Ignite 2016 - Redstone 2, Partners, Continuum and '1st party' devices

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As ever, industry events show up nuggets of interest about the future - in this case at Microsoft Ignite 2016 in Atlanta there was confirmation of the timing for what will presumably be 'Redstone 2' and 'Redstone 3' releases of Windows 10 Mobile, along with some tasty new aspects of Continuum and a handy slide showing the growing Windows 10 Mobile ecosystem. Ok, ok, growing as in number of manufacturers, not new sales of handsets necessarily!

Firstly, in a Microsoft talk entitled "BRK2104 - Discover what's next for Windows 10 Mobile for phones and small tablets" (you can grab it from the link), there was a slide with the abstract:

The summer update of Windows 10 Mobile delivers some very important updated and new functionality to Microsoft's mobile OS. Organizations continue to increase their investment in digital transformation with mobility, but encounter challenges. Discover how Windows 10 Mobile, build on a common core and Universal Windows Platform apps, brings opportunities to provide mobility solutions and services to today's workers. Windows 10 Mobile delivers enterprise productivity and, the security and manageability that organizations require. 

That's actually a very good summary of Windows 10 Mobile's reason for existence. It all sounds very convincing, though with many employees bringing in iPhones and Android handsets through 2016, the elegant strategy from the IT department may conflict with the groundswell from employees hooked on the likes of Snapchat and Pokemon Go. Sadly.

I was struck by the slide headline:

Continued investments in differentiated 1st party devices and device ecosystem

This sounds an awful lot like a promise of a Surface phone (or two), you've already read my own predictions. It'll be at the top end of the market and with significant productivity/business emphasis.

Surface Phone, 2017

Another slide in the same presentation highlighted the growing range of manufacturing partners making Windows 10 Mobile handsets:


There are a couple of Asian names I don't recognise there, plus some are exclusively for enterprise, plus others have announced products but not shipped yet, but in fairness Windows 10 Mobile only really came of age in terms of code and functions with the Anniversary Update (e.g. fingerprint scanner support) and even this update hasn't fully rolled out yet, so you could argue that it's still early days for the ecosystem. And yes, I realise that the iOS and Android juggernauts are steaming by, but there are still unique selling points for Windows 10 in terms of interface and applications across form factors.

We already knew the rough timings for Redstone 2 and beyond, but there was a slide that alluded to this too:


OK, so there's not much given away, but the frequency of the updates is emphasised, with the second black dot possibly corresponding to the 'Redstone 2' branch, which is currently being tested by anyone with their smartphones set to the 'Fast ring' of the Insiders programme.

In addition to this slide deck and talk, the folks at Neowin also got to chat to Microsoft about their plans for Redstone 2 in general and Continuum in particular:

The next feature update will see a number of long-awaited Continuum improvements. Finally, you'll be able to put your phone to sleep without it crashing your Continuum experience. There's also a Proximity Connect feature, which should allow you to connect wirelessly to a dock without ever taking your phone out of your pocket. The dock should detect that you're there, probably via Bluetooth pairing.

Another big feature is that you'll finally be able to independently customize your Start menu. As it stands right now, your Continuum Start menu mirrors your phone's Start screen, so you should be able to change one without changing the other next year.

Perhaps the most important feature coming to Continuum is that it will provide a more PC-like experience. Finally, you'll be able to put apps in resizable windows, and they can be snapped as well. Currently, the experience is more similar to tablet mode on PCs, with only full screen apps. Another thing that will create a more PC-like experience is the ability to pin apps to the taskbar.

Good to hear, Continuum is a system that's just not quite 'there' yet. The reliance on the phone screen being on and burning through power, the inconsistent saving of state, and so on. And I still have issues connecting to Continuum-aware Windows 10 AU laptops. Roll on updates!

Source / Credit: Microsoft