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Did Microsoft give us a glimpse of its Surface "phone" vision?

I use the term "phone" loosely because the name of the coming ultra-mobile Surface PC is yet to be announced. Make no mistake this device will not be a phone, nor will it be positioned as such. Microsoft has been criticized for and has admitted to missing the smartphone phase of mobile personal computing. And they have wisely chosen not to go head to head with market leaders on that front any longer.

The ultra-mobile Surface will benefit from broad ecosystem investments.

2017 marks ten years since Apple introduced the current age of mobile personal computing. Microsoft, out of necessity and vision has been positioning themselves and their diverse ecosystem for the personal computing device that is "beyond the curve." A collage of technologies from holographic computing and HoloLens, 3D content creation, the Universal Windows Platform, AI and bots the Surface line, mixed-reality (the continuum of technology from augmented to virtual reality) and more position Microsoft's ultra-mobile Surface beyond the smartphone.

Will the Surface Phone be a reimagined Surface Mini

Thinking differently

Admittedly, it's hard to conceive of a mobile personal computing device that makes phone calls and is pocketable but is not a "smartphone." When we begin pondering the various functions of such a device we automatically begin to mentally place its features within categories to which we can relate. Often those functions are inevitably laid parallel to analogous functions our smartphones perform. It is the easiest frame of reference after all. Consequently, once that mental picture is complete, what many people see is what they've always seen: a smartphone.

An ultramobile Surface must be seen from a personal-computing-first perspective .

To envision what I believe Microsoft may be planning as an ultra-mobile Surface we must begin with a personal-computing-first (not phone) perspective. We must think more broadly, creatively and we must follow the money. Microsoft's ecosystem investments of AI, bots, holographic computing, mixed-reality, Continuum, digital ink, context sensitive hardware and software and more are part of Redmond's vision of personal computing and the mobility of experiences.

How all of this comes together for a user on portable (and other) hardware admittedly requires imagination. As Redmond has done with much of the technology they've already brought to market, they've supplied us with images that may represent what they envision as an approach to an ultra-mobile Surface. See mark 2:14 in the video below for a possible peek at that vision.

This is a PC first

The concepts Microsoft presents, appropriately begin with viewing the device as a PC first, not a phone.

Phone calls rank sixth in smartphone activity.

As phone use ranks sixth for smartphone users in one study when compared to personal computing usage, a PC-first perspective allows for a unique and creative approach to hardware form factor design.

Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Windows and Devices, Terry Meyerson, lends further support to this outlook:

Technically, there are really two things that are unique about Windows Mobile. One is cellular connectivity and the other one is the ARM processors....both...have a role in the technical landscape of the future.So we're going to continue to invest in ARM and cellular. And while I'm not saying what type of device...we'll see devices there, Windows devices, that use ARM chips...we'll see devices that have cellular connectivity.

What Myerson was comfortable officially sharing is that there will be future Windows devices based on ARM that will have cellular connectivity. This confirmation coincides with my previous analysis as well as Microsoft's vision for the future.

A picture is worth a thousand words

The following images taken from Microsoft's future vision videos give an idea of foundational concepts Microsoft may be considering for the ultra-mobile Surface.

The first images from the 2009 video reveals a handheld personal computing device (2:14 mark) that can be unfolded to provide additional screen real estate.

An ultramobile Surface may have a foldable/detachable form-factor.

Some fans find this concept desirable.

The video further reveals the device as modular, in that it can be separated into two distinct functional components.

This form-shifting is consistent with the theme of the Surface line.

Another take

The images from the 2015 video reveal a traditional single-component device. Its flexible "digital paper" composition is all but traditional, however.

The video shows this device (1:18 mark) being used for document editing/creation and video calling while being interacted with via touch and a surface-pen like peripheral for digital inking.

An ultra-mobile Surface may have an inking focus.

Consider this: Panos Panay, the man responsible for the coming ultra-mobile Surface keeps his Surface Mini by his bedside and uses it as a digital notepad.

That's a point worth noting as we consider these images, Microsoft's investments and what may be coming.

Though the paper-like medium is obviously more technologically advanced than the industry is ready for, the concept of a larger-than-smartphone-but-smaller-than-a-typical-tablet" PC with an inking and touch focus, capable of cellular connectivity is well within the scope of Microsoft's goals. Might we see a 7" (or more) ultra-mobile Surface PC that includes a pen and headphones(or wireless ear buds)? Some may not want a phone that big, but many may want a telephony- and Continuum-enabled, form-shifting "tablet" PC that small.

See more

If Microsoft is considering a device larger than 6 inches, it will likely be collapsible or foldable for portability — again, that's the kind of advanced tech that's only in laboratories right now. Earbuds/Earphones would also be a likely offered/included peripheral (like the Bluetooth earbuds seen in the videos) to accommodate calls on a device that might be awkward to hold to one's head.

Hard to swallow?

If you find it hard to believe that the concepts above might offer a glimpse at what Microsoft may be considering for an ultra-mobile Surface consider the following:

Real-time translation (2009 video 0:10 mark), Continuum (2011 video 2:24 and 4:10 marks), OS level digital inking (4:29 mark), holographic/3D computing (4:31 mark) computer vision (1:05 mark 2013 video), AR (2015 video 0:01) and large collaborative Surfaces were all concepts that are now reality.

