Still, Microsoft has managed to pull off a transformation like the one it needs in mobile before. The company's Surface line went from a punchline to a billion-dollar business over the past three years, with its competitors racing to copy Microsoft's design of a tablet with a detachable keyboard. The Surface Pro line kicked off a whole market of 2-in-1 portables which can be used as both tablets and laptops, and has proven massively popular.
It always comes back to the apps, though, and that's where the two markets diverge. One of the advantages the Surface Pro 3 has is that it's able to run Windows desktop apps, which is a much broader set of programs than those just available through the Windows Store.
Meanwhile, there's another issue: Microsoft isn't producing as broad a range of phones as Nokia used to. The company seems to be banking on third-party handset manufacturers to pick up some of the slack, which is a difficult proposition. After all, those are the same handset makers Microsoft implicitly snubbed when it bought Nokia's devices and services business, and building Windows phones doesn't seem like a great path toward massive sales. Ultimately, it remains to be seen just what Microsoft can do in a very competitive, crowded market.
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