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Rumored Surface phone reveals a Microsoft that's taking no chances

By

October 2, 2012

Will a Surface smartphone be joining the upcoming tablet?

Will a Surface smartphone be joining the upcoming tablet?

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The mobile computing market is at a critical juncture. Though Apple's iOS and Google's Android have established themselves as the leading platforms (by a long shot), there's still a window of opportunity for Microsoft. The king of desktop PCs fell behind early, but the smartphone and tablet markets may still be young enough to give Redmond a shot.

Microsoft apparently knows the pressure is on and is springing into action. BGR and China Times have independently reported that – in addition to its upcoming Surface tablets – Microsoft is in the late stages of developing its own smartphone. The device would reportedly release in early 2013, and would also be branded as Surface.

Microsoft's gamble on Nokia has produced some beautiful Lumia phones, but the sexy devices haven't found much traction with customers. If these new reports are true, then Microsoft is showing again that it's willing to tick off anyone in order to secure its long-term foothold in the post-PC era.

Turning Point

If the Surface phone rumors are true, how happy will Nokia be? (Digitally altered image)
If the Surface phone rumors are true, how happy will Nokia be? (Digitally altered image)

The next year will be especially critical. Microsoft needs to take its wild card status, and turn it into an Ace of Spades. Specifically, Surface needs to be a big hit. If Microsoft can establish its own Windows 8 tablet as a serious challenger to the iPad, then it will have an inroad with customers.

This sensational entrance is necessary, because the smartphone market presents an even more daunting challenge. Millions of smartphone owners have already invested years of their money (as well as passion and comfort) into the iOS and Android ecosystems. It won't be easy to convince them to change course. Gaining foothold with the Surface tablet could provide the halo effect that Steve Ballmer and company need.

If, several months from now, millions of customers own and love their new Surface tablets, they'll be much more likely to consider a Surface smartphone. Though Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 are still separate pieces of software, they share the Metro (or whatever Microsoft calls it now) interface. This feeds into that halo effect, creating a mental association with what Microsoft hopes will be "the sensational Surface tablet." This gives Redmond a fighting chance.

There are a lot of "if's" here, though, and it all starts with Surface. Early signs point to it being a great piece of hardware, but even that won't guarantee great sales (just ask Nokia CEO Stephen Elop). The hardware, software, marketing, and timing all need to be damn-near pitch perfect.

An Epic Comeback?

Microsoft is ready to come out swinging (Digitally altered image)
Microsoft is ready to come out swinging (Digitally altered image)

Over the last few years, Microsoft has reinvented its style. The company, which has historically carried a stodgy image, now makes sexy devices. The new Microsoft may be one of the most exciting players in tech and it's got a decent sized war-chest to back itself up. No matter what platform you're a fan of, it's hard not to be rooting for a historical comeback.

What do you think: does Microsoft stand a chance in mobile? Or is the game already decided? Sound off in the comments!

Sources: BGR and China Times

Some image elements sampled from Writing for Designers, JIA Mom's Blog, WP Sauce, CIO, and BKBN

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
16 Comments

I think it's about the apps. I think it's possible for a Surface phone to be successful in part because they have a big developer community.

Just because it's possible doesn't mean it will happen though. If I were in their shoes though because of the late start I'm not sure if I would sit on the sidelines and wait for 3rd party developers to write all the apps people commonly use.

I think they would get a lot more traction if they created a separate dev team and tasked them with just writing free apps for the store (and potentially libraries for the community) to help push things a long a little.

Daishi
3rd October, 2012 @ 02:18 am PDT

It's never too late. Technology is still in its infancy. As far as I know there are still billions of people not living in the "digital age." Futhermore population is projected to grow another 33% the next 50 years. Too late? Hardly.

Jason Sprouse
3rd October, 2012 @ 03:25 am PDT

Well if you ask me, the day we think that the "Game is already decided", is the day innovation and creativity dies.

As said before apps would play a major role while attempting to penetrate. But, I still think that apart from the kind and the qty of apps a given platform has, it always comes down to the hardware and the ease of use the core OS provides. In the words of the great Steve Jobs "People who are serious about software should make their own hardware."

Having quoted that I think that if microsoft goes ahead and makes a super sturdy phone with premium appeal, then it would have actually made really good hardware to go along with their already praised software.

This is the 1st for microsoft and generally microsoft firsts are really strong.

Saying that it would actually be very hard to dominate the Apple n Android ecosystems for now. But, if the product delivered is actually just that good then it is Apple today, may be Android tomorrow and Microsoft in the future.

Adnan Raja
3rd October, 2012 @ 06:36 am PDT

I have a lot of faith in MS whatever the naysayers keep saying. They do make mistakes, but they also come out with some of the best products. I still can't believe how useful Windows XP has been to billions of users since its launch in 2001. I still use it.

MS tablets and phones will be a huge hit, and a huge hit to Apple iOS as well

Atul Malhotra
3rd October, 2012 @ 08:10 am PDT

- Microsoft isn't structured for creativity.

