumer problems, but they had a number of issues to deal with:

"For example, there were two paradigms for connecting to a second screen: (1) mirroring your phone's screen to a larger screen or (2) connecting your PC to multiple monitors. We needed to create a new design paradigm with two independent experiences – one on the phone and a separate one on the second screen. This was important because customers wanted to continue to use their phone as a phone, even while having a PC-like experience on the second screen. We spent months iterating with paper and software prototypes to arrive at an experience that was easy to understand and use.""The technical hurdles were just as big. For example, we had to build support for keyboard and mouse into Windows 10 Mobile. And many substantial architecture changes were needed in Windows to make Continuum work."

The final result launched in late 2015 with the release of the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL smartphones with Windows 10 Mobile. Hooking up those phones to a Microsoft Display Dock can allow owners to connect to a big monitor, and use the phone as if it were a PC.

Source: Microsoft

  • Slow but surely
  • Well, that's half right ;)
  • What I liked best: The technical hurdles to hook up a mouse and keyboard! Really Microemeffers? That has been around fo-ever.
  • Not in the same way you are thinking. Remember, the phone has to be usable with a mouse and keyboard on a big screen while still giving you the ability to use it as a phone. This isn't simple Miracasting and, to date, no other OS does the same thing.
  • Plus, people forget that you only need that Microsoft hub if your screen doesn't support casting. I don't own a hub but can still connect wirelessly to my Smart TV and see the desktop/continuum in action. If no mouse is connected to my phone, the phone screen becomes touchpad.
  • Agreed. Its not same as Miracasting. I did connect my 950 through Miracast. For a moment I thought "Why the hell do I need display dock" . Miracast interface looks exactly like the display dock. But its the keyboard and mouse functionality that does the trick. Miracast is good if you just need to watch movies. But i find display dock more productive and convineant. Plus there is noticeable lag while using Miracast. 
  • There are already devices out there using mouse and keyboard, as for the... 2 screen groundbreaking experience...  seriously?    
  • Yeah, why didn't they just pop those x86 drivers on the phone and then expect them to work with all mice and keyboards!
  • #productivelikeaboss
  • They should add ios games
  • it's not like MS has control over that. The developer of the game has to decide if they want to do it, then they can use the tools, or recode them, to put it on WP
  • Probably going to have to wait until Build for a few of them to be announced alongside updated Islandwood tools.
  • or they can create them from scratch and have it play on PC/Phone/Tablet/XBOX(not sure if its up to that yet but you can create for it too) tho the UWP :D like yea 200million devices duhh!!
  • The bridge tool creates a native UWP app that will run on like yeah 200 million devices. Why wouldn't they use the bridge and leverage one code base.  Maintaining one code base is cheaper in the long run.
  • PCs and XBox already have good games to offer pretty cheaply, there's little to no market for mobile games there (not to mention the lack of a touch screen).
  • There are rumors that the port from ios to windows is abandoned..
  • Please don't spread FUD. The bridge is still quite alive.
  • Link? Article earlier today states that they are asking devs to start scanning their code on a site. Android bridge has been abandoned, we think.
  • pretty sure that was for porting from android to windows.
  • Just the opposite. They are inviting beta testers as we speak to try out their new toolkit. It's closer than you may think. The rumors about abandonment relate to Android apps.
  • Just stop with the lies. iOS Bridge was updated 2 hours ago.
  • That was Android. The iOS one is approaching a milestone and they are asking developers to submit binaries for analysis.
  • That would be a dream come true
  • i have to confess that i am additive  to continuum now. i use lumia 950 + continuum almost everyday without the need to turn on my surface pro or desktop. and i can just go anywhere find a monitor or tv to hook up my phone either with wireless or the Usb-C HDMI adapter, then do my work there. sometimes i totally forgot i was not on my computer.​ now with the new desktop remote app supporting continuum, i can literally ditch laptop or surface pro. of course i do need my surface pro for running visual studio though.  
  • I do too! I grabbed a cheap keyboard (want to find a better one, this is too cheap for me) with a trackpad. I love sitting/laying on the couch and using it. I am using it daily as well. I love taking meetings from my TV.
  • What do you do for keyboard and mouse? Have you found some nice portable solutions, or do you have mouse and keyboard access elsewhere? You using Bluetooth or wired, and how well does Bluetooth work, laggy?
  • I am using the Logitech K400 but I think I am going to upgrade to the TK820. I did use the Surface BT Mouse and the Logitech K810 BT keyboard and they both worked great with no noticable lag. I just wanted a keyboard/pad combo since I am not sitting at a desk. The one I use now uses a wireless dongle and also has no noticable lag.
