Late last year, we heard about Microsoft's next big move: The planned acquisition of Nokia's Devices & Services division. As you can imagine, back then there was a lot of back-and-forth, most of it focused on the fact that Microsoft was planning to eat the only company that was actually supporting their mobile platform, Windows Phone. On the flip-side, though, Microsoft's aspirations to become a bigger hardware and services company, as they've showcased with their Surface-branded devices, was pretty clear in the move.
Microsoft doesn't want to be the company that just creates the software and lets it out into the world. They're not going to stop doing that, obviously, but they're also not going to just let that be the only thing they do. The Surface tablets were grouped shots over the bow, and now Microsoft has set their sights on the mobile market.
Right after the announcement of Microsoft's plans, I wrote up a quick piece that we're now one step closer to a Surface phone, and that's obviously still the case. We're now a few months into 2014, but I have no doubt that Microsoft has already been hard at work on their first in-house smartphone, of which will more than likely adopt the Surface branding. In a perfect world, I'd like to see this handset get launched later this year, but I won't hold my breath. Checked expectations are important.
The thing is, Windows Phone needs new hardware.
Don't get me wrong, we have seen new smartphones launch with Microsoft's mobile platform on board, but none of the launches have garnered much attention. Samsung and Nokia recently launched new handsets, but they were both Verizon exclusives, so that immediately dropped the devices from a lot of people's radar. There have been other launches, but some of them were just international releases, and others were quiet as church mice.
With the acquisition complete, Microsoft's gobbled up the only manufacturer that was genuinely supporting Windows Phone. The Lumia brand was pushing Windows Phone into the hands of consumers, more so than any other out there. This immediately puts a lot of pressure on Microsoft. Now it's up to them, and they've got to figure out a way to harness that momentum Nokia has built up.
The Lumia brand will stick around for awhile, I think. There are still those reports floating around that say we've got two more Nokia Lumia-branded devices headed through the pipe, to land sometime around June running Windows Phone 8.1 right out of the box, but they've dropped out of circulation through the Rumor Mill as of late. Even if the Nokia tag is removed and replaced with Microsoft on the final products, I'd still wager that they carry the Lumia name.
I'm honestly very excited about this merger, because it's putting a lot of the focus on Microsoft, where it should be when it comes to Windows Phone. The competition is heating up, because Microsoft isn't going to aim low here. Microsoft, if they can realistically launch their smartphone this year, should pit it against LG's upcoming device, Motorola's, Apple's and Samsung's, too.
That would be an incredibly hard fight, though. All of those companies are releasing successors to previously launched devices, and handsets that were pretty popular, too. The Surface phone would be brand new in all of the ways that matter, but there's a lot of focus and positive talk for Windows Phone 8.1, which I'm sure will only continue throughout the year. With a hardware design worthwhile, it could potentially take off.
We'll just have to wait and see what happens, though. Like I said, I'm not holding my breath to see a Surface phone this year, but I'd love to welcome it with open arms. Whatever happens, I'm just happy Microsoft is now gearing up to launch their own devices. Here's to hoping it's worth the wait.