The future rarely feels like the future. As we inch into "tomorrow" the "technology of the future" is slowly assembled into our present daily lives. Consequently, our esteem for "today's" tech invariably pales in comparison to our awe of what still lies ahead. Often the tangible reality of today also makes us skeptical of some of the dreams of tomorrow.

Microsoft has made good on the Surface Hub, Continuum, holographic computing, 3D content creation and other technology the future vision videos present. A collapsable/foldable ultramobile-Surface with a personal computing and inking focus and cellular connectivity may be the next product to become a reality.

Part of a whole

The overarching theme of Microsoft's future vision videos is the mobility of experiences. The focus is never a single device, but digital experiences across a continuum of devices. This vision is also the message that Nadella is consistently communicating as Microsoft's mobile vision.

Microsoft is building a comprehensive ecosystem and family of devices based on a unified platform and cloud computing to facilitate this vision. This ecosystem and platform will only grow more mature with time.

The ultramobile Surface is part of a mobility of experiences vision.

The first ultra-mobile Surface that will launch, likely no sooner than early 2018, will be integrated into this more mature ecosystem. It may not be exactly what we've seen in the videos, but it will certainly be closer than it is today. A category-defining ultra-mobile Surface launching within that context will indeed be beyond the curve – and will most certainly be more than a smartphone.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how AR glasses, akin to those in the onset of the 2009 video, and an anticipated wrist-borne wearable (2015 video) will fit alongside this ultra-mobile Surface in this "continuum of devices" vision.

What's your ultra-mobile Surface vision?

Jason L Ward is a columnist at Windows Central. He provides unique big picture analysis of the complex world of Microsoft. Jason takes the small clues and gives you an insightful big picture perspective through storytelling that you won't find *anywhere* else. Seriously, this dude thinks outside the box. Follow him on Twitter at @JLTechWord. He's doing the "write" thing!