  • The k400 needs a dongle though. I bought one for the office "WallBoard" and hoped it would work with my phone but it doesnt.  Also I would like to be able to connect a handful of devices and switch between input via a button on the keyboard. Didnt find a good solution for this yet though.
  • I use a Surface Touch Cover and the Surface Touch Cover Bluetooth Connector that I had left over from my old Surface Pro 2. Works fantastically!
  • Me too along with the Surface edition mouse. Works great. I do wish the mouse and touch cover bluetooth connector could handle multiple Bluetooth connections so That wouldn't have to keep deleting and reestablishing Bluetooth connections on the device that I want to use them on (950XL phone/surface pro 3)
  • that is why i use logitech mouse T630 and keyboard k480 both support multiple devices with easy switching.
  • I see how this can/will be compelling, but for now, it still seems like more of an enterprise use case vs. a consumer one.  With Continuum, phones can replace thin clients, which have gained in popularity.  And since thin clients already have external displays, keyboards, mice, etc., swapping them out with phones can be a smooth transition.  Companies can just issue you one device that you can use to literally take your work anywhere.   But on the consumer side, growth of traditional PC formfactor sales has declined in favor of laptops and tablet formactors.  How many folks that have laptops also have exernal displays and keyboards?  And how many places that these you go to will have these empty "docking stations" with displays, keyboards, etc.?  If you can't take the risk of not having these peripherals available wherever you are, then all you've done is replace one device that can't fit in your pocket, a laptop, with a set of periphers that also cannot fit in your pocket. 
  • most of public library or school library can do so too. so instead of using the public computer for thing which might sensitive, you can just connect the monitor and keyboard mouse of those computers and still use your own device for word, browsing, and other thing. of course those just an outlook vision, but did do that in the libary once.
  • Hopefully Redstone will bring a lot of improvements to Windows 10 Mobile. Since it seems to be a lot of structural changes right now, maybe we'll see huge changes like the change to a 64-bit operating system or a more powerful Continuum.
  • This is only the beginning Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • The beauty of Continuum is the high-end hardware isn't needed to use non-screen elements of Continuum that are built into Windows 10M. With a Bluetooth foldable keyboard I can use the keyboard shortcuts of OneNote and format my notes with bullet points and headers without touching my phone screen then run go back to Start screen by pressing Win key and using the arrow keys to open a new app. Poor man's Continuum using my Lumia 640!
  • i agree, to be make this more wow to public, they do need to lower the requirement for continuum. but at least there will be mid -rang device supporting continuum coming soon. the japanese NuAns with mid-rang processor will support continuum, plus since the usb-C becoming more common, connector/adaptors will be cheaper later too. 
  • With universal apps, BT/USB and some plumbing it should be doable, in a way, using W10 PC as a big screen. In two ways: 1. data in cloud, editable in phone and PC using same software. Well, cloud will be restricted in size and speed. 2. data in phone, editable in phone (app in phone) and PC (app in PC uses phone services through BT/USB) using same software. Cloud not needed, high-end SOC not needed.   Another approach - and likely the easier - would be using miracast but pretending 640 had fullHD display ;) One screen at a time, and still the phone could be used as a mouse :)
  • 1.that is actually what cloud computing suppose to do instead just storage, it would handle most of the computing part, and end devices plays more like I/O termninal clients . more like what chromebook doing. but things is not evryone or evrywhere could be connected easily or stably. 2. that is kind of possible now, with the new Remote desktop beta app supporting continuum. the last approach you mentioned, the os would solve the issue of how apps will treat the UI transition due to which display DPI it need to adjust to. so i suggest you put all those thoughts to MS thru windows feedback on your phone .
  • So glad they put keyboard/mouse stuff into WP though. Even without Continuum the experience is wonderful. ...even if you have to turn your head on its side every time you get to the Start Screen.
  • How can you adjust the mouse when you plug it into the display dock?? My mouse cursor moves so needs to be much faster.
  • I only use Bluetooth so I wouldn't know, sorry. My mouse moves just fine across the screen though.
  • I quickly tried out my Logitech M705 with the dock and it worked just fine. Mouse "going" too slow sounds very annoying =/
  • Too bad that a lot of work went into continuum, just for it to get bashed by idle people on forums. As with any new tech, continuum wil become REALLY enjoyable only after a couple of iterations.
