Continuum is the responsive design of apps

Continuing my thoughts on computers and what constitutes a computer anymore, can we all agree on one thing: phones and tablets will continue to perform better year-over-year and get cheaper.

And in a lot of ways, that future is already here. Phones are already cheaper than most computers, and phones and tablets are generally about the same hardware wise. An iPad Air 2 isn’t much different than an iPhone 6S in processing power and efficiency.

So how come we can’t use a phone more like a “computer”?

A person with an iPhone ought to be able to use that device like they would a computer appliance relatively easily. All the apps are there. Text editors, Office, email, web browsers. For a lot of people that’s there, and the iPad is a good indication of what that would look like. You could hook up a bluetooth keyboard to an iPhone and type away, though I’m not sure why you would want to.

But talk about a great shift in the market where ten years ago we all bought the one computational appliance, either a laptop or a desktop, and that was that. Maybe you had one for work and one for home. But you probably just had one device. Now we have to have a phone computer, tablet computer, laptop computer, and maybe two of some of those depending on your work. That’s insane and borderline financially irresponsible.

Microsoft seems to think so, as their Continuum feature would put Windows 10 on all their devices — phone, tablet/laptop (Surface), desktops and other laptops, and X Box.

That’s probably a move borne out of desperation on Microsoft’s part to keep interest and growth in Windows. But for millions of people, being able to say, “Just buy this smartphone. You can use it as a phone like we’re used to, and you just grab some extra accessories like a keyboard and mouse, or at least a display, and you can fling all your phone’s stuff on to this big screen.

That may sound like a horrible mish-mash, but is it unreasonable to think we’ll have mobile devices like phones and tablets as soon as 3-5 years from now?

So instead of buying a $600 smartphone, a $1,200 laptop, and a $800 tablet, a person could reasonably buy a single $600 smartphone, attach it to a $200 display and $60 of input devices (which can be used for much longer than you’ll probably keep the phone), and boom, all your computing needs. Take your phone out of your pocket for some photos, make a call, then plug it in at your desk and work on some documents on your big display, then unplug for lunch and listen to music. Come back after lunch and work on that display again, then go home and play some games or watch TV.

That’s a really compelling, financially-savvy world.

I’m not sure Apple will ever come along for the ride on that. Google doesn’t seem to be doing much in hardware, either. So that leaves Apple pushing for multiple devices and Microsoft pushing for a single device to rule them all.

It’s not hard to imagine, at all, that in 10 years your smartphone is going to be more powerful than the device you’re using at work today. Why shouldn’t it be your only device?

Want to know when stuff like this is published?
Sign up for my email list.

Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

Leave a Comment