166 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! Almost two years ago back in January 2015 I articulated a notion that Microsoft might bring a reimagined Surface Mini phablet with a pen-focus and telephony to market ("Is a 7" Surface Mini Phablet on the horizon?"). In November 2015 I revisited that thought in another piece, "Will Microsoft's rumored 'Surface Phone' be a re-imagined Surface Mini?" Mary Jo Foley, later echoed that notion on an episode Windows Weekly. It will be interesting to see an ultra-mobile Surface, with elements of the concepts presented in Microsoft's videos. A device that has a strong pen/inking focus, that has a foldout/detachable keyboard/second screen might be pretty cool. :-) I'd love to see how such a device might integrate with AR and a wrist-borne wearable as well. So what are your thoughts? LET'S TALK!!! NOTE: If you're reading this in the app, the picture gallery's may not have been viewable for you. So PLEASE, check this out in the browser, to see the pics!!! Thanks!:-)
  • One thing that really stood out to me was the lack of consumption/entertainment shown in the video. It seemed to be all work based, which is important, but where is the rest of the package (the play part of work and play) for us people who don't work in an office all the time (aircraft mechanic scrub here)?  
  • I see no reason these can't be used for play.
  • Sure, but why not show some of that? I am worried that Microsoft is going the way IBM is and going all buisness...
  • Thing is, if this super device is going to take that long to develope, even if they manage to create a new device category, the Store will have less apps by then, to the point where it won't matter. That's how I see it, and that's why they should have produced more iterations of Lumias while developing this behind the curtains. This would have kept the Store running for a while.
  • In the mean time, if MS doesn't give us some reason to stay, by the time they release something awesome, everyone will be on iOS or Android and, chances are, won't leave.
  • To late already bought an ios
  • I agree with this, was it really that costly to keep making iterations of the Lumias while working on the new device? They could have closely with HP since they have global distribution and have them build and distribute the Lumias so the people do not forget them. Because most of the remaining WP users are Lumia users. If we wait until 2018 for the new device, the Chinese will release something similar or it won't matter by then
  • 200 million $ seems enough?
  • it's true it's a lot of money, so maybe they should have made a partnership with HP just like Apple has with Foxconn. The big retrenchment should have brought at least one of the big OEMs to partially support WP and the delay until X3 will be adopted by the enterprise isn't helping either. If only the Idol 4S was global
  • what's wrong with non-lumias?
  • Take it as a Gorilla Glass 10 waterproof device with advanced touch and gestures controls, foldable, holographic projection screen. That's all future for you.
  • I hope two tiny screens aren't the future.
  • What about two 5" ones? If the 2nd one was just a screen powered by the main unit and could slide both up/down or side to side to extend the display in any direction it would be awesome.
  • I think I've just just invented the Surface Mobile Studio!
  • Not a bad concept.
  • You're like apple. You invented the concept of the concept in Microsoft's future vision you just finished watching
  • I didn't watch them, but now I'll have to.
  • Didn't see anything like I described.
  • @rodneyej not just that, imagine forgetting half of your phone somewhere =D While the article is good and peaks our interest we also need to be realistic (before some users on this board start having unimaginable expectations) The Surface Mobile might introduce a new shift like the Surface Pro, Book and Studio did ...but it would still have to follow some traditional guidelines in terms of form and functionality, just like its bigger Surface siblings. I personally imagine it being akin to the Surface Book but in smaller form with the keyboard being optional and the screen being the device we mostly use. The keyboard would also function as the performance base (also liKe SB) which comes in different memory/storage, power etc specs for when its being used for work. Inking would obviously be a given and I'd guess there would be atleast one more thing Panos will throw in there as the icing on the cake. Something like this I can see as it also fits the Surface portfolio visually but having a phone that is dependant on two screens that are separable, I think is going to far from the tree.
  • I was imagining a device where the front screen could slide away but instead of revealing a keyboard like the old days , a 2nd screen lay underneath housing the hardware. With power and signal provided by terminals at each corner but not detachable. The screen below could be a keyboard, ink slate for drawing/writing or just extra real estate. Certainly within todays capabilities
  • I see what you're saying and it's definitely a great concept but I dont see them going with two screens for the main reasons being cost and second it would be bulky and wouldnt follow the footsteps of the Surface Family design language. Surface Mobile will most probably be at the very least a 5.4" phone if not bigger, adding two screens would bring up the cost and with the Surface Mobile, they're going to have to play it very smart with pricing in order to attract consumers, who they need in order to make that paradigm shift strategy work. I can see this costing around $699-$799 just as the Surface Pro is priced less than the Surface Book and the SB priced less than Surface Studio. It's a great idea but I just dont see MS taking that risk .
  • I think if it doesn't go too far from the tree is useless to build it. Nobody will be interested in it.
  • It will obviously have features that will make it interesting for consumers just like the Surface Pro, Book and Studio ...but just like them, they didnt go too far from the tree to recreate the wheel, they kept what works and what users have become adjusted to, while making the usability and experience more flexible and interesting.
  • That's going to far from the tree but a tiny keyboard that you won't be able to type on isnt? And it's optional as in people would be willing to pay for a part they can't use? And the device want dependant on dual screens. It just utilized two.