  • Its because those bashers are not Jedis, nor strong with the force. Their lack of vision is disturbing :)
  • Too bad about killing Office editing with Continuum, unless you have Office 365. $600 for a phone, $100 for a dock, yet they still feel the need to charge me to use the software on my phone. Honestly, I don't know if I'd haveever gotten the Display Dock if they'd been upfront about that. Still, that they're giving us a free year of Office 365 makes it a LITTLE better.
  • Well, I agree, they could give us a free 2 year, so we could get editing for free by upgrading our phone every 2 years :)
  • Carriers have killed 2-year agreements. I'm on a 1-year Next plan with AT&T myself.
  • Well, you can always sell it after 2 years and buy a new one :)
  • Next requires you to trade in the device when you upgrade. I basically pay $360 for the device, rather than $600, then I can upgrade after 12 months.
  • Office 365 is such a good deal for 1tb storage on its own, so I have a very hard time being upset over it personally. I'd have Dropbox for 10/mo otherwise with no perks.
  • I guess, if you use it. I have 140 GB of OneDrive from past offers. I am using 19 GB right now, and that's with a lot of clutter. I have no use for 1 TB of online storage. I have a 3-TB internal HDD, another 640 GB one (that I might convert to an external sometime), and a phone that has 32 GB of internal storage and a 128-GB microSD card added.
  • Well lucky you. I only have 25Gb OneDrive and people who joined the party late not even that.
  • Has anyone else had trouble with the screen output to the tv being too big? Mine looks like it is overscanning and all sides aren't quite visible.
  • Sound's like a tv setting, had the same issues with my X1.
  • That's a setting on your display you have to mess with.
  • You can change the screen ratio on the TV itself, you'll want to make it fit properly.
  • Probably the aspect ratio on your TV. I can set mine to Original, 16:9, 14:9, 4:3, Zoom. Zoom is basically 16:9 but always fills the whole screen (i.e. stretches so there's no top and bottom black bars if the source is smaller). A side effect of Zoom is that it can chop off some things on the sides
  • What's interesting about this is that Moran acknowledges that two different experiences are required between the two different "platforms", which is in contrast to the mantra of convergence that began with the Windows 8 disaster, and to a lesser extent still exists in Windows 10. Just because the different form factors can offer the same experience, it doesn't mean they should. Particularly when that parity of interface design compromises usability. It's clear to every user that a tablet or phone interface has limited use on a desktop, and this was obvious to Moran during the initial development phase of Continuum. If somebody else had acknowledged this in Redmond five years ago, perhaps Microsoft could be releasing Windows 10 from a position of strength, rather than trying to phoenix their way out of the ashes.
  • It's all fine and good to say this should have been acknowledged five years ago but Windows 8 wasn't released to the public at large five years ago and phones weren't where they are now. You are assigning knowledge of the future to Microsoft and saying "told you so" which is unreasonable. Also, see Snakebitten's comment below, these things all take a great deal of time even for a company with resources as vast as MS's.
  • It's not unreasonable all. You're talking about people who are experts in human interface design. The mistakes should have been picked up well before release of Windows 8, without the need for the public to tell them as such. Windows 8 was such a travesty commercially, and was the catalyst for so many wholesale changes within the company, it's absurd to suggest that it was the public's fault for simply not buying in to the concept. It's not a case of "I told you so" after the fact, its a case of "everyone told you so at the time", and this ignoring of feedback was perhaps the largest contributer to Sinofsky's dismissal. Moran understood this from the start, without requiring the Continuum product to be released to consumers first.
  • I actually liked charms in Windows 8, on touchscreen and even with a mouse. But forcing the "no start menu" paradigm on users was really painful. I didn't know that Sinofsky was to blame for that.
  • There's all sorts of use cases where it didn't work, and they've been discussed countless times before. As somebody who often administers Windows Server 2012, my biggest complaint is how unintuitive a touch-first experience is on systems that are primarily used with RDP. Equally, I bought a Surface Pro on launch day in the UK, and in my opinion, Windows 8 was a better touch experience than Windows 10 on that device. Either way, I just thought it was interesting to hear the change in rhetoric coming from Microsoft with regards to the acknowlegement that a different experience is required on a portable device versus a "workstation". You wouldn't have heard that under Sinofsky's tenure (despite all the feedback on MSDN when the Developer and Consumer previews were released).
