Living the Dream – My parallel universe experience; Continuum style
by John Filippis, Strategic Engagement Manager, Quorum
I love the concept of parallel universes.
I love black holes.
I love wormholes.
When the concepts of space curvature and time dilation were first postulated by Albert Einstein, it opened up a lens to the universe whose picture has since been further refined by the amazing work of people like Stephen Hawking, Kip Thorne and Lawrence Krauss.
In fact as a young kid I was fascinated by the possibility of maybe one day being able to ride the waves and peculiarities of intense gravitation like a giant slippery dip. What a ride that would be! I can just leave this world behind and then appear in another, just like passing through a door. The concept of the parallel universe and the endless possibilities and wonder it held, captivated me as a child and continues to do so to this very day.
Recently I had the pleasure of being able to make a little quantum leap of my own, in an IT kind of way. I have pulled through a wormhole and I am now living and typing this from my new parallel universe.
Interested ? Read on…
Those of you who are following my keyboard antics on here would know, that I have always had a dream, an IT dream (actually I have so many and so often, that my mind sometimes seems like a schizophrenic virtual reality game).
This IT dream, has been to simply have one device for everything; the IT equivalent of the mathematical singularity of the centre of a black hole, the great white buffalo, the unicorn or the McLaren F1 in your driveway.
Call it what you will, but for me that is the IT user experience end state that I always desired; one device…period.
Unlike many other IT people who adore and indulge the drapery of electronic jewellery from the various IT “fashion houses”, I have however evolved along a different tangent. I like to travel and be device “light” (time travel of course demands this). But my dreams and desires to be device, adapter, cable and laptop bag free were always so unattainable. I had simply relegated this ideal, to a far corner of my mind, as a distant goal that would never likely be realised any time soon.
Enter Jacqueline Lipmann, the Lumia phone superwoman from Microsoft who showed me that there is now a wormhole that would potentially allow me to indulge and explore my dream, that dark parallel universe of the “single device”. This wormhole had a Microsoft name attached to it and it was called “Continuum”, as I learned of this stargate my thoughts went into overdrive. I instantly started planning how I could stare into this foreign new world, in the same way that physicists look through multiple dimensions to the potential of dark matter and alternative universes.
How would I do it? Would it work? Is this even sane for someone to do? Had anyone done it and come back alive ???
All valid but unanswered questions.
That was November 2015.
Fast forward to March 2016 and I am faced with excitement, as I open a newly arrived brown box.
Inside this pandora’s box was a Lumia 950 XL and a Continnum display dock. A quick raid of my office IT toy box revealed I had a new Microsoft Bluetooth Wedge keyboard lying around, Microsoft Arc Mouse and a Plantronics Voyager Legend headset.
Like a child at Christmas with new toys and infinite creative energy, I started tearing open the boxes, throwing instructions into the bin, plugging in cables and creating bluetooth pairs. After what seemed like a rapid 5 minute feeding frenzy at the zoo, I stood up and stepped back to admire my creation, I eerily took on the insight of Dr Frankenstein in that salient moment …
It was alive…
It lives and breathes…my new mobile office now looks like this….yours could too!
I had just slipped through the fabled wormhole into a new and exciting albeit strange place. My colleagues gathered around to behold the spectacle, as my mouse and keyboard started to control my phone, my monitor displayed what was on my phone. I was taking calls on my bluetooth headset and typing stuff into my emails, opening word documents, powerpoint files, browsing the web….I was doing all of this work from a single device…my PHONE!
Now some of you may not share my enthusiasm for such a trivial thing, but for me it was a very liberating moment. You see, I have been held hostage by devices and the paraphernalia of cables and chargers for years, as I travelled from place to place carrying what seemed like a 5 kg bag of cords and cables.
I hated it with a passion.
From the deranged lack of standardisation of connector types to the shoulder destroying excessive weight. I hated it all. It did not feel like an elegant or agile way to be, it was archaic and it was always a negative of travelling for work. The beast would jump up and punch me hard in the face every time I had to open “the bag” and pull out all the cables and devices for the airport x ray crew. I was scarred.
In contrast, here in front of me was the future of mobile agile computing that I had just jumped into. This “thing” I had just created was working…and working well! So I made a pledge there and then to put my trusty Surface Pro 4 (and its charger) on the back burner completely for 4 weeks. I then would run my new hyper light configuration exclusively and pretend to be a “NextGen agile mobile user”, as a Gartner consultant would likely describe in one of their papers.
