Is Microsoft Surface Phone Coming in 2017? Another Windows 10 Phone Might Hit First

Surface Phone in 2017, or a "bridge" device for testing

We’ve been speculating on the release of Microsoft’s Surface Phone for several months now, but recent information suggest that the Redmond giant isn’t ready to launch it in 2017. The reason: a Microsoft ex-employee (employed by a contractor) says there are delays with Redstone 3, the major Windows 10 update that was expected to drop in the Fall of 2017.

The other bit of news brought by this source was that Microsoft will, in fact, release a Windows 10 phone this year, but it will not carry the Surface Phone branding. Moreover, it is expected to only run Win32 apps from Windows Store. The key feature here is the first view of CShell and its first elements and functions.

Essentially, CShell is an adaptive shell that allows Windows 10 to be device-agnostic. That means it will let Windows 10 automatically adapt to any device that it’s installed on. It’s a highly disruptive method, and is believed to be part of Microsoft’s Andromeda project – the same name Google is using for its Android-ChromeOS hybrid operating system.

That could imply several things:

  • Microsoft may have decided to first release a Surface Phone-like device to test out CShell’s basic functionality because of delays to Redstone 3. That means it will come with Windows 10 Creators Update (mobile), which we expect will be released to the public no later than April 11
  • The Windows 10 phone planned for this year will be a predecessor to Surface Phone, which is being touted for its ability to bring the full desktop experience to mobile devices using Windows 10 on ARM architecture
  • Surface Phone may only be released in late 2018 with full desktop app emulation capability using the Windows 10 on ARM approach

Those are the talking points around Microsoft’s smartphone plans for the immediate future, but that’s only assuming the source is reliable and accurate.

If it’s not accurate, that could mean a Surface Phone launch in 2017, with Windows 10 on ARM that can emulate desktop applications on mobile devices.

This is the first conflicting report we’ve seen on the release date for Surface Phone. Unfortunately, we have no way of validating this information or refuting it, since it came via an anonymous post by the aforementioned ex-employee on Reddit.

However, a similar report surfaced on a German website, Windows United, which added that Microsoft could be using the Windows 10 Mobile smartphone coming in 2017 will do two things:

  • Introduce users to the new concept, as outlined by Qualcomm
  • Collect field experience for Microsoft, which will help refine the development of Surface Phone

One of the indicators for such a phone coming this year, which forms the initial bridge to the Surface Phone, is the introduction of more UWP apps – specifically, Win32 ports. If that happens, then a phone with Windows Store-only access might be quite appealing for fans who are already biting their nails in anticipation.

That said, Microsoft may well accomplish everything needed for a Surface Phone release in 2017 rather than later. The device is critical to their re-entry into the smartphone industry, and Nadella has already made it amply clear that Microsoft is not going to be just another smartphone player.

Two questions now beg answering:

  • Does Microsoft already have the puzzle parts in place to put together a Surface Phone for a 2017 release?
  • If not, would it be a wise move for Microsoft to release an early test device to the market before Surface Phone is ready?

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