There was once a distinction between mobile and desktop devices, but the line has blurred in recent times. For instance, it is now difficult to tell what is a laptop with a touchscreen, and what is a tablet with a keyboard. Microsoft is clearly aiming to make that distinction even more hazy with Windows 10 — an operating system that works across multiple screen sizes — and the announcement of two new smartphones this week. But the software giant also showed off a new accessory, named the Display Dock. It is designed to allow owners to connect their phone to a monitor, and use it as a regular PC.

Microsoft's Display Dock Turns Your Windows Phone Into PC

The ability to morph between platforms, a feature named Continuum, is built into Windows 10. The Display Dock simply provides the hardware support. Ironically, it looks much like an Apple TV — a black, largely featureless box with an array of ports. You plug your phone into the single USB-C port at the front, and your monitor into one of either the HDMI port or the DisplayPort. This combination can support video output at 1920×1080, at a smooth 60 frames per second. Three standard USB ports at the rear are available for a mouse, a keyboard, and any other peripherals you might wish to use.

Microsoft's Display Dock Turns Your Windows Phone Into PC

With this all set up, you can begin to surf the web and create documents in Office as if working on a desktop machine. With a Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM under the hood, the Lumia 950 and 950+ are capable devices that seem able to run Windows 10 without noticeable delay. There are limitations — it is unknown quite how many apps will support this form of Continuum, and you can only use one desktop app at a time. For basic tasks, however, the Display Dock seems like a worthy replacement for an underpowered netbook.

Somewhat frustratingly, Microsoft has made no mention of the eventual release date and price for the Display Dock. However, given that retail-ready models were on show at the Microsoft event, it seems likely that general release can’t be too far away.

Meet Mark Myerson

Mark is best known for writing about apps, but he also loves the tactile, hardware side of technology. Being a professional photographer, he’s pretty handy with a camera, and he’s a self-confessed tweetaholic.