Does the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and, ultimately, Windows Home have a future now that Microsoft are stopping development work on consumer phones? I think there’s a domino effect about to happen over the next 24 months that will see the consumer laptop market turn away from Windows Home and I don’t see a way that anyone can stop it. UWP is then left spreading awkwardly across gaming (Xbox) and business (PCs.) UWP is at risk. Continuum too. Standing on the sideline is Chrome OS and the Google Play Store. I think it really is time-up for Windows in the consumer space.
Testing Windows 10 Continuum has been something I’ve wanted to do since, well, the second it was announced. Today I got to play with the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL and I took the opportunity to get it running over Miracast for a completely wireless Windows 10 Mobile, extended screen experience. For someone like me, interested in highly integrated mobile computers, this was a groundbreaking moment.
After learning that the Amtran barebones laptop had been used on-stage at BUILD this year I tracked down the relevant presentation and am pleased that I did. There’s some really good information about Continuum in there along with some excellent demos. Important things to note are the Miracast continuum demo, which doesn’t need a physical video connector, and the projection mode, again, something that Miracast is perfect for. There’s also a Continuum control application that works as a touchpad for a remote screen.
Microsoft already have a set of UWP apps that are available via PCs but as soon as Windows 10 hits smartphones there’s going to be an opportunity to enjoy a new type of ultramobile computing…or is there? Indications are that new smartphone hardware is needed to enable Continuum features.
IFA 2015 was as fun and as busy as ever. I managed to get quality hands-on time with a lot of new ultramobile PCs (mostly without the pressure of press-event chaos) and had some great conversations, both public and private, with companies working in the sector. Thanks to Intel for their blogging facilities and an amazing party, Acer for the bright and spacious video-friendly booth and Microsoft for a good evening of networking. Having said that, I didn’t see what I wanted to see.
Ultramobile computing fans, we have an ARM-based ‘phone’ product here that we need to watch very carefully. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are likely to be the first Continuum-showcase Windows 10 phones. If you don’t know what Continuum is yet, see this post. The Lumia 950 will connect to a screen via USB-C, while charging, and allow you to run those Universal Apps as large screen optimized experiences. This is what the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is all about and if developers see the potential here then the apps could really start to flow. Here are my thoughts.
You’re looking at a phone with hidden talent. To distill my explanation into a picture, look at this…
Windows 8.1 on tablets was a good experience. The Metro/RT system was modern, efficient, touch-friendly and apart from a lack of high quality apps, it was the best OS available for flexible and productive ultra-mobile PC usage. The problem was that Windows 8 got a bad reputation for being too much of a change for desktop users. Windows 10 is designed to change that but it’s by no means a desktop-first OS. It’s the first operating system and user interface ever that spans phone, tablet and desktop with the ability to run a single executable application on all platforms without any changes. It allows Windows 8-style Metro apps to float all over the desktop and it brings a notifications system to the desktop. It might feel like a desktop OS to desktop users but it’s further away from the Windows Desktop than Windows ever was. For tablet users there’s more mobile and tablet goodness in Windows 10 than in Windows 8.
With Windows 10 comes a potentially huge change in the way that the 5-10 inch consumer computing category will be addressed by manufacturers. As in the Windows 8 era, manufacturers can still choose between ARM and x86 options, desktop and no-desktop options but this time round there’s the possibility of crossover. If the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is a success then why not allow Windows 10 Mobile tablets to compete with large Windows tablets and small laptops? The inclusion of ARM in this segment could increase competition and lower prices which is a bonus for Microsoft. It could also reduce the desire for a ‘desktop’ and puts consumer Windows devices at risk from competing post-desktop products.
Microsoft’s BUILD conference starts in a few hours and it’s going to be a biggie. Windows 10 and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the end-game for Microsoft in their push to make Windows 10 a multi-device operating system with apps that work across all screen sizes. Microsoft will modernize the app model, the security model and most importantly, improve the economics of Windows applications for developers.
Microsoft Build 2015 starts 29th April
I just spent a few hours going through the BUILD schedule to see if I could find any clues about what will be announced. There are a few. I also picked-out some sessions that could directly affect people in the mobile computing world.