  • It wouldnt be optional, it would br like choosing between a 32GB, 64GB and 128GB iPhone/Galaxy. So the performance base actually comes with the phone buy is optional to use. This way you essentially can keep the screen/mobile detached but if you want to do some work on the go, you can connect the performance base. In the past many PDA's came with decent keyboards and Microsoft seems to be doing an outstanding job with their keyboards and mobile/bluetooth keyboards, so I wouldnt be surprised at all if they created an easy to use keyboard for mobile. I can imagine my 950 opening like the SurfaceBook and having a keyboard that would be useable, it would take some getting used to but it could be done. With the performance base, this would obviously add a bit of bulk to the device but with the screen/mobile detached for everyday use, it would be thin. Once again, this is just an idea I brain stormed based on the current Surface family hardware design and functionality.
  • I'd love two 3" foldable screens. Small in the pocket, yet big enough to do some work. I love my L950 with one downside: It's to book to wear it in any non-casual trowsers.
  • Are you a small gentleman? I've never had an issue with the xl being too big for any of my formal or non formal wear.
    40l slim fit / 32 waist
    I was actually just at my tailor yesterday and he's days generally pocket size don't change from fit to fit, just the cuts with very few exceptions.
  • Good point.
    Still no apps, so google and apple bring out similar products shortly after with apps and we are back to square 1 again.
    While trying to catch the next wave, MS have missed the Tsunami.
  • If they release a double screen or flexible phone that can become a tablet and use UWP to show a different UI, they will take advantages of a thing that apple and google cannot do in 3 months.
  • If...
  • New Wireless Gamepad support + BC XBox360 games on Surface Phone!!! Sign me up!
  • Anyone can do consumption and entertainment, it's obvious that it's not the field in which Microsoft want to focus.
  • In fairness these videos are generally put out by specific teams to map out their vision, these ones are from Office. There was an Xbox one featuring some projected AR a couple of years back
  • What if Microsoft brought cellular capabilities from Windows 10 Mobile to Windows 10, meaning that you could take your SIM card and pop it into and out of devices as needed. Sitting at your desk? Pop the SIM card into your Surface Book. On the go? Pop it out and put it into your Surface Phone. In the corporate environment, a mobile workforce (i.e. employees sometimes teleworking from home, sometimes traveling, sometimes going into the office, they'd pop their SIM card into any Windows 10 device as needed). Of course, those devices would need to include radio bands and whatnot to make phone calls a reality, but, all in all, is this a possible future for Windows 10 "Mobile"?
  • Ahem, Surface 3 LTE is out there. And there is something called Multi-SIM to avoid swapping
  • Does Surface 3 LTE let you use your Surface as a phone--sending SMS and MMS text messages, making phone calls, etc.? I thought it was only for accessing LTE data networks, which isn't the whole thing.
  • Never tried.. Let me check. I know it has both apps.
  • Looks like the capabilities are definitely there, but AT&T has it blocked. They literally have the input sections read only. You enter the number, and it disappears... Unless someone knows a workaround.
  • That's because AT&T wants you to use their multi-device option. I forget what it's called, but it lets all your LTE connected devices share the same phone number, all at the same time.
  • Apple has someone solved this, and people don't even like it, haha. Both of my grandmas had iPhones and iPads. After the latest iOS, it strted automatically passing calls to the iPad, which they both asked me to stop (After some time of my not knowing it existed). IDK why MS couldn't make W10 do something similar with calls, given they had planned to do it with Messaging Anywhere, or whatever features they were using to hand off texts from your phone to your PC and back.
  • Messaging everywhere got moved into skype. I was against it at first but I now use it all the time. Call hand-offs are apparently coming. There is an option in settings for apps to pass functions between pc and phone, but it is not yet implemented.
  • Oh, I know. I used it for a little bit, but there was some reason I ended up dumping it. Wasn't a fan, but I honestly can't recall what made me stop.
  • My Surface 3 already has It's own sim card, and is linked directly to my mobile account.
    ...............
    We need to keep in mind, that carries have a big play in our mobile future, and and hold them responsible as well for innovation.. They actually do a good job, but they could be more imaginative as well. They should push for change.
  • Great article Jason.
    I still think that MS should release device under Surface Phone name.
    It's been hyped for so long.
  • Glad to see I'm not the only one to think that a foldable- multi-screen device may be part of the vision behind an ultra-mobile Surface device! ​Furthermore, I see it interacting with other Windows devices like a Surface Dial on the Surface Studio, transforming into a tablet, behaving like a Microsoft Courier and becoming a nearly full-fledged PC (running on ARM) when docked on our desk and its performances boosted via an eGPU...
    Also, ​I see this device enhanced with bots coordinated by Cortana to close the app gap.
  • First of all, I really enjoy your post-article comment openings. Second idk if you've seen the show Westworld, but I envision the "surface phone" as a device that's similar to their mobile computer/cell phone/device and the device that's used in the movie Her. Both are foldable devices. The device in Westworld can wirelessly interface with the robots and desktop computers. It also appears to be running the same OS as the desktops in the show and responds to voice commands. Much like Cortana and the TellMe concept video from years ago. Honestly, it would be great if they could just make the Westworld devices a reality.
  • So, no more Microsoft phones then? Right, Illinois be looking to buy the next Samsung or Sony release. Don't want to go android but don't have a choice :-(
  • Where have you been. Common knowledge for quite a while now, and confirmed with withdrawal of Lumia.
  • Lol, I was still living in hope
  • Yes you do
  • I have been looking myself. I am hoping to look what is available after Thanksgiving.
  • Agree, likewise I'll be looking to see what's available as its this time of the year when I purchase a new phone. My 950XL has a brilliant camera but is dated.
  • i have been using a 950XL. and i  feel it still has enough life, to  get to the next"hopefully" device. it has, and continues to be a great device.  
  • Illinois is buying Samsung's or Sony's. They're trump supporters
  • well, no more for the immediate future, but they will release something down the line. earliest would be fall of 2017, but many rumors peg it at early 2018.
  • Surface phone won't happen anytime soon
