Continuum turns Win10 phones and tablets into desktops

At its Build keynote yesterday, Microsoft showed off the adaptability of Windows 10 on a variety of devices. Win10's Continuum feature allows devices to"flex" in order to fit different use cases and connected screens as users move between desktop and on-the-go contexts.

Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore demonstrated Continuum in a couple of different ways. He first picked up a Windows 10 tablet running without a dock or keyboard, and its interface reflected that: plenty of live tiles and touch-friendly interface elements. Belfiore then opened up a mapping app and docked the tablet, at which point the UI expanded into a more familiar desktop environment.

Belfiore also showed how more traditional Windows applications can take advantage of Continuum. He undocked a Surface Pro 3 tablet while working in Autodesk's Maya 3D modeling app. Maya adapted to the context change by enabling pen and touch input, allowing Belfiore to pinch to zoom on the model and write some notes about the project using the Surface's stylus.

Continuum will also be coming to phones running Windows 10. Belfiore connected a phone to a large display via HDMI out, and when that context change was detected, the phone offered the option to use a nearby Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for input. He then did some work in Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint as one might on a full-fat PC, emphasizing that the code behind the Office apps was practically identical to the PC versions. This demo was just a simulation, though. Compatible phones will apparently need new hardware for Continuum to work.

If Continuum works as well as Microsoft's examples showed, it could be a compelling feature. The ability to plug a phone into a big screen and turn it into a PC at will is pretty neat. Belfiore did emphasize that developers will need to write universal Windows apps that can take advantage of these features, but even having the capability in Office apps alone could be handy.

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