Samsung recently announced their new flagship products. The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. These phones are incredible and screams premium devices. But the phones were not the only announcement from one of the biggest phone makers in the world, what intrigued me was something beyond the core smartphone element. But the new era of computing experiences. They call it, the Samsung Dex.
Before I get into Samsung Dex, I must mention about Microsoft’s own efforts in this area, with their Continuum feature available since the launch of Microsoft Lumia 950 and 950XL in October 2015. I’ve briefly written about Continuum in my article Windows Ultimate.
So what exactly is Continuum, as Microsoft puts it, “Use your phone like a PC to get incredible productivity that fits in your pocket. Connect a monitor, keyboard and a mouse or use your phone screen as your trackpad or keyboard. You’re all set to touch down and get right into email, browsing and working with apps like Office.”
So how does it exactly work? Well, with a Continuum compatible device like Lumia 950 / 950 XL, Alcatel Idol 4S or HP Elite x3 it can be plugged into a Continuum Display Dock, and a monitor, mouse and a keyboard also plugged into it. This setup extends the Windows 10 Mobile to the monitor. UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps currently supports Continuum, so mobile apps such as Office UWP (not the Office desktop) scales up on the monitor so you can start or continue working on your word document, power point slides or calculate stuff on Excel. It gives a sense of you working on a typical desktop/laptop environment, as seen in the image above, and more in the following video below.
As much as this feature is exciting and important to Microsoft, there is still caveats to this. First of all, Continuum currently works with UWP and there is a very small number of apps that support Continuum feature. At the moment, the biggest Continuum app is Microsoft’s own Office Mobile apps. Other apps that include are Calendar and Mail. This problem would’ve been resolved overtime if only Windows Phones were not dead, well, I don’t consider less than 1% market share as being alive in phone market. So as much as Continuum was first in the game, without the developers making apps for Windows Phone and supporting Continuum, this feature is not going to go anywhere and probably that’s why we’ve not heard anything from Microsoft in the Continuum space since 2015, how they are advancing with this feature, we don’t know anything. Maybe we hear something at BUILD (Microsoft Developers Conference) in May.
As I had mentioned above, that I was intrigued by Samsung’s Dex announcement which is a very similar feature as Microsoft’s Continuum. Just as Continuum setup, Dex also requires a Dock to work as a desktop/laptop. However, the interesting bit here is this, Samsung does not suffer from the app gap problem like Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform suffers. Samsung’s platform is Android which has well over million apps, of course not all are high quality apps which Android platform hurts a lot from. In fact, unlike Apple, Android developers love to just scale up a phone app which feels like a blown up pixelated photo, instead of rewriting the app specifically targeting the tablet.
But that’s a different issue. Dex v1 will for sure have its own set of problems and limited number of apps supporting Dex, they will mostly be 1st party apps by Samsung themselves. But as I said, they do not suffer from the same fate as Microsoft and developers can take advantage of this feature and create apps that supports Dex functionality. In fact, in the Dex demo, one of the app that was shown was from Microsoft’s own Office (Mobile) suite.
I then question myself, why wouldn’t Apple be following the same path? Developers love making apps for Android and iOS, a lot of apps supported the 3D touch functionality of iOS when it was introduced with iPhone 6S, just as one example. Why wouldn’t they take advantage if Apple introduced Continuum/Dex like functionality?
If this happens, and the way I see the next big leap in computing is indeed the battle for pocket computing, where all these vendors want that ONE device in your pocket called a phone, is the ultimate device to carry all your daily computing needs, be it at home, in the office or your main smartphone device.
Where does all this leave Microsoft with its Windows dominance? Windows dominance is a thing of the past already, we recently learned that Android surpassed Windows as the king of operating system so there are more active users using Android than Windows. The comparison here isn’t ideal as one is a desktop OS and the other a phone, but the point is the world is going mobile and Microsoft unfortunately isn’t up with its Mobile game. Their mobile presence is practically nothing now. And with the year over year decline in the PC sales, it directly affects Windows sales and its decline also.
If Android and Apple lead in the next computing era, I see Microsoft in big trouble unless they do something quickly with their Mobile strategy, or whatever the next big thing is coming out from their gates. They have been mum about their mobile strategy for long time now and developers, and fans alike are getting agitated. They need answers or they too will be forced to move into either iOS or Android world.
Microsoft will lose its edge overtime, of course nothing is going to change in the next few years but as the world moves towards mobile computing, Microsoft will be forced to do something or they will be left behind, in a big way. Microsoft’s appeal with consumers isn’t great, granted their Xbox sells well, though behind PlayStation, their Surface devices are greatly appreciated, their keyboards and mice are great piece of hardware for consumers and businesses. But the real deal is with Mobile in the current era and that is where Microsoft is not there. Their holy grail Surface rumored Phone may bring good luck to them but that is still something to wait and see.
What we can only hope from Microsoft is they must move with its mobile strategy fast, as the competition is moving quickly, where Microsoft was the first in the pocket computing segment, they will be left chasing the competition which they created themselves in the first place.
That’s all folks, do drop in your comments below and let me know about this article.