The battle for Pocket Computing

The battle for Pocket Computing

lumia-950-continuum-setup

Image source: Windows central

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.

Continuum.jpg

Image source: Wired.com – Continuum

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.

 

samsung-dex-galaxy-s8-5

Image source: Cnet – Samsung Dex setup

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.

 

SS-iPhone-Docks-2

Image source: thesweetsetup.com

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.

Windows Ultimate (Desktop/Phones)

Windows Ultimate (Desktop/Phones)

Image Source: Arc Technica

Hello guys, hope you guys had a great week and looking forward an awesome weekend, I am definitely.

Without much further ado, let’s get into today’s topic. But first:

What is ARM?

Advanced RISC Machine, is a low powered, low cost, low heat set of Computer Processing Unit (CPU) compared to the usual, power horse Intel Chipsets. ARM chips are suitable for portable kind of devices, such as much loved iOS devices (iPhones, iPads), Android phones and tablets, the first-gen Surface RT by Microsoft devices.

Since the Reduced Instruction Set Computing architecture is different than what we find in desktops, laptops, servers, running Win32 applications, such as iTunes, Photoshop, Word, Excel, Chrome etc, these applications do not run on ARM chipset.

Now let’s go a little back in time and talk about Windows Phone. In 2007 when Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone, Microsoft took it very lightly, like seriously lightly and never saw what was coming ahead of them, until Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that iPhones will not sell, nobody will buy a phone priced $600-700. He later however said, he should’ve moved into the hardware/phone business faster, as the competition was far ahead.

Microsoft woke up late in 2010 with their first attempt in phones, Windows Phone 7, and later in 2012, to Windows Phone 8. People did not care much in both their attempts in 2010 and 2012. Windows Phone fans and a lot of tech enthusiasts loved the fresh take on User Interface, which I am also personally in love with till date. The fast and fluid Live Tiles approach was really innovating. Instead of small count number on how many emails you got in the Mail app, the Mail app in Windows Phone would show you who the email is from and the first one or two lines of the matter itself. You can then choose to ignore the email or dive right into it.

Cut to the chase, people were already sold to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android platforms, and it seemed, till date that people are not interested in any third platform. Microsoft’s own phone platform isn’t dead yet, with the current Windows 10 Mobile the development is still active but it is not at the forefront at the moment. One major failure to Windows Phone 7, 8, 8.1 or now 10 is the app gap.WP7-green

App developers have simply ignored developing anything for Microsoft Phone/Mobile whatever you want to call it. They say, you have got an app for that.. sadly this statement does not apply to Windows Phone/Mobile, and that’s what made this humongous ship to sink.

Microsoft’s third coming, oh wait, fourth coming… is something really interesting and I am intrigued by this in a big way, and the actual point of this article for today is based on.

Windows on ARM

In December 2016, Microsoft tossed a bomb towards us that Windows 10 will run on ARM chips. This is huge. Imagine, a full blown Windows 10 with all the modern apps (UWP apps, save for another day/article) plus the classic Win32 apps (Chrome, iTunes, yours trully some ERP and plethora of apps) running on your tower desktop, your laptop, or, wait for it, on your phone.

If you check the above video, full Windows 10 is running on Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (or ARM) that powers most of the mobile devices today.

How is this possible? Well, Microsoft has managed to emulate Win32 apps to run on ARM. So there is going to be a layer or a framework where Windows 10 will sit on, and that layer then translates the old school instructions to the new modern ARM chipset.

Granted, the first version may not be perfect, it could be buggy and slow, whatever the case, this thing will improve overtime and it’s going to be really great.

This is my take, and a lot of tech pundits share this idea, in the near future, this magical device that every Windows Mobile fan have been waiting for, called Surface Phone. Mind you, there is no official comment, news from Microsoft on this. But endless speculations and mockups designs like one below, have been rumoring around the web.

screen_shot_2013-12-24_at_10.25.35_amSo, one day, if Surface Phone (SP) ever happens, it would’ve crazy specs, super fast speeds, 16GB of RAM, 128GB storage, super camera, facial recognition et cetera.

 

 

This one, will be our go-to device. I mean, it is going to be THE All-In-One device. When you hold this device, it is the phone. You can do all the normal calls, text messaging, browsing the web with LTE support. When you need to do some real productive work, you can connect the phone to the dock and there you have a full blown Windows 10 operating system on your larger screen via Continuum support, you run modern apps as well as classic desktop (Win32) apps side by side on your screen, just as if this of your regular desktop/laptop computer. All your files and folders are saved on your phone or synced to OneDrive.

continuum

The operating system will be smart enough that it would detect and adapt to different screen sizes, which Microsoft is already working on it with “Composable Shell” or CShell. As Windows Central reported, “Microsoft is building an “adaptive shell” into Windows 10 that’ll work across PCs and tablets, phones, HoloLens, and even Xbox“.

I strongly feel, Microsoft is working towards this and hence, has hold onto what we have been speculating a device from the Surface family, a Surface Phone. They do not want to release a device with a Surface logo onto it where it does not differentiate itself from others. It needs to have something unique, different that it can offer. Surface brand has always been about premium, and something unique. This is true with Surface Pro lineups, Surface Book and recently and critically acclaimed, the Surface Studio. They all offer a unique take on modern PCs.

The same would go for a Surface Phone, if it ever does happen. When Windows 10 will be fully ported to ARM, which is expected to be ready by end of this year, should we then start hearing some news on the Phone side.

This is going to be a true Windows Ultimate device, a Windows device that can do it all. All you need to carry is a small phone like device into your pocket and that would be it.

What do you guys think about Windows Ultimate? Do let me know in the comments section.

That’s all for now folks, catch you all later.

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