Over several recent articles, we’ve spoken about why Windows 10 Creators Update was crucial to Microsoft, Windows 10 adoption rates and the whole Surface device experience.
Meanwhile, another, even bigger and more significant update is already in the works. Redstone 3, expected to release in Fall 2017, is the other piece of the Windows 10 adoption puzzle for 2017, as well as the matter of a firm Surface Phone release date.
Redstone 3 is the next big update that will drop after Windows 10 Creators Update is released on March 31, 2017. The update is expected to bring some significant design changes to Windows 10 that are already part of a project codenamed NEON. The Metro 2 design language used for Redstone 3 will bring in several major UI changes and a very different user experience.
So, which one is more important to Microsoft – Windows 10 Creators Update, or the follow-up Redstone 3 that should hit before the holidays?
The answer to that question is manifold.
From a Windows 10 adoption rate perspective, Creators Update is obviously more important because it’s coming first. Microsoft is depending on it to attract more people to the Windows 10 fold, specifically the 47% of PC users that are still sitting on Windows 7. The sooner it comes, the faster Microsoft can expect an uptick in Windows 10 user base growth.
But from a Surface device viewpoint, especially Surface Phone, Redstone 3 has one massive new feature that will revolutionize smartphones as well know them. It’s codenamed Cobalt, as far as we know, and it brings x86 on ARM64 emulation to the table.
This ability of Redstone 3 might be what’s actually deciding the release date for Surface Phone. In fact, it appears to be the only thing stopping Microsoft from releasing Surface Phone sooner rather than later.
What we know at this point is that the Build 2017 conference to be held from May 10 to 12 is likely to see a launch of the Redstone 3 update by whatever name Microsoft has planned for it. If Cobalt is, in fact, a part of Redstone 3, then we may well see a glimpse of Surface Phone running desktop apps and what is effectively the full-blown version of Windows 10 on a mobile device.
But if that’s true, then we may not see anything of Surface Phone until Redstone 3 is ready for a preview build, at least.
Of course, that’s not to say that Creators Update isn’t a significant one. Far from it, Windows 10 Creators Update is exactly what Microsoft needs now in order to build momentum for Windows 10 adoption. Not only does it bring a slew of enterprise security features that is absolutely critical for business users, but it also brings several consumer-focused goodies like Windows Holographic, Game Mode and so on.
The question now is, will Microsoft be okay to sacrifice a quantum leap in Continuum efforts just because they need to release Surface Phone as early as possible? Because that’s exactly what will happen if Surface Phone launches before Redstone 3 is ready.
One possibility is that Microsoft will release the Surface Pro 5 with Windows 10 Creators Update as a stop-gap measure – and to satisfy some of the pent-up demand for a new mobile Surface device – but will wait for Redstone 3 to come of age before releasing Surface Phone.
Surface Phone is a critical product because what it represents is a whole lot more than the device itself. This could be Microsoft’s very last shot at the smartphone segment with its self-branded hardware. So it’s imperative that they get it right, and that they get it right the very first time.
Two challenges face Microsoft at this point in time: the first is a sluggish Windows 10 adoption rate, which should pick up once Windows 10 Creators Update drops; the second is their re-entry into the smartphone market in a big way, for which everyone’s hopes are pinned on the major changes that Redstone 3 is expected to bring.
Let’s wait and see what really happens.
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