Microsoft calls desktops/laptops a ‘second screen’ for phones


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When you're out of the office, this is your primary computer. Your desktop or laptop is your PC second screen.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Microsoft acknowledged today that PCs take second place to phones for most consumers.  This wouldn’t be an amazing admission for most companies, but it’s startling coming from one that makes virtually all its revenue from desktop/laptop software.

Especially considering Microsoft’s attempts to compete with the iPhone all went nowhere. 

At its Build 2018 conference, going on now in Seattle, ZDnet’s Mary Jo Foley reported on Twitter that “Microsoft’s new Windows positioning: PC as the ‘perfect second screen to your phone.'”

This is certainly true for consumers. When out of the office, virtually the only tasks done on a PC are ones that too inconvenient to do on a smartphone’s display.  There’s no reason to find a desktop or laptop to do social networking, for example, when a phone is right there in your pocket. 

Apple has never made a similar statement. That would send too many Mac users up in flames. Nevertheless, the greater attention Apple gives iPhone in its keynote addresses, and the pace of improvements in iOS compared to macOS, shows where most of Apple’s focus lies.

A PC second screen

This isn’t a “mobile first” attitude like some companies have. Microsoft’s main focus is going to stay on businesspeople using Office, preferably on PCs running Windows. But the company doesn’t ignore Mac users, and has begun offering numerous applications for iOS. 

Office for iPad is probably the best known of these, but just this week in announced the Your Phone app designed to give Windows users easier access to texts, notifications, and images on their iPhone or Android device. 

For over a decade, iPhone users gravitated toward Macs because they work far better with Apple’s phones. That’s still definitely true, but the gap is starting to close. It’s gotten much easier to choose a PC second screen instead of a Mac one.