The mobile revolution is far from over, with further enterprise mobile expenditure, innovation and adoption expected for years to come.

In fact, IDC predicts that enterprise and consumer spending on mobile devices, software and services will rise to $1.85 trillion (£1.4tn) by 2019, up from $1.66 trillion (£1.24tn) in 2015; with notable growth in healthcare, government and retail.

The key components of mobile working are in place. First, the cloud ensures accessing content and collaborating with colleagues can happen anywhere, anytime. Secondly, enterprise applications are becoming more mobile, better integrated and easier for staff to use.

Finally, more powerful smartphones and tablets are putting PC-like power in employees’ pockets. As a result, workers are becoming more productive, regardless of their setting.

However, mobile workers still face certain hardware-related restrictions when it comes to getting serious work done in any given location. Much of this is down to the screen size available.

Many smartphones are as powerful as laptops, but lack a display that's suitable for spreadsheets or high-definition presentations. On the other hand, while laptops offer more power many mobile workers prefer the portability of a smartphone.

Microsoft developed Continuum with these issues in mind. The technology allows mobile workers to get a PC-like experience from their smartphone, and access apps such as Outlook and Office 365 on a larger screen (and, in the future, line of business apps) by connecting their phone to a keyboard, mouse and screen via the Microsoft Display Dock, to create a desktop PC-like experience.

Continuum is a feature currently offered by Microsoft's Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL handsets, but the software giant has indicated this is just the beginning in terms of the form and function of its phones.

We asked a selected handful of industry experts their views on Continuum and mobile technology like it, and found a range of opinions.

Endless possibilities

Chris Marsh (chris.marsh@451research.com), Research Director at analyst firm 451 Research, felt that “Continuum as a concept - extending smartphone productivity for mobile workers and bridging across current and potentially new form factors - has real legs.

“Doing presentations; plugging into a hotel room TV to stream content or sharing that with friends on their TVs; sales workers showing collateral to customers; video collaboration with colleagues. The different use cases of using a mobile device to project content are endless.”

This sense of endless possibilities is also shared by Connel Vereker (@ConnelVereker), Consultant at Trustmarque, a technology solutions provider and Microsoft partner. He believes a number of industries, in both the private and public sector, stand to benefit from solutions that enable productive mobile working, such as Microsoft Continuum.

“For example, a bobby on the beat accessing and being able to respond to real-time crime information. A university professor able to access learning materials anywhere on campus, from the library to the lecture hall. Or a healthcare worker able to better visualise the patient’s problem and their medical history, and then suggest the right course of treatment using any nearby PC.”

Vereker adds, “In the private sector, organisations such as law firms can use solutions like Continuum to provide partners with the ability to review work done by an associate or legal secretary, without having to fire up the laptop.”

End-user perspective

One mobile worker who likes the idea of this technology is industry watcher Kelvin Newman (@kelvinnewman), founder of the BrightonSEO Conference. He says, “I'm someone firmly committed to remote working and I think everyone travelling hours on congested roads or crammed trains just to be under the same roof is something we'll look back on as quaint in a few years time.

“Mobile has become a device I'm never more than a few feet away from, so it makes sense for it to become our primary device, but sometimes I crave a keyboard and screen to get some proper and actual work done.”

Another mobile traveller who is attracted by the concept of Continuum is Associate Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management, Shirish C. Srivastava (@ShirishCS) of HEC Paris business school.

“I quite like the idea of using smartphones as PCs, as there are many things which a professional on the move would like to do on a PC rather than via a smartphone. Two major constraints of smartphones are the display size and the input device size,” argues Srivastava.

“Though plugging into a screen at the end of a journey with docking facilities is a good idea, what about the professional who wants to work on the move? It is for this reason I always carry my laptop along with my smartphone when I travel. For the Continuum concept to be successful, I think there needs to be some solution for the time when the user is on the move, e.g. in an airplane. Maybe a flexible keyboard and a projectable display screen?”

The Reviewer’s take

Continuum has potential for people who rely on their smartphones and could also make an impact in companies that have a more flexible approach to office workspaces, says Tony Ibrahim (@TIjourno), digital consumer products reviewer at CHOICE Magazine, Australia.

Ibrahim, who produced a hands-on review of the technology, says, “Today, Continuum will suit people who rely on their phone for work. Businesses entrenched in Microsoft's ecosystem will closely watch Continuum's gradual evolution. It will suit people working on the road now, but over time the prospect of using a smartphone to power a workstation could drive the trend of hot-desking.

“Each day you could arrive at a different desk kitted with a monitor, keyboard and mouse, plug in your phone – your virtual computer – and work alongside fresh faces. Companies won't have to spend money on buying [additional software] licences, work phones and computers. This will be a case of one product replacing many more.”

Ibrahim concludes, “Microsoft is the first company using a smartphone to virtualise the personal computer. It shows the company is back to innovating; that technology is at a point where it is possible.”

Driving productivity

The final thought comes from Andrew Jackson (@Intercity_UK), CEO of IT and communications technology specialist Intercity Technology, who believes, “Microsoft’s Continuum for phones has the potential to massively drive productivity in the workplace.”

He says, “For most industries, the biggest benefit of this app will come in the form of content sharing, where presentations and documents can be shown on a TV or projector from a mobile phone at the click of a button, enabling work to be reviewed and edited in a group environment.

“More specifically in the retail sector, Continuum for phone could be used to deliver content to customers on multiple screens and devices across the shop floor. It could also help to shorten the time between diagnosis and treatment in the healthcare sector by enabling clinicians to write up and share their notes more easily.”

Microsoft’s Continuum smartphone extension technology has broad industry appeal, and can boost on-the-road productivity. How businesses choose to adopt it is down to them. Watch this space.

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