- From the CEO down, it doesn't have people with a zeal that they are making the best thing in the world.

- While they can make some good products once in a while they are no match for aapl.

Why don't they do something they can win at, instead of doing something they have lousy odds in?

Siddharth Mehta
3rd October, 2012 @ 08:15 am PDT

Not everyone can afford Apple, and not everyone is so daring as to use Android. There are tons of people using feature phones, not smart phones because they can't afford one and are afraid of the other.

MS can step in and suck them all up. as the previous comments have pointed out it's going to be about the apps.

Put out enough fun, interesting, useful apps, free or at very low cost, and their hearts and minds will follow

Tom Phoghat Sobieski
3rd October, 2012 @ 08:55 am PDT

I've been buying Windows phones for many years, and will do so many years to come, and my reason are threefold: 1. It is familiar. 2.It evolves. 3.Its not Apple or Android.

Tom Arr
3rd October, 2012 @ 10:28 am PDT

If the surface tablets actually run existing windows programs they might (might) be a huge hit. Especially if they come with the usual tablet goodies like GPS, navigation, 4G, and ease of operation.

That being said, I think Android is a much better tablet/smartphone system than iOs but Apple still leads the pack; first commers have ahead start that's tough to overcome.

MS is third out of the gate and the whole herd of smartphones and tablets is a very long way down the road. There might be shortcuts to head them off but I don't think the "metro" interface is one of them.

So my gut feeling is that Microsoft is headed for tough times (remember IBM?)

Richard Chesher
3rd October, 2012 @ 12:23 pm PDT

I'm all into android right now. But I had been running windows mobile devices up until then.

I would like to give the new phones a try, but they're not that widely available. And in my opinion Microsoft should consider or gear it's new windows 8 platform for tablets only.

Snatr
3rd October, 2012 @ 12:33 pm PDT

LOL - This has about as much chance at success, as a re-launch of betamax videocassette-recorders would have.

Microsoft is the world biggest committee, and everything they touch comes out dumbed-down so far that it ends up being it's own worst enemy.

Familiarity was the *only* thing going for Microsoft, and they've tossed that out the window - LOL - Metro - that's "Windows, without Windows" - they've even made their own *name* irrelevant.

Go take a look around silicon valley - in the parks, libraries, hackerspaces, meetups, offices, etc - it's wall to wall Mac and iPhones (with the occasional Android or Blackberry). Microsoft is already gone.

christopher
3rd October, 2012 @ 06:23 pm PDT

The second decade of the 21st century may well become "the era of the tablet wars"

nutcase
3rd October, 2012 @ 06:55 pm PDT

Metro as pointed out seems a death sentence. The more microsoft follows the path of operating systems for idiots, the faster they assure demise.

Even windows phone 7 no-longer features simple file managing access like older versions did. Either society as a whole are becoming less intelligent and equipped to handle basic file management as was once done or microsoft have forgotten the computer literate and are trying to chase the chumps that are already sold on icrap.

Android appears to be the next dominant "microsoft" due to it's open source attitude and support for almost all codecs (if not all). More flexibility = more uses and exposure = more integration = dominance.

p.s. android too need to offer "out of the box" file management to secure this with dedi graphics and hardcore processor options instead of this kiddyware crap currently on offer.

Murray Smart
3rd October, 2012 @ 08:04 pm PDT

I read something about the surface tablet costing like $800 and if you try to buy a Windows 8 phone without a contract (non-subsidized) it'll run you about $700. And people call Apple expensive! I tried using an older Windows Phone and the thing that I found lacking were the apps. Apple has tens of thousands, Android has thousands, but the Windows app market was slim pickings. I suppose this could improve over time. But, new users need a nice selection of free (and premium) apps to make them want to switch. The other thing I don't really like is that the Windows Phone 8 with the (not) Metro interface is all about social networking. That's great if you are a big Facebook, Twitter, IM / chat user. But, I'm not really big into that stuff so it has very litte appeal for me.

Ken Dawson
3rd October, 2012 @ 09:38 pm PDT

I am looking forward to being able to buy a tablet with a full operating system, bring on windows 8. I need a new laptop and the larger convertible tablets/laptops that are in the pipeline are looking very appealing. I predict that windows 8 will prove to be very popular, and iOS and android will have to quickly become more fully featured or die.

Bob64
3rd October, 2012 @ 10:19 pm PDT

The future is about interconnectivity and that is what Win8 OS represents. It's not about timing, early or late but evolution.

Munoz-Nieves Jose
4th October, 2012 @ 07:04 pm PDT

I have stayed away from Tablets because I am looking for 2 specific features. 1. Ultra low power consumption in idle / background mode. 2. Ability to reliably download large files in HTTP mode which may require logging into the host web site.

So far I haven't seen this capability on the Android platform. This may exist under iOS but I most certainly can't justify the extremely overpriced devices. I am waiting for the MS platform devices to be introduced in the market. If it provides these 2 functionalities it will be a big plus and will most certainly go to the next step of price performance considerations.

pmshah
4th October, 2012 @ 07:45 pm PDT
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