Why Microsoft’s ‘Confirmed’ Surface Phone Shouldn’t Be A Phone – Forbes

The buzz around a new smartphone from Microsoft continues to build. Although Windows Phone has now reached the end of its life, Redmond is not finished with mobile technology. CEO Satya Nadella went as far as confirming that Microsoft will “make more phones, but they will not look like phones that are there today.”

On the consumer side of things, Microsoft will continue to build up its cloud based activities. Outlook, Office 365, Skype, OneDrive and others provide an intriguing and eminently usable environment for working on the move. With apps for iOS and Android (as well as MacOS and Windows 10), making a positive decision to use Microsoft on mobile is something consumers can easily do.

Hardware as a source of significant revenue is not the Microsoft way, at least not in mobile. Devices like the Surface Pro tablet, the Surface Book and the Surface Studio creative desktop environment are clear demonstrators of the potential of Windows 10 in specific hardware. The rise of ultratablets and 2 in 1 convertibles happened hand in hand with greater acceptance of Microsoft’s hardware endeavours (the argument over what the Surface Laptop is actually demonstrating can wait for another time).

Which leads me, once more, to circle back to Windows on smartphones.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (image: Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Bloomberg

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (image: Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

I expect to see more smartphones launched with Windows 10 Mobile in 2017 and beyond. While the mobile version of Windows 10 is not making an appreciable impact on the market share for the next few years, there is a small cadre of Windows 10 Mobile users where the technology is an important part of their workflow. The majority of these can be found in the enterprise sector. While they will not want bleeding edge technology, their handsets will need to be competent and updated on a frequent bases. Handsets like the Alcatel Idol 4S for Windows will continue to have a place in the ecosystem. That’s why there will be a steady flow of Windows 10 Mobile powered handsets for the next few years.

Microsoft is going to keep its smartphone hardware team ticking over for thereat of the decade. They are going to throw out ideas, they are going to experiment and there are going to be lots of concept devices floating around Redmond.

In part that explains the latest published patent from Microsoft on smartphones. Titled ‘Wireless Communications Device’ it talks about a bendable smartphone with antenna, battery, SIM card holders and screen connectors split over a hinge to create a dual-winged device. Various form factors are on show in the patent as examples, but none of them are close to a finished product.

Perhaps one of these will be the basis of the Surface Phone?

Potential 'wireless device' in Microsoft Patent application (USPTO)

USPTO

Potential ‘wireless device’ in Microsoft Patent application (USPTO)

Building a demonstration smartphone running Windows 10 to show its manufacturers what is possible is a smart thing to do. The question is whether Microsoft would reveal it to the public, let alone put it on sale. I’ve no doubt there is more than one traditional-looking smartphone inside Redmond running the latest Windows 10 Mobile builds on top-end hardware. I don’t see the value in going public with those devices.

I do see the value in changing the nature of a mobile device. That’s where the Surface Phone will come in. Not a single slab of glass with minimal bezels that are on offer just now. Instead, just as Satya Nadella predicted, Microsoft’s mobile device will break out of the current moribund design cues.

If there’s going to be a Surface Phone, it needs to come with a strong statement. That’s where the hints in the patents can come into play… where Microsoft can be brash and experimental… where showing what can be achieved is more important than focusing on the market share.

Now read more about the Idol 4S for Windows 10 handset…

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