Is Microsoft ready to give up on Windows phones?

By | November 1, 2016

windows phone 10, microsoft, mobileIt’s curiously enough, but some observers assume the future of Windows phones is not phones themselves.

Rumors surrounding a category-defining Surface phone gave rise to a great number of heated discussions and erupted into real dissatisfaction with Microsoft after its press event last Wednesday. How could it be that the company didn’t even make casual mention of Windows 10 Mobile? Nor customers neither partners properly understand why anyone should bother investing in Microsoft’s mobile strategy.

The situation wasn’t even clarified by Terry Myerson, Microsoft executive vice president of Windows and Devices. Obscurity became more preferable than clarity.

“Technically, there are really two things that are unique about Windows Mobile,” Myerson said, when asked why Microsoft was wasting time upgrading Windows 10 Mobile. “One is cellular connectivity and the other one is the ARM processors that are there.”

“So we’re going to continue to invest in ARM and cellular,” Myerson added. “And while I’m not saying what type of device, I think we’ll see devices there, Windows devices, that use ARM chips. I think we’ll see devices that have cellular connectivity.”

Not phones, but devices

No one heard a word “phones” pronounced by Myerson. However, there would be a “tablet” instead. It’s likely to be an ARM-based tablet, perhaps one with cellular connectivity, but not a phone.

To sum up, up-to-date Windows phones run on ARM processors from Qualcomm and others, using Windows 10 Mobile. But as regards Windows tablets, they do not. At one point, of course, they did: the original Surface ran on Windows RT, a version of Windows designed for ARM chips. But consumers earnestly and completely refused the Windows RT tablets, and, as it’s reported, Microsoft scrapped a smaller “Surface Mini” that may or may not have run Surface RT.

Instead, Microsoft doubled down on the Surface Pro 3, which went on to become the Windows tablet that made it easier to define Surface and Windows tablets in general. Microsoft promoted development on what it saw to be a more successful realization of Windows 10 running on top of ARM: Windows phones.

From the position of the observers, it’s a riddle why Microsoft cannot stop developing of Windows 10 Mobile and continue to release its own Lumia hardware, or why ARM and cellular connectivity are thought to be differentiating features for Microsoft alone — and not, you know, every phone ever made. Why didn’t Myerson highlight Continuum, Microsoft’s phone-as-PC argument? Or virtualized Win32 apps, as HP’s Passport uses? He’s an honest man, though, so he’s more likely to answer the question in the way Microsoft is now solving the problem.

No one puts absolute trust in Myerson. But why not to give him a little credit? How often do we use  smartphones for their intended purpose? As screen sizes balloon, phones are evolving more into data-driven messaging and computing devices than simple squawk boxes.

One hardly believes that the cratering of Microsoft’s phone business belongs to any master plan to usher in the next big thing. But the door’s still open for something breathtaking to arise from Microsoft’s mobile business. If Myerson is to be believed, however, it may not be a phone.

The original article was firstly published by PCWorld.

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