  • It's already here buddy. The Surface Phone is an evolving and ever-changing concept of what a phone can be. It gives us ideas and allows us to ponder over the future of mobile computing.
  • surface phone will be premium piece of HW with a premium price tag for.... for who? Who will buy it? Nobody except some WP fans with extra money to throw out the window"s" :D
  • Lol, its not here.....AKA Vapourware until then.
  • If it's happening, and msft wants to release it anytime between 2017-18, then it's a hardware just as anything we see today with notable changes. If it's coming, in a hopeful future, it'll be revolutionary. But msft could release it in the form of something we aren't familiar with in the near future and then they'll continue to evolve it further in order to achieve the true form it was meant to be in the first place. Time's ticking.
  • Don't care the form factor, foldable detachable or anything else, it had better have a phone function built in. The #1 activity on my 950xl is checking the time on the lock screen. The #1 purpose of buying my 950xl is, you guessed it, it's a phone.
  • Hi Akira. You have no need to worry. The phone, cellular connectivity will be there. The question is where to from there?.:-)
  • Hey Jason, have you seen Westworld? Operatives use a folding 'surface' type device that has phone facility. Yes, I know its science fiction, but so were things like electric / hydrogen cars etc along with mobile phones with hundreds of times more power than sent a man to the moon!
  • Hey Mad Cabbie. No need for the Sci-Fi caveat! I'm a huge sci fi fan and KNOW that science fiction is often based in real science that sometimes becomes science fact! So no, I never really watch WestWorld,just part of one episode, but hey, that type of device just might happen!
  • That type of thing would be cool though. And it seems to fit in their pockets! I would have thought that there would have been a Samsung badge on it, but no branding anywhere. I'm hooked on Westworld now. Hopkins is brilliant!
  • West world is the next Game of thrones... Its mind blowing
  • *Westworld. One word
  • Dude.... Get on it. Best show on HBO right now
  • I totally just wrote about that in my comment. I need that device.
  • A very interesting and novel take at what lies in the future for the much awaited surface phone. For me 7 inch device would be an over kill if it didnt fold. But if it does, thats the only thing Id want  
  • Yes, like the device shown at 2:14, first video. Not carrying two devices.
  • Agree, would have to fold. There may be a minor issue in that Apple have a patent pending on a foldable. It would need to have a nifty hinge mechanism to show no gaps when folded out, and to hide the ribbon. Renewed hope? Who knows with MS. The only definate 'new hope' would be the Star Wars one! Good job many of us don't mind a bumpy ride, rather than run away.
  • Let's hope the empire strikes back
  • Maybe this could be a 4-in-1 phone/tablet/laptop/desktop! It's 7 inches like a tablet, it can be folded down into a smartphone, and it can use Continuum for laptop/desktop!
  • I always thought Windows phone should look like the one from the future vision video.
  • That's the spirit. Let's keep dreaming
  • Hello
  • I think it would be could if the home screen had 4 or 5 customizable windows/slots that would show information like an animated ESPN ticker. Maybe have a basic weather animation with clouds a rain, and then have the transparent slot flip over and show a 5 day forecast animation. I wish I knew how to make my own phone concept video.
  • Agreed.  Microsoft really needs to innovate in the mobile home/lock screen experience.
  • I like the video and all but with Microsoft services not even being available world wide yet this same like a vision of the surface phone for America. You know if there is still a America by 2017-2018
  • Interesting possibilities, but at this point they just need to bring out something to the mobile market. The 950s were great, but not awe inspiring. The HP eliteX3 is the surface phone for the foreseeable future. Wish Redmond could push mobile more.
  • they weren't awe inspiring because they were designed by Nokia. If Panos needs the time to design this phone, i'm all for giving it to him. Plus, W10M needs some additional work and the OS needs to be ready or no matter what the device design is, it won't work.
  • Dona teasing again....seen in new pic..14965
  • Seriously ?
  • Still struggling to get it. I want use it as Phone, as texting machine, as a Navigation device, as a camera, and as an access to internet. i don't really need to "create" when i'm outdoor. It doesn't have to be necessarily bigger or smaller to perform this task, isn't it? A watch is too smal for me, no matter what. A phablet as todays phaplets, it's too big. I don't carry always a bag with me, so it has to fit into my jeans pockets. Foldable would be cool though, sometimes I'd like to have it smaller but could accept if it was thicker.
  • If ARM and cellular have a place in the future of mobile, why don't they have a place at Microsoft? Including the Surface line?
  • "A picture is worth a thousand words" - try to explain that not using any word
  • What's stopping ms from doing this. All they have to do is build a phone system in standard Windows 10. Why do we need Windows Phone?
  • The chip architecture of most mobile computing systems. That's why we need W10M. Regular W10 doesn't run on ARM.
  • Wasn't it just today that a patent drawing for a concept of Samsung's foldable "Galaxy X" smartphone was leaked/revealed? Foldable smartphones could be hitting the mainstream soon!
  • Anyone remember the coomunicator from Earth:Final Conflict (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0123816/)? That's what I'd like to see. Think of the now old-fashioned filmcannister, twice as long. Rolled in, you hold it as a rod in your hand with limited functionality like speech, camera etc. Maybe Cortana-driven. When you need a smartphone style for video calls, calculator, mail or whatever, you draw a pice of rolled-in display from the roll.If you need a larger screen as a small tablet, say, you draw out a bit more...  
  • So Microsoft can't and won't give the fans a flagship smartphone just because they can't get past 1% Nokia hurt me when they discontinues Symbian
    Microsoft wants to kill smartphones too What will I buy next? My 1520 is ageing and I wanted a real successor from Microsoft. What is in this article is not what I was expecting and if a smartphone takes them almost 2yrs to reach the market this will take them at least a decade.
