If Microsoft really wants to scrum with Apple and Google in the mobile computing arena, it can't stop at tablets-and it certainly can't be limited to WiFi-only devices. Smartphones account for a huge (if not dominating) number of app downloads, web browser views, and all the other metrics that elevate mobile ecosystems to superstardom. So if Microsoft is serious about exploring the entire world of mobility, it needs to release a Surface Phone-a flagship handset for Windows Phone 9 that elevates the greater Surface brand, and lays a 4G pipeline to bold new vistas of user connectivity.
Don't forget: Unlike tablets, we carry our smartphones everywhere. We whip them out in corporate conference rooms to check email, and shove them in our friends' faces to show off Instagram photos of eggs benedict and irritable cats. This is what propagates mindshare. This is what spurs irrational fits of hardware jealousy-and thus more hardware sales across a gadget manufacturer's entire line-up.
Hey, it worked for Apple.
But first the Surface Phone must look, feel and perform like a winner. To this end, Microsoft can dip into its secret stash of moldable magnesium to deliver a handset design unlike any other. And Microsoft can also use Surface Phone as a halo product for the entire Windows Phone platform, introducing a new smartphone version of Office, and even greater synergy with Microsoft's greater software arsenal.
Sorry, Microsoft, your current tablets' 10.6-inch displays just can't deliver a comfortable desktop productivity experience. My job demands broad swaths of screen real estate for multiple open browser windows and chat clients, leaving your puny tablet screens woefully lacking in elbow room. The solution? Deliver a portable companion display that doubles the screen size offered by Surfaces Pro and RT.
Microsoft could outright steal Lenovo's concept for a mobile display.
Lenovo is already going down this path with the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p. This 13.3-inch, 1600-by-900 display comes in both wired and wireless versions, and offers full 10-point multitouch to support Windows 8 gestures. It's also 0.6-inch at its thickest point. Throw it in your travel bag, and when you reach your hotel room, it becomes part two of a generous multi-monitor workstation.
Microsoft can steal this concept, and Surface the hell out of it: Clad it in VaporMg, strap on a kickstand, and maybe even throw in a clever tethering adapter that leverages the Surface Pro's Mini DisplayPort. Of course, this scheme only makes sense if the installed base of Surface tablets grows large enough to warrant such an accessory, but spitballing ideas never hurts.
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