April 24, 2017
Microsoft released their phone-as-a-desktop solution Continuum over a year and a half ago with the Lumia 950 smartphone. Now, Samsung is making their phone-as-desktop solution, DeX, available as an add-on to the just-released Samsung Galaxy S8.
Microsoft has a bit of a head-start advantage over Samsung when it comes to using smartphones as desktop replacements, but with such low adoption rates of the three Continuum enabled models (Lumia 950 series, Alcatel IDOL 4S, and HP Elite x3), there will likely be significantly fewer people using Microsoft's solution in the near term.
The head-start advantage that Microsoft enjoys doesn't necessarily impact their phone-as-desktop market, but that's okay. Unlike Samsung's DeX, which is most certainly a single purposed display dock, Continuum is an operating-system level feature that scales Windows 10 between desktops and tablets, and Windows 10 Mobile between phones and... well, anything else. In the future as Windows 10 Mobile is phased out for full Windows on ARM, it is reasonable to expect that Microsoft will implement Continuum as a technology to seamlessly transition between desktop, tablet, and phone interfaces no matter what technology (dock, wireless display, etc.) is utilized to facilitate the transition.
Take a look at a promotional video for Continuum from Microsoft:
Samsung is making it's entrance into the phone-as-desktop market with a dedicated hardware dock to connect the Galaxy S8 smartphone to a display and peripherals. While not designed to take Android everywhere (such as tablets or IoT), Samsung did design DeX to bring a beautiful rendition of Android to the desktop. Android as a desktop has been attempted before, and all attempts have failed. Samsung, however, seems to have a winning design and desirable usability on hand with DeX.
Arguably, DeX succeeds at bringing Android to the desktop by making it look an awful lot like the Microsoft Windows desktop. That isn't so much an expression of direct copying as it is the reality of what makes for a good desktop user interface. It's hard to not envision Microsoft's new Start Menu with Live Tiles and the new Action Center while looking at Samsung's translation of Android. DeX goes well above-and-beyond in other areas, however, to levels where no other phone dock has achieved. DeX gives desktop icons to Android whereas Microsoft's Continuum doesn't even do that for Windows 10 Mobile. DeX enables resizable floating windows... and again, this is something that not even Windows Continuum can do.
View a DeX hands-on from Engadget:
If you're looking for a phone-as-desktop solution, the recommendation at this time would have to be the Samsung Galaxy S8 with DeX over any of the phones with Continuum. Sure, using Microsoft's technology you'll save a lot of money, but Continuum's vision for Windows Mobile on the desktop isn't as refined as DeX's vision for Android on the same medium. Both Continuum and DeX are relatively short on apps (maybe even a slight advantage to Continuum because of its almost two-year history), but DeX will quickly outpace Continuum in terms of application availability shortly. Windows has demonstrated that it can't keep up against Google's Android or Apple's iOS in the app race, and the phone-as-desktop market isn't going to change that fact, at least not at the present time.
Then again, the cost savings for choosing Continuum could be enormous. The Galaxy S8 will retail at a base price of $720 with the DeX dock tacking on an additional $150 for a minimum total spend of $870. A Microsoft Lumia 950 can be bought from Microsoft for $299 with Continuum docks available online for $60 equating to a theoretical minimum spend of $359. It all comes down to which is more important to you: money or a more refined experience with the possibility for more apps.
You may find it to be a fun factoid to know that this article was composed using Microsoft's Continuum technology utilizing a Lumia 950XL smartphone and a Microsoft Display Dock.
But now it's your turn...
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