  • Can't get past 1%? They were way past 1%. They were at more than 5% global market share, including dozens of markets in double-digit market share and the #2 position ahead of iOS. Then they "retrenched", and now, without trying at all, without having almost any phones in any stores on any carriers, despite all of that, for years now, they're still at 1%. If they had ever actually tried with Windows Phone, they'd likely be approaching 10% market share now, which, by the way, is more than Apple has ever had with OSx/MacOS despite decades of trying.
  • Sad but true, but that's Satya.
    He's endangering all of W10 the way he's acting.
    #FireSatya
  • you mean how he's trying to keep Microsoft relevant and ahead of the curve? yeah. what is he thinking? he clearly should stop thinking about the future and try to simply copy everything else that's going on. /s
  • You don't completely stop making/selling your product line until the new one is ready to go. He's sending what's left of us to the competition.  He let's them give away free apps to the iDroid ecosystem while NOT putting them on the home OS. It's as if he's begging people to leave.
  • Agreed.
    How much is googles market share with Chromebook?
    Nothing will stop them pursuing as big a share of the market as they can get, no matter the cost.
    Ridiculous decision from MS to abandon mobile, so short sited.
  • the OS simply isn't ready. its not that they're not trying. they're working on it. but now the OS is both PC and Mobile. It's *one* OS. As they develop, they need it to work on both. It'll be a bit slow going, but many believe it will pay off in the end. Its ridiculous to think a bit more advertising would get them tenfold marketshare what they have now. Because that's what they stopped. They're still developing, so they're still "trying" in that regard. The only thing they're not doing is marketing.
  • Buy the x3 or the Idol 4S next year, that's as good as we'll get for now on Windows 10 Mobile
  • There are a few good options currently available. Are you rigid on it having to be a ms made phone?
  • Strange, I've got a bit different impression after reading this. If I am correct, it's the way of thinking that will change, or the perception of the phone as device, if you will. So device, or should I say form factor, stays the same, it's just it's role, or the way you use it that is about to change. In short, there will be new phones just like your current one, but the main focus will be shifted away from a phone as a function, to more important one like computing. Hence computing first, phone last.
  • I like the possibility of a credit card sized phone that would slide into a 7" surface tablet to allow it the cellular functionality but then when you pull out the credit card you can use that as a phone.  your not having to carry around a 7" phablet to make a phone call, and is also light weight enough to take on the go.  If you want to make phone calls with the phablet you still can via an earpiece of some type.  Then if you want a bigger screen you plug the phablet into a Continuum doc (or wireless monitor) and have multiple monitors.
  • Great idea, but without apps it's stillborn.
  • Lol "stillborn"
  • That's a different problem. Does anyone remember the G1 or the Motorola Droid? When those came out, Android's app store was barren. You can still make it though if you provide enough incentive and capability. The platform *has* to come before the apps. To think otherwise is ludicrous.
  • Well if that's the goal I guess I won't be getting a Surface "Phone" then.
  • a lot of people said the same about large(3,5"), touchscreen only phone 10 years ago.
  • Read 'Freedom(tm)' by Daniel Suarez for how I'd like to see mobile technology to go.
  • Just fix the App gap issue, is all I care about, no matter size, form factor, I want to invest in Internet of Things ecosystems like Lego Mindstorms for learning robotics and there is no Windows Phone or Windows Mobile app for this.  In this device there should be no excuses and iOS bridge should be ready and working at 100% so all big app developers like Lego can build an app for my Windows Mobile device.
  • That won't be fixed any time soon. Microsoft is right to shift their focus on a paradigm shift because it is far too late for them in the current mobile market. They completely cocked up.
  • An ultra-modern 3DS that makes calls and connects to the web? I'm sure that would sell well.
  • Does it come in black?
  • I continue to think the solution (at least for a short-term success, where we don't have things like foldable displays and affordable/portable HoloLens available) is already in the wild. The ASUS ZenFone is a concept Microsoft could grow Surface from. Make it a phone. Give it a tablet shell the phone can power. Toss in the Type Cover or Performance Base. Let it all be capable of wirelessly talking and running through Continuum. The Elite x3 is trying this. The 7" form factor is possibly my least favorite. It's not really pocketable. It's not necessarily the best side for reading. It doesn't fit a keyboard well. I'd rather see a 5" device that scales to a Surface/Surface Pro chassis with a battery to charge the device running it. I want to see a phenomenal touch display (maybe gut the Surface Studio and shrink it a little) and a Continuum dock (or wireless connection built in).
  • Did you mean Asus PadFone?
  • Oh, probably, similar product names. Thanks for clearing that up in my head, I kept saying "ZenFone" for sometime, haha.
  • Interesting....i do think modularity has a huge role in the devices of tomorrow
  • What I see for the future of mobility is a collection of interconnected devices powered by a central hub that you don't have to take out of your pocket or 'pack' to use. The 'Surface Mobile Hub' will have a touch screen, but it will be extensible through AR vision (glasses), wearables (watch, other sensor driven input/output devices) and voice interaction (earphones/mic w/ Cortana). Add to that whatever you can imagine, but for me TRULY next-generation technology will require us to stop reaching into our pockets for an experience that is available instantly at the tip of our senses.
  • I like
  • "… but for me TRULY next-generation technology will require us to stop reaching into our pockets for an experience that is available instantly at the tip of our senses."
      You've just described the origins of an easy-to-influence cyborg. Is that what people want? To diminish their humanity for the "joys" of technocracy's retard-ing, automated vision?
  • More spin.
  • These future concepts are great and all - but my use case for an portable device are music, games, texts and the occasion call. Continnum is kind of a cool feature but I just don't need it so for me a Surface branded phone and big pushes - monetary? - to get devs on board for apps would be much better for me. I don't see why the can't do both.
