There exists this concept that your computer, tablet, or phone can use “mirroring” to show its content onto a TV screen. On a Mac, it’s called AirPlay, on Windows 10, it’s called a wireless display, and for other things, it’s typically just called mirroring.
On the new Windows 10 mobile (apparently, that is the latest name for what should be Windows Phone 10, or WP10), they have a pretty cool adaptation of that called Continuum. Most of these seem to be based-on, or compatible-with Miracast, a technology for wireless video streaming.
What is Continuum?
Continuum is a Windows phone app that knows how to connect to an external display – either by wire, or wirelessly – and use that 2nd display to give you more screen real estate. “Why would I want to use my small phone apps on a 50” TV?”, you ask. Well, because Microsoft has also built up this idea of a “Universal app”, or Universal Windows Platform (UWP) – which is the concept of a Windows-compatible app that can run on any screen size. If you build a UWP app, it will run on Windows Phone, regular Windows 10, and on XBox – hence the name “universal”.
This means that many apps, apps that were written as universal, and not JUST for the phone, can be opened and actually look and act like regular Windows 10 apps mainly because they ARE physically the same things you run on Windows 10! Here’s a quick video overview from Microsoft: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-oi1B9fjVs4 (embedding a video seems to be broken on my site now, for some reason)
For example, here is a picture of Microsoft Excel, on my TV, connected wirelessly to my Windows 10 phone via Continuum:
and here is the SAME Microsoft Excel how it looks in portrait mode on my phone, normally:
Remember, it’s physically the same app – it’s just been written to support multiple screen sizes.
Here’s the “Start” menu, the same as my main Windows 10 phone screen:
the dimmed-items are ones that are NOT universal, and if I launch them, they launch on my phone, and not the remote display. It doesn’t disrupt the connection, it just opens on the phone instead of the main display.
So, meanwhile, while that content is on the big TV, my actual phone in my hand turns into a touchpad while I’m using the TV as the main display:
You can also set up a bluetooth keyboard and mouse too if you wanted. Or, if you are heading in that direction – you may get the physical dock if you want a more “permanent” type setup.
How do you start?
What I learned today is that you can connect wirelessly or with the dock. I initially thought you MUST use the over-priced HDMI->USB dock (a.k.a. Microsoft Display Dock) – but no, you can connect to a few different types of devices, wirelessly!
for example, things like a Roku or Amazon FireTV:
What devices can I use?
OK, this is by no means an exhaustive list – these are just things I had, which I tried.
- The Amazon FireTV works, but you must (every time), go into Settings –> Display and Sounds –> Enable display mirroring. See: www.amazon.com/firetv/mirroring
- The Roku 3 works. You need to pair it manually first, in Settings –> System –> Screen mirroring (beta). but after that, you can initiate continuum from your phone and it will just take over the display, even if someone is watching Netflix.
- Chromecast – well, I bought one a long time ago, spent like an hour just now trying to get it set up – but nothing can connect to it. So, I can’t say for sure whether it works or not.
You can also buy specialty devices, or the actual Microsoft device – a Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter, which range from $29 to $64, new. I found on Amazon though, they are around $22, refurbished.
This is a pretty cool technology. If you already have a FireTV or Roku, then you can throw your phone content up on the screen. In the olden days, that might have been a nice novelty, but these are quad-core phones with 3GB of RAM! My work laptop was a dual-core with 2GB of RAM and you needed to ask for the 4GB upgrade!
Then, if you take into account:
Microsoft might bring Win32 apps to Windows phones
The Windows Phone platform is positioning itself well to be THE enterprise phone, which has always been their niche. If corporations can deploy them to employees, and employees can run not only UWP apps, but also Win32 apps? Then you are basically talking about carrying around your work laptop in your pocket. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.