It is no secret that Microsoft’s Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile platform is not doing so great. Despite the release of the high-end Lumia 950 and even higher end Lumia 950 XL, as well as the subsequent release of Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has yet to make any real headway into denting Android or iOS sales.
I’ve expressed my dismay at how Windows 10 Mobile has rolled out. The whole thing has seemed very stretched out, and already there have been a couple of compromised promises. I was not happy that my old Lumia 928, which received Insider Previews for Windows 10 Mobile, ended up not being officially supported. I didn’t enjoy my Windows Phone experience enough to jump headfirst into buying a new Lumia 950 without knowing how Windows 10 Mobile would work (although with the new BOGO sale, I just might). In that article where I claimed that Microsoft shot itself in the foot, I said that I had lost hope for Microsoft to succeed with Windows 10 Mobile.
But perhaps the best really is yet to come.
Shortly after I wrote another article talking about the mythical Surface Phone, which may or may not have been more than just an idea at the time. However, recent rumors further suggest that a Surface Phone will actually exist with an aimed release date around April of 2017.
I’m as sick as anybody of hearing about how this or that might save Windows 10 Mobile, but damnit, I just want the platform to succeed. The interface is good, the cameras are good, but the ecosystem blows. So what would a Surface Phone do any different that would change the state of Windows 10 Mobile?
The phone itself probably wouldn’t do much other than create a much-needed branding unification. Microsoft’s Surface is arguably the best hybrid PC/tablet experience on the market right now, and has gained a solid following since its inception. Taking the Surface name and applying it to smartphones seems logical enough, especially considering both devices aim to be a 2-in-1 of some sort (tablet is a 2-in-1 PC/tablet, current Lumia phones support Continuum, which lets your phone essentially act as a PC – a Surface Phone would likely keep and hone on this concept).
Probably the more important rumor that accompanies the Surface Phone rumor is that Microsoft may be focusing on “innovating mobile” over the next year with updates under codename Redstone 2 and Redstone 3. It’s also rumored that the Surface Phone would place a heavy focus on security and productivity, which could be good or bad depending on how you look at it. BlackBerry also focused on security and productivity, but they’ve recently jumped on board with Android. I think putting a focus on security and productivity is a good thing, but Microsoft also needs to recognize that even professionals want to use their phones for recreational purposes when not at work – and these days, it’s not hard to find a phone that can already handle both work and personal life (such as the BlackBerry Priv).
I’m a little concerned about the April 2017 date being “too late”, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like a non-issue. Microsoft needs something awe-inspiring to generate renewed interest in the platform, and that kind of thing doesn’t usually happen overnight. I think if Windows 10 Mobile and the Lumia 950s had generated a ton of interest, I would be worried about losing potential momentum; but that momentum isn’t really there, so taking longer to perfect a product would be a smarter solution than trying to come out with something fast and half-finished.
I was ready to give up hope on Microsoft, but the hopeless dreamer in me just won’t let it go. Here’s to hoping the Surface Phone is real, and that it can someday be the first step for Microsoft towards a brighter future for their smartphones.