Microsoft Surface Phone: The Remarkable ‘Re-Entry’ In Mobile Ecosystem?

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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is a fallen soldier in the smartphone battlegrounds. Even people fond of the Windows OS didn’t prefer it much on their mobile devices. The company once ruled the mobile market in the 2000s but later failed to stand against the rivals like Android and iOS. The acquisition of Nokia in 2014 was meant to catapult Microsoft back to the top smartphone player, but even the Finnish company failed to prosper much in the hands of world’s largest software development company. Lack of better handsets, frequent Windows Mobile updates and fewer windows apps led to the downfall of Microsoft in smartphone space.

But that was not the end for the Microsoft in smartphone space. The company’s unified approach of running Windows 10 across various platforms was company’s next big bet.

We have already seen Windows 10 powers devices like Xbox One console and HoloLens, similarly Windows 10 Mobile was the edition of Windows 10 for smartphones. But the efforts didn’t result in much of market response and encouragement. Last year, Microsoft’s corporate VP for Windows, Joe Belfiore, decided to stop the development of any new feature or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile. Basically, Microsoft removed phone-related APIs from Windows 10 Fall Creator Update. Microsoft’s rapidly declining phone sales clearly suggest that the Windows Phone platform has been dead long before Microsoft gutted its phone business. Windows phone sales have taken a nosedive and the market share has collapsed to near 0.1%.

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It was apparently the final nail in the coffin of Microsoft smartphone phone. People no longer talk about Windows Mobile OS and the industry became a two-horse race. Little did we know that Microsoft has not given up on its dreams completely.

Microsoft Surface Phone: A Foldable Device

Rumors mills are fast churning the information that Microsoft is working on a foldable mobile device. It is based on the Microsoft’s Surface laptops and is likely to be called the “Surface phone“. Patents suggest that the device is quite similar to the never released digital notepad Microsoft Courier. As Satya Nadella has previously mentioned that Microsoft’s future phones won’t look like phones at all. There were heated speculations that a foldable device dubbed under ‘Project Andromeda’ is in works, but it is hard to say that Andromeda will be the Surface Phone. Microsoft has been incredibly silent about the developments of the Surface Phone, but this does reflect a glimpse of hope for the company’s mobile prospects and the limited fans it still has.

Microsoft has started placing mobile APIs back into Windows 10 and it is expected to show in the Redstone 5 update. The development suggests that the software maker is branching its efforts to manufacture smartphone with PC capabilities. The potential Surface Phone is able to adapt to many different modes – from notepad or tablet to a laptop-like form factor. It has a foldable dual screen with a clever hinge mechanism in the centre that powers the two displays. Looks like a dual display folding smartphone is no more a gimmick now.

Microsoft Surface Phone

Will People Adapt To A Dual Screen Handset?

Evidently, 360* foldable laptops and detachable screens have been trending among the tech-savvy. But will people be comfortable with a foldable handset and ditch their smartphones for it is a big question and apparently unpredictable is the answer.

The increasing demand for larger mobile displays has reached a point where mobile screens are consuming almost the entire viewing surface of the phone. Any further increase in size will make it bigger than required or it will end up being called phablet instead of a phone. A folding smartphone can open a door to new features and never like before multitasking. The dual screen foldable smartphone can be considered as an ultra-portable tablet, thus making it more productive than conventional smartphones. But of course, single-screen smartphones are simple and convenient to use, so the user would prefer an uncomplicated interface even if he is willing to fidget with the dual-display. Windows 10 Mobile failed to offer an interface that could compete with the likes of Android and iOS, so the task at hand for Microsoft is to also provide a better user experience rather than just a clever hardware. All said and done, it is quite unlikely that foldable phones can replace the smartphone yet they can prove to be a useful device.

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Surface Phone: Can It Turn The Tides for Microsoft?

This cutting edge technology can mark the re-entry of Microsoft in the smartphone ecosystem. Although, Microsoft has to play its cards wisely to make for the ground it ceded to other OEMs. Rival Samsung is already working on the technology with its long-rumoured foldable phone, Galaxy X, though there is not enough information about it.

The markets of developed nations like the USA and Europe is flooded to the brim and the demand has saturated. Emerging markets like India seem to have more scope for new technologies, but fierce competition and price factor can pose a threat to Microsoft. China’s smartphone market has big shots like Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE plus 1/3rd of Chinese people use iPhones. Here, Microsoft can run the risk of getting lost in the crowd.

Even though the company removed its Lumia devices back in June 2017, leaving only Alcatel’s Idol 4S and HP’s Elite x3 as the only choices for Windows Phone fans. In earlier Feb this year, Microsoft reportedly started selling Lumia devices again, again strengthening the confusion as the OS has been announced dead before. Though the end of support for Windows mobile OS won’t shut down the device and it would continue to get bug fixes and security updates. It didn’t take long for these new Lumia devices to be listed as ‘unavailable’. The drop in sales of Microsoft phones was primarily driven by the lack of Lumia phones. Microsoft’s phone revenue has fallen from $2.6 billion in fiscal Q1 2015 to just $5 million in Q3 2017.

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Microsoft needs to depart from its previous old-school methods and shift its focus to new reformed strategies if it wants to get ahead of the curve. Microsoft is incorporating technologies like Continuum, which allows phones to morph into PCs and works for both Windows 10 tablets and phones, and C-shell (Composable Shell), Microsoft’s upcoming adaptable UI, in the Surface Phone. The launch of Surface Phone is expected to take place by the end of this year. It surely depicts how Microsoft wants to differentiate its smartphone with state of the art design and technology.

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