Do you wonder why we previously said that HP's just announced Elite x3 Windows 10 Mobile phone is the company's "Surface Phone"? Well, it's because the phone will bring support to virtualized legacy .NET and Win32 apps with its HP Workspace feature, as Mary-Jo Foley reported on ZDNet this week.
High-end Windows 10 Mobile devices like the Lumia 950 and the HP Elite x3 can use "Continuum" to connect to external screens and run universal Windows 10 apps in full screen, but it's currently not possible to run legacy Windows apps in Continuum mode. That's probably why many Windows Phone and Surface fans expect the rumored Surface Phone to feature an x86 Intel CPU that would enable legacy apps support in Continuum mode, but both Microsoft and HP are currently working on workarounds for phones using ARM chips.
First, Microsoft already released an update to its Remote desktop Preview app a few weeks ago to bring support for Windows 10 Mobile devices and Continuum, and you can already use this app on your Windows 10 Mobile phone to connect to a remote PC and use legacy apps running on it. But as it's not exactly the most convenient solution, Microsoft is also currently working on Azure RemoteApp support, a new technology that will enable deployments of legacy Windows apps in the cloud to access from your phone.
On the HP side, the HP Elite x3 will be a high-end Windows phone targeted to professionals that will be able to connect to a desktop dock for Continuum as well to a "Mobile Extender" 12.5-inch laptop that will be dependent on the X3 for power. But as the phone will still feature an ARM chip (the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 820), all these extensibility features will only enable support for Universal Windows 10 apps, just like the Lumia 950 currently does. But HP probably hopes that its "HP Workspace" technology will be the phone's killer feature by allowing users to run virtualized legacy Windows apps, as Mary-Jo Foley explained:
HP Workspace is a client-side app that will enable administrators to manage a catalog of virtualized legacy apps for their end users that are based on their Active Directory profiles. Users will be able to access company-approved legacy apps when their Elite x3 phones are connected to the Desk Dock or Mobile Extenders, which are the components that allow users to use large-screen monitors and/or HP's coming 12.5-inch notebook-style device.
HP Workspace will use Citrix app-virtualization or Azure RemoteApp underneath as the plumbing between the virtual machine environment and the Elite x3 client. It also will tap into other HP back-end services that will give IT a way to monitor, track and analyze client-side devices and applications through a series of predefined reports.
We don't have many details on HP Workspace yet, but an HP spokesperson told Foley that a monthly subscription per user will be required to use the service, and Foley added that "the appropriate virtualization licensing for use of apps on a corporate network also must be in place".
We expect HP Workspace to be a much-needed addition to Windows 10 Mobile that some professionals will embrace, and we'll have to wait to see if Microsoft or other OEMs plan to bring legacy app support to Windows 10 Mobile on a larger scale.