Ever since word got out that Microsoft was planning to release a mobile device – dubbed Surface Phone – that would run the full Windows 10 version, speculation, rumors, leaks and genuine information have been flooding the Internet – for nearly two years now.
While it looks like Surface Phone is still a long way away, what is this “Cellular PC” that Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf spoke about during his company’s recent earnings call? More importantly, is it the same as Surface Phone or is it something else altogether?
To clarify, there’s no such device called the Surface Phone.
Shocked? Don’t be, because Microsoft has never publicly announced its intention to release a device called “Surface Phone”. They’ve occasionally referred to a “Windows phone” and “spiritual equivalent on the phone side, that doesn’t just feel like a phone for people who love Windows,” but never have they said they’re working on a Surface Phone.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella did refer to an “ultimate mobile device” at one time, but that’s about it.
Everything else about “Surface Phone” is based on speculation and rumors.
That said, rather than an actual product, the Surface Phone name is now being used as a ‘tag’ applied to the next major move that Microsoft is going to make in the mobility space.
When you look at it from that perspective, the Cellular PC that’s planned for a Q4 2017 release is the Surface Phone, in principle, even though it may not be called Surface Phone.
Let’s look at it another way.
Surface Phone has always been thought of as a mobile device that would be able to run desktop applications and UWP apps from Windows Store, and would have the full version of Windows 10. Correct?
That’s exactly what the Cellular PC device will be. But will it be called Surface Phone? We think not.
Microsoft is aware that there are, by now, too many negative associations with the name ‘Surface Phone.’ Use that name, and everyone is naturally going to compare it with iPhone or Google Pixel or even Samsung’s S and Note series smartphones.
Like I’ve said before, Surface Phone is NOT a smartphone. It is exactly what Nadella called it: the ultimate mobile device.
Why? Because it ‘marries’ two very disparate and divergent device concepts – desktops and mobile devices – The Great Device Divide.
The concept behind Surface Phone is that it has the form factor of a mobile device with the robust functionality of a traditional PC.
You can pair it with a keyboard and mouse, extend it to a desktop monitor or use it as a mobile device with tap, swipe, type and pen inputs. You can carry it around in your pocket or handbag, or you can use it like you would a desktop, without the need to carry a laptop or a tablet.
You’ll be able to do everything you can on a desktop, and everything you can on a smartphone. And it will be “always connected” because it’s essentially a cellular device.
It is a category-defining device, and make no mistake about that. Surface Phone as a product may never arrive, but the Cellular PC is the first step in the direction of that “ultimate mobile device” Nadella spoke about.
With the Cellular PC, you’ll be able to run UWP apps and Win32 apps, giving you the reach that no mobile operating system can. Hopefully, it will spur more developers into creating UWP versions of their apps, putting an even greater distance between the Cellular PC and devices running mobile operating systems like iOS, Android, Tizen and so on.
Future “Surface Phone” devices will further blur the lines between desktop and mobile, but the Cellular PC will be remembered as a major milestone in the ambitious attempt to converge the desktop and smartphone experiences that are now so far away from each other.
Who knows, the Cellular PC may well be called the Surface Bridge One, to signify the start of a cross-over from a device-specific experience to a device-independent one.