What Is Microsoft Continuum?

Hint: It's all about displays

First introduced by Microsoft in 2015, Windows Continuum is an app that lets you use your smartphone like a PC. You can connect it to an external monitor and run productivity apps like Microsoft Office, check your email, schedule appointments, and more, while still using your phone as normal. Available only for certain compatible phones like the Lumia 950, the feature has potential for people who work on-the-go, but it has some limitations.

How Does Microsoft Continuum Work?

Once you launch the Microsoft Continuum app, you can project your phone to an external monitor or big screen in one of two ways. You can use a wireless adapter to cast what's on your phone with or without an internet connection, with your phone functioning as a virtual trackpad and keyboard. It's good for web browsing and viewing photos, but not much else.

The second option is to use a wired adapter like the Microsoft Display Dock to connect your smartphone to external peripherals like a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. The dock boasts a 1080p HD output and USB-C port that charges your phone while you work. 

Your external monitor must support HDMI input to work with Microsoft Continuum.

Either way, apps will scale up to the monitor's size, giving you a better viewing experience than simple screen mirroring. You can use some common Windows keyboard shortcuts and the right-click usually functions the way you expect. You can also use your phone's features like you normally would while using Microsoft Continuum, meaning you can talk, text, tweet, and more without interrupting what's casting to your monitor.

What Are Microsoft Continuum's Limitations?

Obviously, Microsoft Continuum isn't as powerful as a desktop PC or laptop. It's limited by your smartphone's hardware, which means it's good for simple tasks like word processing or a PowerPoint presentation, but there's likely going to be some lag involved.

Furthermore, while Microsoft Continuum convincingly mimics a PC, it only offers a limited number of Microsoft apps. Legacy apps that are 32- or 64-bit won't work, meaning you can't install third-party software like Photoshop.

Microsoft Continuum also isn't the best multitasker. All of its apps run in fullscreen, so you can't run apps side-by-side, but you can Alt+Tab between them. You can also still access Cortana while in an app, just like you would on a normal PC.

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