As a “NextGen agile mobile user” my new portable office consists of the following:
Microsoft Lumia 950XL – Windows 10
Microsoft Wedge keyboard
Microsoft Arc Mouse
Plantronics Voyager Legend Headset
Microsoft Wireless display adapter
As a mobile user, my business requirements are quite typical and are as follows:
Travel frequently – both intra and inter city
Need to work from all locations – coffee shops, home, customer sites
Apps – Email, Microsoft office suite, PDF reading, Skype, Web
Access to corporate Data – File shares, homedrive
A: One word…Wild!!!
I have not had this much fun working off a device in a while. People look at me when I am in coffee shops talking on my bluetooth headset, tapping on my keyboard, moving my mouse and staring at my phone. You can see their curiosity, “what is he doing???”. Turning up to group meetings takes on a whole new meaning of fun, as people who all turn up with tablets, look at me like I had just done a Moses and turned their new shiny devices into bronze age stone tablets.
Q: Is it hard working off a small screen ?
A: For writing emails, reading, minor doc editing or surfing the web it is great, no problem at all. I have worked for 6 hours off the phone screen without any issue in a variety of places, coffee shops, gym, customer sites and my car. Obviously if you are going to be doing more intensive work then connecting to a larger display would be in order, cue the Microsoft Wireless display adapter (what a great tool!) and you can have a big screen almost anywhere. This is just perfect for those hotel visits.
Q: What is the phone docking experience whilst at a desk?
A: Just brilliant if you are using the phone dock as the phone plugs straight it and it has all the USB ports and video ports that you need. In a word it is seamless…just plug the phone into the dock and you are up! And yes you can dual screen it too.
Q: What about the little wedge keyboard, is it useable?
A: I have to say that the wedge keyboard from Microsoft is just superb. It feels like a proper desktop keyboard. I can type on it just like my Surface pro 4and it has proper keys too. There are also other keyboards for this type of device, like the foldout keyboard from Microsoft. But after trialling it at the Microsoft store I must say that the solidity of the Wedge keyboard and its layout make it a clear winner for me. I am typing this very article on it now, sitting in a coffee shop with an espresso!
Q: What about doing PowerPoint presentations from it ?
A: With the Microsoft Wireless display adapter you just plug into the USB and HDMI ports on any TV set and you can project your phone to it. I have it setup in our Quorum board room on the big screen and it does its thing flawlessly, for both us and our guests who come to present. PowerPoint works great on the 950XL, so easy to advance the slides. No challenge at all!
Q: What about the other office apps like Word and Excel ?
A: They work great as well, they do of course have reduced functionality over the full blown versions but you can read and do editing within word docs and spreadsheets to a good degree very easily. Especially if you are on a larger display. I was quite content to work on a couple of proposals on my phone at the coffee shop without issue.
Q: So how would I rate it as a Road Warrior setup?
A: It is for the travelling workers like myself, the ultimate light weight setup. This configuration truly shines and stands apart from everything else that I have used. For anyone who travels, frequently visits different premises, has meetings on the go, sees a lot of airports, coffee shops and the like; this is really one of the most freshest ways to go about your business. I can with confidence give it a 9/10 for easy of use and agility. It is super lightweight and very very useable. Make sure you get yourself a little kickstand to stand the phone up or sideways, I got mine from ebay, there are plenty to choose from.
Q: This sounds too good to be true..are you kidding?
A: No I am not kidding. This experience to use a Carrie Bradshawism “is the new Black”. It is not that this is just an amazing way to liberate yourself from device sprawl hell, but is for me a great way to setup your world for super agile and productive computing when on the go. It works well. Eerily well.
However, there are some limitations at this point in time that I have bumped into which I need to highlight. These are not criticisms or concerns but are more an experience of the new and the untried . These will get resolved over time I am sure. The gremlins in no particular order:
Office apps on the phone don’t have the same behaviour or functionality as the full versions. For example don’t expect to right click and get word suggestions if you misspell something in OneNote. You wont get it.
The home screen does not rotate with the phone. So if you are working in landscape in say email and then click the windows button to go to the home page, it still shows it as portrait view. This is a little annoying after a while.
You cant install .exe or msi files on the phone version, easy to forget when everything else seems to be PC Like.
On the odd occasion you get a little bit (not much) typing lag over the wireless adapter.
Still not a lot of app support on the Windows store.
But if you can ignore those minor annoyances and embrace this alternative universe for a while, you will I believe learn to love it as much as I do. After being on this waif agile user “device diet” of 600g, the next time you decide to pick up your “new” tablet and take it with you, it will likely start to feel like a concrete roof tile.
As Albert Einstein famously once said, everything in time is relative to the observer…I now know how true that really is, staring across the wormhole from my new parallel universe; my perspective and position have now been permanently altered and I don’t think I am coming back either!