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A Microsoft Surface Phone sure to come, but unlikely at MWC

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 26, 2016
'What the heck will Windows 10 be for mobile?' analyst asks.

Narcotta said Microsoft has been mostly quiet about the Surface Phone partly because "they are trying to figure out what the device will do" because there are dozens of device objectives to address. "They don't just want hardware, they want to use the hardware as the tip of the spear so that Windows 10 can run the same on the tablet or mobile device," he said. "Surface Phone is a bit about the phone itself, but much more about Windows 10 as the optimal platform for all business needs, regardless of device or form factor."

The ability to run Windows 10 on all hardware platforms has been the objective of Microsoft for at least two years. Because Microsoft's marketing message has been less than clear about how that cross-platform approach will work for smartphones, some IT shops have become impatient.

Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela gave some hints in a December interview about the need for something like a Surface Phone, without referring to it by name.

"We're clearly very cognizant of our position in the phone world, and frankly we've done the hard yards to retrench and have an approach that, in this coming year, is very much about trying to satisfy our fans, and trying to have a great success in the business world, for businesses who want to buy phones for their employees," Capossela said.

"We need some sort of spiritual equivalent [to Surface Pro] on the phone side that doesn't just feel like it's a phone for people who love Windows," the CMO added. "It's got to be a phone where it's like, 'Wow, that's a real shock or that's a real breakthrough and that's going to make me pause before I buy my 17th iPhone.' And we need time to actually go build that."

Microsoft has already made some headway with its Continuum concept, which allows a Lumia 950 or 950XL user to connect those Windows 10 phones to a large display, full keyboard and mouse where it acts as the compute power for those other devices. Microsoft has been offering a Display Dock for $99 in the Microsoft Store to make the Continuum connection for the Lumia.

Display Dock, which is about the size of a cigarette pack and with seven different ports, was first announced in October.

Moorhead said he uses a Lumia 950 with a Display Dock to connect to a large display with 1080p resolution. "It could be the long-term future of the smartphone, where the smartphone becomes your only device," he said.

The biggest problem is that Display Dock doesn't work with phones running Android or iOS, the lions of the smartphone market.


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