Microsoft failed miserably the last time they tried to “marry” their mobile operating system Windows Phone with Nokia devices. So this time they’ve taken the back door entrance back into the smartphone market. This week, Microsoft will practically be fighting the iPhone 7 for the media limelight as it launches the Surface Phone at IFA 2016 in Berlin that runs until September 7, when the iPhone 7 will officially be unveiled.
A Broken Device History
Microsoft has never been good with hardware. Software, yes, most definitely, but Microsoft hardly has a presence in making hardware except for its gaming console, the Xbox, keyboards, mice, the Zune media player and a few other peripherals that never really hit the mainstream market. Of course, there’s also HoloLens but it’s too early to tell what kind of sales we can expect to see since it’s currently focused on commercial applications.
That’s until the Surface family of products were released, the first one being launched on June 18, 2012. Since then, several Surface products have been released for personal use such as hybrid tablet/laptop devices and even the Surface Hub, a large-screen TV-like gadget that’s being sold to enterprise customers who want to collaborate with Office 365, Skype, Stream and other software applications from Microsoft.
This week, the Surface Phone will likely be unveiled, but it seems that Microsoft is getting almost as good as Apple at keeping things behind a thick wall of secrecy. So far, we’ve only heard rumors about the Surface Phone, and here’s what we know.
The Surface Phone from Microsoft
Remember these are just rumors, but some of them sound credible enough so I’m just going to list out everything. In fact, we’re not even sure if Microsoft will be attending IFA 2016 let alone announce the Surface Phone or even Surface Pro 5, for that matter. So here goes…
Surface Phone is expected to replace Lumia 950 and 950XL
- The Surface Phone will run on Windows 10 Mobile, the new operating system from Microsoft modified for smartphones. Several Lumia models have already been released with Windows 10 Mobile
- The entry-level variant will have 32GB memory and 3GB RAM
- The high-end is expected to carry an 8GB RAM, making it faster than some laptops
- One top-end model could have up to 500GB of memory, but 128GB will likely be the highest they’ll go. (iPhone 7 Plus is expected to come out with a 256GB variant)
- No Intel inside after the chipmaker sold its mobile chipset division. The Surface Phone is expected to run on either Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 or 830 processor
- 5.5-inch or 5.7-inch AMOLED display. iPhone 7 will still have LCD, but they’re doing away with it as of the 2017 iPhone 8 in favor of OLED and microLED.
- It will likely come fully loaded with all your favorite Microsoft software like Skype, Office 365 productivity suite, etc.
- It can be connected to a computer on PC mode, and you can use the screen like a trackpad. This is part of their Continuum philosophy of a seamless experience across devices.
Why is the Surface Phone’s Success Critical to Microsoft?
After the Nokia fiasco Microsoft sold its interest in Nokia’s feature phone division but retained the smartphone segment. In an attempt to once again break into the mobile operating system market dominated by Google’s Android (66.87% market share) and iOS (27.2% market share), Microsoft needs a successful device to increase its meager 2.3% market share. With only 2.3 million units of Lumia sold in the last quarter, Microsoft is already losing the little market share it has.
As for competing with iPhone 7, that’s going to be a tough nut to crack and I don’t think Microsoft is even going after that angle. They’re more focused on getting market share than outshining Apple, which has dominated the mobile device space for nearly 10 years now.
The rumor of the IFA 2016 release could be wrong, but it doesn’t really matter. Whenever it’s released – along with the Surface Pro 5 in October or even early in 2017 as originally planned – it’s going to decide the future of Microsoft smartphones. They’re not likely to get a third shot at this, not with Android and iOS even stronger now than when Microsoft bought Nokia.
But if Microsoft can gain even 5% market share in mobile operating systems, that’s a major win for them and a huge validation of CEO Satya Nadella’s “mobile first, cloud first” vision for Microsoft’s future.
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