  • Did you catch "This work started 3 years ago"? Think about that.  When we are screaming bloody murder for an instant fix right this minute for whatever we are experiencing today, there are folks at work on things we won't even touch or have in our hand for years to come. Must be just amazing for a developer to see something they've been LIVING every day for years be dismissed in a blog or forum as useless, by folks that haven't even touched it. Remember all the "Continuum is stupid" attitude before the 950 was released and Microsoft decided to GIVE the dock to THOUSANDS? Continuum is barely out of the gates. But I believe it IS the longterm game changer. Risky projection, I know. But I'm not backing off it. :)  
  • The success of continuum is inevitable. This is where personal computing is headed. In a decade, phones will probably be as powerful as today's mid range laptops if the current trend continues, and all indications support this speculation. Remember 2005 smartphones compared to the 950 of today for example? By 2026, I expect phones to be extremely powerful by today's standards such that it only becomes natural to extend all that power beyond the phone's relatively tiny screen. I'm pretty sure android and ios have something similar cooking, we have to move fast ahead of them!
  • Continuum is great. I'd like to just tap my phone on a TV and to have continuum activated on it.
  • @snakebitten, well they have more than just one team working on things :P. Edit: It appears I have misread the comment lol! Goes to show what too little sleep can do.
  • I love continuum!
  • Win32 already had well-defined mouse and keyboard support along with touch support (which mainly came through as mouse commands unless you specifically add touch support). Instead of taking their well-known Win32 API and create a modern subset, MSFT went on the idiotic WinRT track and killed themselves. After the *third* implementation of WinRT, WinRT10/UWP, they're still having to claw their way up to reach Win32's level functionality. WinRT is the worst decision in business history. Unbelievable.
  • What in the world do you think Project Centennial is about?
  • I'll assume the rumored desktop version of ARM Windows 10 is not music to your ears? Not sure how this Continuum article triggered your post, but I can see Continuum being far more than the current 950 being used to drive a desktop experience. Whether, in the future, our smallest hand held personal device is ARM based or not, I don't know. But I can see Continuum being an extension of that device to all things in our personal environments. Our automobile's in dash touchscreens will support Continuum. Your device IS the head unit. Same thing for home entertainment. It's barely a stretch, really.
  • Linux fans will still claim that MS stole the idea from Ubuntu convergence.
  • Well it's not original either Posted via the Windows Central App for Android on my Lumia 950 XL
  • I like the idea of Continuum but it really feels unfinished.  You have this big taskbar at the bottom just like desktop Windows except they don't bother putting the clock and signal meters down at the bottom right?  That makes no sense.  Why are they wasting screen real estate at the top for that?   I don't use Continuum that often because there just aren't enough compatible apps available yet.  I hope it improves soon, though.
  • You know the multitasking window that you open on the phone by holding the back button? The taskbar is that on Continuum. Though I believe you have to open the app on the desktop interface first for it to work. Though I agree they could put the symbols in akin to the desktop.
  • cool one day i will need this when i dont have a pc.
  • So tey mean in future all the win10 phone will support continium?
  • Why we cant run Continuum in high end lumias like the 930 or 1520? Is there a hardware issue?
  • The processor is toooooo slow >.<
    Or with other words, the os is to beta to have continuum optimized or working on older hugh end phones..
    I would love to have it.
  • I think you can use miracast to connect to a large monitor and use continuum.  Though using the dock would presumably be better but 1520 doesnt support the dock.
  • We just need Ant-mans tech to work.  Just shrink your computer, blow-it up when you need. Instant!  Imagine if you can pocket your car?  Parking solved.
  • @darkangelm2k It was designed to not work with the new models. They say the 4 core processor couldn't run the dual displays. Could they make something like it to just mirror? Probably, but they won't. MS is quite driven to keep your older model off bigger screens with keyboards and such. Otherwise you wouldn't feel the desire to want the new model.
  • I think it's because they don't want you to have a ****** experience.
  • you can always mirror if you phone support miracast. but if you want the mirror to appear like more PC interface, then there might be an issue that means the phone screen will show same as the big screen. but since most of the apps changes UI not just depend on resolution but the screen size too or DPI, so the mirror way of continuum would cost the app or OS confusing which DPI it should follow. and for now, when you mirror the phone screen it basicly just treat phone screen as main display, so UI will always due to the phone dpi not the tv or display's. and when continuum, the app UI would adjust to the screen that the app is opend to.  
  • I would love that. Just the phone screen shuts down while you use continuum to work on pc screen :). Problem for 2 screens solved
  • So... Windows 10 mobile.. Is about 3 years old now !?!??! Or at least the plans were made 3 years ago ?? AND ITS STILL IN SUCH A HORRIBLE BETA STATE ?!?!??! What the actual fluff microsoft ...
  • From paper to product, it's not a simple process you know :).
  • Beef is my favourite kind of meat
  • It's a good meat. You have great taste!
  • Nice trick...hahaha
  • Thus good start later on we depend big thing s more than this