  • Look at the 4th picture in the last gallery: There is a Band-like device that can be controlled one-handed. I was pretty excited to see this at the time and was pretty sure that Microsoft would build something similar in a future Band because it would solve a real problem - using Band with only one hand (while biking for instance). There was also a Microsoft Research project to detect the hand movements from the wrist. About Surface Phone: If we look what we want to do with our mobile phones these days it is taking photos and staying connected. If a Surface Mobile device can make this a lot better, it would have real potential. But focusing too much on Continuum is wrong, IMHO. Things I could imagine being useful: - detachable screen so you can talk / take pictures while using the display separately
    - a camera breakthrough with optical zoom or significant quality improvements ("the phone that can replace your camera")
  • Great Article
  • Jason, you basically talking about MS courier...Welcome to 2006.
  • Saw an integrated Surface Dial at 3:17 in the 1st video and :15 in the second.
  • A rose by any other name..... In the end it is still going to be compared to all other smartphones rather they like it or not.
  • I love my 1520 but I'm not leaving till I see a great powerhouse flagship phone. Cause my 1520 runs beautify on fast ring latest update
  • Yeah, I'm still on my 1520 as well, never had a phone this long before. Haven't found any new phone to tempt me away yet, even the X3. Although it's a better device, it doesn't bring enough improvement to justify the cost.
    A 7" Surface mini (with the surface styling off course), that I would ditch my 1520 for:-)
  • Is there tldr versions of your articles?
  • A good read, Jason. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I invision a ultramobile as something I can take with me, like my current Lumia 950 XL. Something that easily follows me and allows me to access the same content one way or another but easier and with less swiping back and forth. The content I intend to engage next is just there as I need it with minimal interaction with the device.
  • Future is awesome!
  • Same as the past, doesnt exist, enjoy the present :)  
  • Say what you want....its still a freaking phone
  • i can make phone calls from my surface pro 4. does that make it a phone?
  • The Surface Note should look just like mobile device used on the new television scifi show Westworld. They look awesome.
  • This.
  • That "Band" is very interesting. What if the idea of a phone completely changes. Who's to say the band in that video isn't their idea of a "phone". Maybe that's the device with cellular connectivity. Holding that up to your ear would be no different to holding up a rectangle of glass and plastic/metal. Or you can just bluetooth an ear piece. Or maybe the "band" is the cellular connection, but they'll stil make something akin to the devices you showcased for the telephony portion, which piggybacks off the band's connection.
  • Yea, saw these videos before... Cool stuff, very nice concepts but, dont think the tech is there for all these...but, what do I know ? And the phone.. as if your talking about the thickness of 3 creditcards (estimated), It MIGHT be able to be done now but, would have a lot of limits, as battery could not be that big and, no matter how cool a phone is, if it lasts 20 min, it's worthless to most people... Maybe they should invent some mega boosting batteries that will last a month, not a day, in 1/10 of the space.... and THEN I will be impressed (over the advancements in tech, very little changes have been done on batteries)
  • Not sure I like the concept. Frameless phones, interactive papers, and huge transparent touch screens. They may look appealing but either too mythical or don't really add new value to the existing devices. What I really need is a wearable device that can run any app and allows to interact with it with almost same level of comfort as on PC with large screen, mouse and keyboard. I thought the concept of Surface Phone will be developed in this direction. Now it looks like they are trying to invent something different without the specific target.
  • These bezelless designs remind me of wearables and voice interfaces: people don't actually like them. For one, even portables today with bezels are horifically fragile, and removing the bezel makes it worse.  Look at how you have to hold the device so as not to obscure the display?  Even Daniel Rubino made the case that the surface dial would obscure too much of the screen to be used on a Surface Book or Surface Pro 4. People do not like wearing anything on their head/face.  3D has been desperately trying to catch on for a century, and it hasn't because people don't want to wear glasses for a couple hours just watching a screen.  There's no way anyone wants to wear a large contraption all day, and these headsets make a mess of your hair,  Is having "goggle-hair" suddenly going to be acceptable in professional settings? There's actually no device in any of these videos that didn't already exist at the time of the video.  The only unique thing is the interface, and that is an area that Microsoft has failed with spectacularly for decades because of their refusal to eschew backwards compatibility, and thier inability to persaude developers to adopt any of their new ideas (again, because why if the onld way still works).
  • I am missing here drive guys
  • no WhatsApp i guess...
  • It's looking more and more like they are working on some tech that will let two screens attach seamlessly, so you will have your base small screen with compute power and optional 2nd screens of various sizes. Going to be hard to get those two screens connected with the right mechanism though. I don't envy their engineers' challenge.
  • How about the band-like device? Is it possible to make a device that can curl around your wrist and uncurl to a flat device? Imagine then that it's a series of Cortana cards that you can scroll through (as you can now). And that the device then obviously supports Continuum so that when you come in proximity to your dock or wireless devices, you can operate this wrist device as if it's a PC. Suddenly you've got something that's truly unique, and incredibly useful. And a logical explanation of why Microsoft stopped making the Band and keeps talking of beyond the curve... Yes, it runs W10M and yes it can make cellular connections, and could be operated by voice, with bluetooth ear buds. A stripped down, focussed Cortana interface...  
  • Samsung have really come far with flexible display tech so I expect we will see devices like this. Although the first application of them is likely to be in the form of smartphone displays which can bend to absorb the impact of being dropped
