When Microsoft introduced Continuum for phones back in 2015, it looked like a technology that would finally revive Windows Phone and Microsoft’s mobile business. Continuum for phones was really exciting when it launched, but it had a lot of flaws and it was fairly basic in most parts. Microsoft touted Continuum as a feature that can turn your phone into a PC, even though the software didn’t include the basics of a PC such as multi-window support. Continuum truly had a lot of potential and brought excitement to Microsoft’s mobile platform from outsiders, but Microsoft failed to deliver.
After more than 20 months since the official introduction of Continuum, it’s yet to get any radical new features. For the most part, Continuum in 2017 looks and works exactly like it did during the official introduction. Sure, the actual OS and apps received some new features over the months, but Continuum itself didn’t get any major new improvements in either the Anniversary or the Creators Update of Windows 10.
That is set to change soon. As we have discussed earlier, Microsoft has been working on some major upgrades for Continuum in the past year or so. The software maker is working on a new shell for Windows 10 called the new Composable Shell, or better known as CShell. With CShell, Continuum is getting a lot of much-needed upgrades. Some would even argue that these features should’ve been present in Continuum since the official launch, but that wasn’t the case for what were probably technical reasons. Microsoft even showed off some of these new features back at Ignite 2016, and we got to try out some of the new features coming to Continuum this week.
With CShell, Microsoft is finally bringing a desktop experience that actually looks, feels, and works like a real PC. First of all, Continuum will finally support multi-windows — and you’ll be able to move around windows, snap them however you like, resize them, as well as all of the other things that you can do in Windows 10. Being able to run multiple windows side-by-side is something that should have been here in Continuum on day 1.
Even though it sounds like a minor feature, support for multi-window radically increases the usefulness of Continuum. You no longer have to give up your full monitor space for a single app like the Calculator or the Mail app — instead, you can now have them running side-by-side. Similarly, you can now write a Word document while researching using Microsoft Edge side-by-side, rather than needing to switch between two different windows. A simple use case like this surprisingly wasn’t possible in the original version of Continuum, diminishing its usefulness on early reviews.
CShell also brings some much-needed improvements to other parts of the desktop experience in Continuum. Toast notifications are a lot more powerful now, as Microsoft has brought the literal same Action Center from the desktop to Windows 10 Mobile. There’s also a system tray now, where users can access all the important shortcuts just like on their PCs at home. And, oh, the new Start Menu looks a lot more like the Start Menu that you can find on the desktop, although it still looks drastically different from the PC Start Menu Microsoft will probably fix that later on.
CShell effectively makes Continuum a lot more powerful and lets users be more productive. Multi-window support is a crucial new addition, and the other improvements to the desktop environment are going to be imperative as well. CShell isn’t all about Continuum, though. Like the Fluent Design system, CShell is a journey for Microsoft — it won’t get “enabled” in one major release of Windows 10 but it will gradually bring more features to the Windows 10 Operating System as a whole. Microsoft hopes to bring CShell to the PC one day, replacing the classic shell in Windows 10 — but that’s likely not arriving anytime soon.
Microsoft still has a lot to do to “save” Windows Phone — the app gap being a crucial problem that has yet to be addressed. CShell brings some much-needed improvements to Continuum that are already available in things like Samsung’s DeX on the Galaxy S8 and these new features in Continuum aren’t anything unique anymore. CShell is believed to be part of Microsoft’s new Windows Phone reboot, so it’ll certainly be very interesting to see how all of this plays out.
With CShell, a device that supports Continuum will finally be able to replace your laptop. Your PC? Not so much. Yet.