Continuum is really the star of the show, however. It lets the
phone transform into a low-powered PC, with a few catches. In
addition to the phone, you’ll need Microsoft’s $99 Display Dock
(or a Miracast adapter), a mouse and keyboard (Bluetooth or USB),
and a monitor or TV. You plug the Lumia 950 XL into the dock or
connect wirelessly, and the phone simply beams itself to the
display. It looks very similar to a Windows 10 desktop PC, minus a
few features like app snapping and full multitasking.
Microsoft designed this with universal apps in mind, but most of
them don’t support Continuum yet. Microsoft’s own apps all work
fine, but third-party ones need to be updated to support the
feature, and the vast majority haven’t yet.
Continuum feels like a glimpse into the future, though. Every app
developer is focusing their efforts on smartphones right now, not
tablets or desktop PCs. If we arrive at a future where phones can
be a single computing device, then Microsoft is well positioned to
offer this. If Microsoft builds an Intel-powered phone with true
desktop apps, Continuum could get very interesting. But that’s not
where the 950 XL is at, and it’s little more than a parlor trick
in its current state.
I’ve seen Continuum demoed, and technically it is impressive. I’m not sure though that it’s something anyone wants or needs. Philip Greenspun predicted something like this 10 years ago, but one of the things that was hard to foresee before the iPhone was just how good the phone by itself could be as a computer. Why bother plugging it in to a desktop display and keyboard when the phone’s own display and on-screen keyboard are good enough? I could be wrong, because Continuum is so new, but my hunch is that Microsoft has built something technically impressive that very few people have any desire to use.
The rest of Warren’s review is pretty scathing. The dearth of native apps is suffocating the platform.