  • Awesome article Jason! I was really spellbound watching those videos. I loved the interactive earpiece (changing colour states), Courier-sized (foldable, but not paper flexible) surface, wearable. I also like the migration of experiences (states) from one screen (surface) to another on the whim of the user. I think these are possibly doable within the next two-to-four years. For the far future, I actually envision a series of surface "mini" devices (not just one) in different sizes as a new class of ultra-mobile PCs. Like @johhnypdx, one idea is a pocket-able central core processing unit with a super-slim screen and expanding the experience by pairing with an earpiece; wrist wearable and later eye wearable/visor (HoloLens 4.0 maybe). All tied up with bots and voice control. For the medium term though, a foldable (about 7" when expanded, like Courier!) ultra-portable PC ("UPPC") which is usable for making calls and seeing notifications on an active lock screen while folded, and when opened up second screen becomes active and you have a mini-Courier experience would great. (miniaturize the Lenovo Yoga Book, with refinements). And those accessories need to be developed with HP, etc., just like the VR glasses.
  • All that ^^^^ said, the OS needs to be light and beautiful (Win OS 10 does not yet match the vision in the videos for mobile). It needs to be smooth and fast and not have many glitches. And I think they need to fine-tune/re-design the Windows 10 OS some more. Also it must be able to manage the inevitable loss of connectivity between devices and accessories (or "hardware extensions" as I like to think of them) and the cloud, with grace. And they need to court the developers of experiences (apps, bots, etc.) like never before. Also, their first-party apps must shine like diamonds on these devices.
  • There's still Windows 95 UI interfaces in Windows 10...
  • Great article!!!
  • Wow! Incredible! Now...could you tell me how can I put an image as an avatar? I don't know how... The grey little guy is just boring, I guess :/
  • We have seen many of these in their infancy - Surface Studio, Surface Pen, Surface Dial, Hololens. I remember watching this video when it first appeared and just imagining it would be nice. MS is not so far off their mark.
  • No
  • No
  • Totally Awesome however just words because I have used my "Phone" as a PC ever since I got it they were called "smartphones" at one time as well! The only thing I question is how popular the holo lens will be, kind of like 3D TV's or flatscreens or whatever you call them! I personally have no interest in that, now something that links directly to your brain, that is something I could really get into, that would be worth investing in! So in the meantime check out https://internettop40.com an open list, rank by vote, social media website! Totally Awesome!  
  • Surface Phone: Speculation
    The Surface Phone actually has no screen. With the advancement of spacial sound in the Hololens, Cortana and Continuum the logical next step in phones would be a ear piece phone that sits above the ears.
    3rd party phone makers go with the traditional phone route. MS is big in new product categories' and the tech has been developed that would allow MS to go this route. MS wants to go with it's strengths then I could think of no better way to show off this. Put a camera on the slave ear piece for the shutter bugs. The APU requirements would be less, with ISP, DSP and other processors needed more than the GPU.
    Continuum support would allow visual interaction with the device when at home or at work.
    So this Surface phone could have better sound quality, more productive ability, less dropping the phone and since its above the ear and not in the ear, it can work without interfering with daily life.
    Just speculation, but this could be the next big thing in cell phones. MS has the tech and vision to make it possible. https://developer.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/holographic/spatial_sound
  • Microsoft has responded to Amazon Echo recently, so a "headless Cortana" could be a thing. I have almost completely removed smartphone use except for setting reminders, playing music and audiobooks and asking some questions, so it would be feasable and usefull. I just think the public is not ready, maybe at the right price they would give it a try.
  • You know what... I really like your idea! The one thing I would add to your idea is to include a display accessory in the box that's like an ultra-thin wireless display about the same shape and size of a smartphone, so it can still be easily used anywhere without needing to find a desk to go to or having to get a big lapdock or something of the like - the whole phone internals could be in the above-ear-piece including the sound, camera, mic, etc... but it can wireless connect to phone-like display or a proper monitor at your desk at home or at work. It would also avoid requiring voice to interact with the device in areas where it may be innopropriate The challenge with this though would be how you could fit everything into such a small device just above the ear... While battery consumption would be low as it only needs either bone conduction or a tiny speaker and all the displays it connects to would have their own power source, you would need a really small battery to fit in there. If displays are involved (which you mention with Continuum support), a mid-end-performance CPU+GPU combo would be necessary. It's definitely do-able, but the size constraints could be challenging.
  • This has been around for so long, i am not even excited anymore
  • time will tell. right now i have a phone. one day i will need a new one. hope ms has an option then. if not its android or ios for me.
  • I sure hope we are never that connected.  No matter where they are or what they are doing, they are asked to review a project or a proposal. When I code I have to focus on the task at hand and not multi-task.  It made my head hurt just to watch those videos.
  • Well, in at least one of the videos, a man was working on a large table top canvas, and it showed him activate the "Do Not Disturb" feature at the top of it. So it looks like they've thought of that. As far as the videos go, if everyone that was doing something had the feature enabled, and no one could contact anyone, how interesting would that be for us to watch? ;)
  • I just want Microsoft or someone else to make a device for restaurants, so when I sit at the table I can order our meals and drinks and not have to wait for someone to show up at the table.
  • They have that at Chili's, it's a tablet, you can also pay your bill and not have to wait.
  • I have often wondered how sanatary those thing are from the previous guests.  I don't think they get cleaned (smeared) like the table does.
  • As long as we are dreaming about mobile screens everywhere, then each device has a micro-nuclear reactor to provide unlimited power for up to 10 years.  The replaceable reactor itself is so small, that it is completely harmless as it contains less radiation than a single banana.