One of the coolest features of Windows 10 for phones is that it lets you use some phones as desktop PCs. Connect a keyboard, mouse, and display and you can interact with apps on a big screen, complete with task bar, start menu, and keyboard shortcuts.

Microsoft calls the feature Continuum for Phone, and it’s currently available on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL smartphones as well as the upcoming Acer Jade Primo. Continuum for Phone may also be coming to other phones that meet the minimum requirements.

But there are a few caveats — and the biggest is that right now you can only run Universal Windows Apps from the Windows Store in desktop mode. There’s no support for the millions of legacy apps written for older desktop-centric versions of Windows… at least not yet.

continuum for phone

Speaking to developers this week, Microsoft’s Kevin Gallo said the company is looking into the possibility of allowing Win32 apps to run on phones with Continuum.

It’s not a done deal… and it’s not entirely clear how this would work if Microsoft does add support for Win32 apps. Right now the company is encouraging developers of legacy Windows apps to add code that will convert them to Universal apps that are capable of running on phones, tablets, and desktops. You’ll probably get the best experience that way, since the apps will have native support for mobile processors, screen resolutions, and touch input.

But there are many apps that will probably never be ported to the Universal Windows App platform for one reason or another, and allowing phones to run those apps could go a long way toward making your phone the only computer you really need. Use it to run mobile apps on the go. Dock it to a monitor and use it to run desktop apps at home or in the office.

Right now most mobile phones feature ARM-based processors, while most older Windows programs were designed for x86 chips. That means you’d probably need some sort of chip architecture emulator to run those apps on a phone like the Lumia 950 XL, and that could cause some software to run even more slowly than you would expect it to on an device with a low-power processor.

It’s possible that Microsoft could be waiting for new chips that are powerful enough to handle the emulation better… or that Win32 support will only be available in upcoming smartphones with Intel chips. Or maybe Microsoft has some other ideas in mind.

For now, that’s all they are… ideas. The company hasn’t committed to Win32 support for phones. Gallo just says it’s something Microsoft is looking at.

via Windows Central

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14 replies on “Maybe Windows phones will support Win32 after all… one day”

  1. Yep, this was little more than one part of the clown car that delivered WinPhoneX, Y, and Z, Win8, Win8.1, and Win10. They already know it’s a huge FAIL but the investment was already made so they’re rolling it out the door. Too bad nobody wants it, but it makes for useful consumer confusion. May as well just get Android all-in-ones, at least there is software available.

  2. Microsoft had been trying to kill Win32 since Windows 8 (7 or maybe even Vista). But, like XP, it ain’t goin’ no where.

    1. Yep! You’re absolutely right. If Windows really wants to be a contender in mobile, this is the feature that can never be copied by iOS or Android.

  3. I disagree, having x86 support in mobile is very attractive idea. Microsoft just need to give incentive for developer to sell their app on MS store. Maybe like free marketing/advertisement and free to market their programs. Then when it is big enough then start charging for listing. Make any app not sold on MS store became a rogue apps not supported by MS. Just like Apple and Android have official apps and not so official apps. That’s the only way MS can charge for apps in apps store, or they could do away with receiving cuts for sold apps and concentrated on ads like Google.

  4. Run the x86 software in the cloud? When your phone is docked so you could use the desktop and benefit from the x86 programs, chances are you are connected to a highspeed WiFi network.

  5. The only reason MS would be thinking of a move like this would be their Metro App (or whatever it’s called now) store uptake is not what they hoped it would be. I’m not surprised as I never though companies which had been used to direct access would be chomping at the bit to put Microsoft between them and their customers all while handing over a healthy chunk of profits to MS for the privilege.
    App stores are something companies put up with if they have to but would never choose on their own.
    Microsoft should give up on the dream of an app store all their own and embrace the future with both shoulders in pushing. Namely that the web is the platform. While the app store model is all-important today I think historically it will be a fairly short but important period. Even today the numbers show that people really only commonly use a very small number of apps on a regular basis. Meanwhile even on mobile more and more usage is shifting into the browser and out of apps.
    Apple will fight this. Google will not care as long as they can run their search/add business. For Microsoft it could save them in mobile if they could eliminate the chicken & egg problem of the app store model.
    In short they should be concentrating on modern web technologies replacing siloed platform dependent applications – particularly on mobile. It’s just a matter of the hardware and web technologies meeting at a place where user experience matches/exceeds the local app model. It’s coming either way. But it would come all the quicker if Microsoft pushed with both hands.

  6. MS fiddles while its market share in phones shrinks and it spends untold
    amounts on its failing phone effort. In the meantime, its base of some
    4 million x86 Windows desktop programs, the biggest catalog of any platform,
    goes unused in this space, and PC shipments decline for yet another
    year. In the meantime, Android and iOS get more capable.

    This situation reminds me of how Xerox lost the copier market
    to Canon, which scaled up from the bottom end until the latter’s
    offerings spanned the entire gamut from small to large copiers.

    1. I see your point but it’s not like Microsoft has stood still and let it happen the whole time. They made one crucial miss in the beginning when they didn’t realize how important mobile would become and how fast.
      As it is now though it’s a really uphill battle for them. It’s an important one though and they are one of the few companies that have the kind of resources to possibly make the climb in the long run. Though in the long run I suspect the market will solve their problems before they do themselves.

  7. I think a small but reasonable percentage of people would like to be able to have a Windows x86 computer phone in their pocket that they could connect to a monitor and run their favorite programs (i’d be one of them). While the percentage may be small, it would surely be larger than 3% (the pecentege of phones that are Windows phones now).

    1. Microsoft does themselves no favors when they oversell, overhype and under-deliver. Joe Belfiore gives an impressive demo that IMPLIES a full Windows x86 experience on a phone with the addition of a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. What will be delivered is going to be far short of that.

      They bank on people not remembering what they said months (or years) earlier. Add this to the list that includes (most recently): custom blades for the Surface, and Astoria (Windows Bridge for Android)

  8. I would rather have a Windows phone act as a hardware key that allows me to run my work software on my home computer. It could carry the data and setting files in an encrypted folder. The phone acts as a licence key.

    1. I’m always leery of things where the phone acts as a key because they are commonly stolen or lost and even more commonly damaged. I’d rather have biometrics unlocking a well encrypted cloud pathway.
      And for truly highly secret/sensitive stuff then it simply shouldn’t be worked on at home or anywhere outside of a secured facility. I mean, we don’t expect bank managers to take millions of dollars home to count or similar.

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