Continuum Is Not The Mobile Differentiator Microsoft Is Looking For


Microsoft, HP and Acer have all announced – and in some cases shipped - Windows 10 Mobiles supporting Continuum. Microsoft is pushing this as Windows Mobile’s unique selling point as far as the enterprise is concerned.

It’s a good line – the phone that can replace your laptop – but even given the current state of Continuum, with limited support and erratic performance it’s more than a little distance from the truth.

However if we assume that Microsoft is able to make Continuum support ubiquitous and perform acceptably well (and given’s Intel’s cessation of the Atom mobile processor range that isn’t a given) does Continuum actually offer the flexibility and capability that would encourage broad enterprise adoption?

I don’t think it does.

Enterprise adoption on the basis of Continuum would suggest the replacement of another device, presumably a laptop. That doesn’t sound realistic at all. Yes we’ve seen journalists and bloggers with very limited use cases claiming the ability to work exclusively on an iPad, but for real world workers the flexibility and capability of a laptop is key. For that time that you need to update a document on the train or plane, is a smartphone – even the 6” screen of the HP Elite X3 – going to cut it? And once you’re carrying your laptop for these eventualities are you going to bother with your Continuum dock as well?

The niche set of use cases where a phone can replace a laptop are so narrow as to be pointless chasing. Otherwise you can be sure that at least one Android OEM would have been there first. Don’t forget that Android phones have had USB OTG and MHL for wired video out for years. Those features have been so ‘heavily’ used that most OEMs are removing them from new phones.

If Continuum is a dead end street, where is the value in Windows 10 Mobile? Actually its in the interface, the look and feel and the user experience. Windows Phones have historically been famous for their ability to make even the most inadequate of hardware perform beautifully. Which is why low end Lumias have sold so well. Android just can’t compete and Apple doesn’t even try.

Microsoft’s value proposition and choice were paying dividends up until the point where the company changed track. Phones may not have been profitable, but as a latecomer to the market trying to build market share against entrenched incumbents that’s hardly surprising. The plan was starting to see success and then Microsoft killed it.

The new plan is to sell fewer models of more profitable phones. That can only work if the negative noise about Windows Mobile’s app gap disappears. That can only work if users are keen to upgrade from lower end Windows handsets and that can only work if Microsoft is seen to be unequivocally behind its mobile platform.

None of those are true at the moment and the window of opportunity to make them true – especially the last one – is closing fast.