Microsoft: With Windows Continuum, any phone can be your PC

Microsoft believes it can turn any screen -- especially the one you carry around in your pocket -- into your PC.

Joe Belfiore
Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the OS group, demonstrates Continuum Wednesday at Build 2015. Nate Ralph/CNET

Microsoft has a lofty vision for Windows 10 -- one operating system for all devices. One of the keys to making that vision a reality for smartphones is a software feature called Continuum.

"With Continuum for phones, we believe any phone can be your PC," said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the operating systems group, on Wednesday at the company's annual developer conference in San Francisco.

Continuum is a software tool that will aid Windows 10 in detecting what type of device a user is on and help the operating system configure itself accordingly. It is integral for Surface and other convertible tablets that double as laptops. For instance, Continuum will able to know when you're using Windows 10 with a mouse and keyboard attachment and when you've switched to a touch interface with finger- and pen-based inputs.

Belfiore demonstrated Continuum on stage during Microsoft's Build 2015 keynote. He plugged a Windows Phone into a PC monitor, noting that a PowerPoint app is treated it like a PC app "because it is in fact the same code that you would see for PowerPoint on a PC." He also opened numerous apps on a tablet and showed how Continuum switched them to PC-style apps when the device was docked.

Unfortunately for those eager to rely solely on a smartphone for their computing needs, Microsoft remained mum on when the new version of its widely-used OS would arrive.

Microsoft said in March that Windows 10 would launch this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages. However, chipmaker AMD, a longtime Microsoft partner, may have spilled the details earlier this month when its chief executive Lisa Su, in a call with investors, said the release date was pegged for late July.

Windows 10 is touted as a simpler, more modern OS that seamlessly ties together desktops, laptops and smartphones. CEO Satya Nadella called it not just another release of Windows "but a new generation of Windows."

"Windows 10 represents a new generation of Windows built for an era for more personal computing, from Raspberry Pi to the holographic computer," Nadella said. "Where the mobility of the experience is what matters, not the mobility of the device."

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