Microsoft Universal Apps & Continuum: Why Did Microsoft Not Squeeze their Potential?
Microsoft is one company that has hands on many, many things. To an extent, this has worked for them, but then, on some other fronts they have failed so woefully. The list of failed projects from Microsoft are endless, only rivaled by Google’s — on PC, mobile, and the list of failed startups under their belt
Its no longer news that Microsoft wants to dominate the mobile space just as they do on the PC/Desktop world, starting with Windows Phone 6.5, which was fairly good, then the horrible experience on the Windows Phone 7. Despite the annoying trend of no-forward-compatibility, things got better with the next iteration, Windows Phone 8. I used a few Windows Phone 8 devices, and was truly impressed by their performance, coupled with the very good camera experience.
With the coming of Windows 10, some of the attractive selling points Microsoft brought to the table were Universal Windows Apps and Continuum. These two ideas are brilliant but not fully realized; we’ll look at them briefly before highlighting what it could be missing.
The Universal Apps Conundrum
The idea behind Universal Apps was to give users a similar experience across all their devices, be it on a PC, tablet or on a phone. It was to offer one app package and one app store to go across the board. Brilliant! Right…? This was also extended to bringing in apps from other platforms. Last year, Microsoft unveiled porting tools for converting apps from other ecosystems to be supported on the Windows 10 platform. Below are the four porting tools that were to be made available to developers:
- Project Westminster – to port Web apps
- Project Centennial – to port Classic Win32 apps
- Project Islandwood – to port iOS apps
- Project Astoria – to emulate Android apps.
This news brought joy to almost everyone that heard it. Personally, I finally found a reason to invest in a Windows phone. So far so good, but we haven’t seen or heard of these new ideas come into full fruition. For the Universal Apps project, developers are gradually porting their apps to support the cause, but there is still a very long way to go.
I was heavily disappointed after hearing news that Microsoft has discontinued Project Astoria. It appears, somewhere along the line, Android app support was disabled in the Insider builds of Windows 10 mobile… Sad really. We’ve heard some encouraging news and developments with Project Islandwood (iOS app porting) but so far, nothing serious has come out of it.
The case of Continuum
This is the part that thrilled me the most. As a feature, Continuum is cool, you can imagine having a phone and PC all in one package. Turning your phone into a big-screen projector, then using your apps on the big screen. As a further convenience, you can also connect your mouse and keyboard.
After briefly trying this out in a real life setting, you truly understand its usefulness despite the fact that some apps are not supported, and some other apps didn’t align properly on the screen. We can forgive these maladies by saying the feature is still in its early stages, but it’s clear to see that this concept can be a goldmine if tapped right.
In today’s highly competitive world of mobile technology, you wouldn’t need a soothsayer to tell you that there is a lot of potential in Microsoft’s new ideas. The issue here is that they might end up shooting themselves in the foot with lethargy. This Universal Apps concept, if applied with sense, can gain Microsoft a lot in terms of usage and sales.
But so far, much of that perfect image has been lost, and the aforementioned lethargy undermined their great plans. Imagine having a phone that would support both Android and iOS apps… As if that wasn’t enough, the same device would also run same apps on your PC and tablet. There are many marketing lines to be gleaned from here, but then, this has not been realized after a year since its announcement.
Microsoft should put more efforts in enticing and sensitizing developers to get on this new plan. More should also be done in marketing, especially in developing countries. I say this because that’s where the larger number of untapped population can be found, and technologies like Continuum can greatly benefit the third world by providing affordable all-purpose devices.
The focus Microsoft had with the Lumia 950 has been in developed markets, which I think is wrong. People there, for the most part, already own smartphones and PC’s, therefore selling them a phone that can acts as a PC might not be the kind of feature they need, whereas the third world would be enamored with the concept.
Developing countries are the ideal places for Microsoft to be singing the phone-PC song. That’s a place where Continuum supported phones should be pushed, but not in the frame of the “expensive” Lumia 950/950XL. I was gutted when discovering that the Lumia 650 didn’t have support for Continuum — that would have been the ideal device for this region!
Best case scenario is Microsoft finally making a low end or mid-range device, priced not more than $200, with Continuum. We have heard that MediaTek chips would soon be supported by Windows 10 Mobile, so this should further reduce costs. Throw in support for Continuum followed by a good battery life, then market it aggressively in developing markets. I can assure you, that would be a hit!
Why do you think Microsoft didn’t squeeze the potential of these features? Would you like to see them become mainstream in your region? Let us know below!
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