Skip to main content

Microsoft's Continuum Clone Increases Impact of Windows Phone Failure

Remember when Continuum was first trailed by Microsoft? Joe Belfiore gave a sneak preview in an early developers meeting and for a while Windows on phones seemed like something that was going to happen.

That was when Windows Phone was flying high, having passed iOS for second place in the mobile market in some territories and was delivering pretty good growth elsewhere, especially in Europe.

Since then Microsoft has knifed its own platform in the back, written off, sold off or sacked off its whole investment in Nokia. All that remains is the straggling rump, waiting to die.

The failure in mobile has the potential to damage much more than mobile market though. The focus on Continuum proves Microsoft knows it.

Samsung has had the ability to mimic a desktop for a while now. The Note 2 had a desktop dock specifically designed to give it access to a keyboard, mouse and external display. It didn't push the boundaries but it was surprisingly capable.

DisplayLink has subsequently added this same capability to any Android device with USB host capability and its now entirely possible to substitute a smartphone or tablet for a desktop for some users.

With the incoming Galaxy S8 it looks like Samsung is going to take this to a new level. The DeX dock will add the capability to drive an external screen operating as an extension of the phone's display rather than a mirror. Sound at all familiar?

For Microsoft this should be considered a real threat to its Windows business. Whilst neither an Android nor iOS device can properly replace a Windows PC, with each release Google and Apple are narrowing the gap. Adding edge-case functionality drives the utility of these devices and reduces the demand for PCs further, with the knock-on impact on Windows licenses.

Maybe Microsoft can afford to cede the consumer market, but SMEs and Enterprise customers aren't likely to be too far behind if there are savings to be made. From there it isn't too many steps from abandoning Windows on the desktop, moving apps to Android or iOS native, the end of Active Directory authentication, and the collapse of the server support infrastructure that sits behind it.

It may sound far-fetched, in the light of Microsoft's very strong position today. Look closely, however, and you'll find some big names arriving on the iPad (not the least of which is Microsoft Office) as well as a general push by specialist software providers to deliver their programs on mobile platforms.

If you don't believe it could happen consider the relative positions of Microsoft today and Nokia fifteen years ago; IBM thirty-five years ago.