Surface Phone: Is It Coming Yet?
The web has been buzzing about Surface Phones going into trial production for the last four days. The rumor was launched by “Commercial Times of Taiwan”, the China daily, which reported that the Taiwan-based company Pegatron was going to kick off the Microsoft mobiles production. Long time fans of the Surface Phone are enthusiastic and are sharing the prototype pictures all over the web. Most of them are photos which leaked from Baidu China Forum this fall.
So, the pictures being shared are not exactly what the Surface Phone will look like, but more how the engineers think it will look. That’s what production trials are for: to throw an idea out and see what potential customers think of it. For example, there are questions about adding a Surface tablet style kickstand, and will it work with the phone? This question seems to be the most controversial feature of all. My opinion is that it’s a silly suggestion. A kickstand, really? A mobile device should be portable in the first place, fit in a pocket, and a kick stand virtually makes those things impossible.
Just imagine, you receive a call while outdoors and try to answer it with one hand, but then the stand comes undone and the doohickey gets in your way. Your clumsy fingers just need to twitch, and then, “see-ya-expensive-like-hell-but-so-damned-fragile-thingy!” No way!
Obviously, Microsoft has Continuum in mind – the new Windows 10 working environment and app. Top Lumia smartphones are already advertised as stand-in devices for notebooks and PCs; so, the Surface Phone is to feature this as well. And with a cell phone for PC, you have to prop it against something, so a flip-off stand might actually come in handy. One thing could be derived from such an insignificant detail in the picture however: The Surface Phone will be powerful enough to stand in for a PC. It’s a bit funny to me though, that the phone is propped in a portrait orientation.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft ditched Nokia this year. The company sold the mobile assets to HMD Global, for a nice round sum of $350 million. According to the deal, brands, software and services are now property of the Foxconn Technology subsidiary firm. The Nokia brand is still owned by a trio of managers from Finland, who are very certain about bringing Nokia design and engineering back to the market.
Before the news from Taiwan Daily made it to the headlines, this move by Microsoft had been considered an ultimate defeat. Right now, Windows 10 cell phones are manufactured by other brands: HP, Acer, Samsung (yes, Samsung is contemplating the Windows platform for its mobiles! You can knock me down with a feather), and that’s because Microsoft is practically giving the Windows Phone away for free. It has a very, “Ok, join the club, dude!” attitude vs. Apple’s “No place for outsiders” motto.
What made Microsoft change their mind and turn to producing their own brand phones, then? My bet is; software. I believe they have some huge ace up their sleeve, and not something small like cores number or RAM capacity. China brands like Xiaomi or Meizu, are soon to count CPU cores by the dozens. In the end, it makes no difference at all. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said, ‘We will continue to be in the phone market; not as defined by today’s market leaders, but by what it is that we can uniquely do in what is the most ultimate mobile device.’ You don’t become unique by multiplying cores or adding the hard drive utility to your OS. You become unique when you think outside the box, or in our case – outside the touchscreen. What will be the next interface? According to Mr. Nadella again, AI-powered bots (Artificial Intelligence, of course) are the answer.
Right now, bots are planning to conquer the world in the secret underground bunkers somewhere around Redmond. Just kidding. Mr. Nadella explains that, “Bots are now learning in human context and the relevant thing for us, is to make them intelligent as we learn from customers’ experience”. What if Surface Phone introduces some AI features in the interface? This can as well be an explanation for Microsoft giving the proprietary manufacturing a bash, so to say.
To summarize, The Surface Phone can have a design similar to that of the Surface tablet, the kickstand included. The Surface Phone will be powerful enough to substitute an ordinary office PC. The Surface Phone might run on AI-based interface and be highly interactive, as well as capable of self-learning.
The Surface Phone will be not an entertaining gadget, but instead, the one for office work, cloud service and communication. It’s target group can include high positioned managers or executives and perhaps freelance creatives as well. Therefore, don’t keep your hopes up high, the price will be shocking.
For now, let us cross our fingers and wait for the outcome..
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Surface Phone as seen by Journal du Geek