Microsoft just showed off the future of the PC

Inside Microsoft's secret design lab
Inside Microsoft's secret design lab

Microsoft just gave us a glimpse at the future of computing.

Some day soon, your smartphone might be able to replace your work PC and home laptop. You could keep your computer in your pocket, because your phone will be your PC.

At its Build developers conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Microsoft (MSFT) unveiled a new Windows 10 feature called Continuum for Phones.

Continuum will allow Windows to dynamically switch its appearance to fit the screen and device you're using.

For example, if you are running Windows on a tablet, apps will display apps full-screen. But if Windows senses that you have connected a keyboard and a mouse, apps will automatically switch to a desktop experience.

Since Windows 10 phones will run virtually the same code as Windows 10 PCs, you will be able to connect a Bluetooth monitor, keyboard and mouse to your phone, and run a PC-like experience from your smartphone.

Microsoft said the hardware for that feature doesn't exist yet -- phones with dual screen support will have to be built. On top of that, Windows 10 isn't due out until summer.

Big whoop. Microsoft owns a big smartphone company now (formerly known as Nokia), and you can be sure those phones are coming.

Still, the demo by Microsoft's operating systems chief, Joe Belfiore, was still impressive.

As soon as Belfiore connected his phone to his display, keyboard and mouse, his phone's screen appeared like a Windows desktop on his monitor. The Windows Start button was in the bottom left, which he could click to bring up the app launcher.

He ran PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel from his phone, and they appeared almost exactly the way they would on a PC.

microsoft future of the pc

The demo was limited. It wasn't quite the "full" Windows experience that you'd expect with a Windows 10 PC. You can't run standard "Win32" Windows apps like iTunes and Chrome from a phone, for instance. You can't resize Windows, and there's no real taskbar.

In other words, you can't throw out your PC just yet.

But one day, Continuum could be revolutionary. Down the road, Microsoft phones might be able to run a fuller version of Windows. Then, you could walk into your office, automatically connect to the wireless keyboard, mouse and monitor, and get to work without ever turning on a PC. You could go home and instantly connect your smartphone to your TV, monitor, or whatever screen you want to be your home PC -- the processing power will all be from your smartphone.

Even as technology evolves (computers are on your wrists now!), nothing beats the keyboard/mouse/monitor when it comes to getting work done. The only bummer is that you have to either keep separate PCs at home and at work -- or you can schlep your laptop back and forth with you every day.

But you always have your phone on you anyway. Wouldn't it be cool if that were the only computer you needed?

Microsoft thinks so. And that future isn't as far away as you might think.

microsoft continuum
Outlook. On a phone. On a monitor.

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