In 2016 Microsoft Showed How It Will Change The World In 2017 – Forbes

Microsoft's Surface RT was great, but ahead of its time - image credit Ian Morris

Microsoft’s Surface RT was great, but ahead of its time – image credit Ian Morris

When Microsoft announced the Surface RT it was widely derided as a bad idea. But the truth is that it is a very good idea, but way too far ahead of its time. Here’s the problem that Microsoft currently has: the Surface Pro and Surface Book are not tablets. The iPad Pro is a tablet, and it’s very good and rapidly has become my go-to work machine when I’m not at my desk.

What the RT offered was the low-power consumption of a mobile processor and the promise of running a bunch of Windows apps into the mix. It was a very clever idea that pre-dated anyone else taking mobile quite that seriously. But it failed because Windows RT wasn’t flexible enough.

But in late 2016 Microsoft demonstrated a full version of Windows 10 running on an ARM processor. Specifically, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 running at 1.6GHz with 4GB of RAM. This demo showed 32-bit applications (no indication was given about 64-bit, even though the processor supports it) running in Windows 10’s integrated emulation. This means that apps like Photoshop can actually run, in full, on a mobile phone processor.

Now, no one expects this to be the fastest and slickest experience in the world, but what it does do is open up a world of possibilities for Microsoft in 2017. I think it will also give Microsoft a way to bring back the “RT” idea, without having to hobble the range of apps available for us to use. Imagine if you could use every Win32 app out there, along with the Windows desktop too. For many people this would be a massive draw.

I honestly believe that we’ll see a Surface phone in 2017, but I’m not alone in thinking that. And I do believe that a lot of these features will make that a remarkable device. I was already blown away by Continuum on Windows Phone, but with only a small amount of support for actual apps it doesn’t feel quite good enough to win people over from the iPad Pro.

Now what about if there was also a new, Qualcomm powered, thin and light tablet from Microsoft next year (or possibly 2018). This would be a real rival to both laptops and tablets. It could have plenty of memory, a fast processor and access to every app an organisation needs to run. Now we’re not talking high-end software here, but arguably most of what we do on the Windows desktop is reasonably modest anyway. Microsoft may well have an advantage over Apple here, with a much more open market that already has an almost unlimited amount of apps.

What’s great about Microsoft is that it has been quietly working toward this for a long time now. The hidden secret of Windows 10 has always been to harmonise Windows Phone, Windows 10 and Xbox to make these products run the Windows 10 kernel. This is now happening on phones and the Xbox One. And if you stop and think about that – it’s amazing. I now have Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 which both run the same code on my Windows PC as they do on my friend’s Xbox One. I can play co-op with him thanks to this and Microsoft’s cloud servers.

So perhaps next year we’ll start to see the long game for Windows 10 come to fruition? Windows 10 everywhere, and every app you could want to run on your Xbox, desktop PC, laptop, phone and tablet.

I welcome your thoughts.

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