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Microsoft must launch a Surface phone — and get it right the first time

Still, the absence of the most personal of computing devices from Microsoft's lineup is detrimental to its present and future relevance. Microsoft must launch a Surface phone.

The personal computing landscape is permeated with technologies that became relevant to consumers by way of smartphones. Digital assistants, the cloud, smart home speakers, in-car computing, IoT and mobile gaming are an increasingly cohesive personal computing tapestry spawned by and centralized around smartphones.

Microsoft's retreat from the smartphone space removed the company's rapport to the personal computing landscape and potentially eliminated its future relevance. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promised an "ultimate mobile device" that will be "beyond the curve" and won't be like "the other guys'" phones, however.

Microsoft's ultimate mobile device

I believe Microsoft's ultimate mobile device will fill the gap left by its absent smartphones, and will potentially create a new device category. The iPhone's and Android phone's mobile dominance and Microsoft's need for "some type of mobile device," makes both these objectives necessary.

Microsoft needs a personal portal to its ecosystem and a compelling device that challenges the "rectangular-slab-smartphone" status quo.

Tony Stark's PDA from Iron Man.

Tony Stark's PDA from Iron Man.

A device with game-changing, context-conforming hardware which benefits from a synergy of technologies from inking, mixed reality, gaming and more may be the answer.

These are lofty goals. This device will require massive engineering resources, profound levels of inter-department collaboration to bring different technologies together and immense marketing and distribution follow-through. This massive investment is also a huge gamble. The risk is accentuated by Microsoft's 100 percent failure rate in mobile.

Not to act, however, is a guarantee that Microsoft, without that personal portal to its ecosystem and nexus point for other technologies, will be irrelevant in the future of personal computing. This can't be overemphasized: Microsoft must launch a Surface phone.

Failure should have taught Microsoft how to succeed

What the Lumia 950 could've been.

What the Lumia 950 could've been.

External forces, as well as internal shortcomings, led to Microsoft's mobile failures. Slow responses to the market, inconsistent marketing and distribution, support of iOS and Android at Windows' expense, not-ready-for-prime-time Windows 10 Mobile, and more plagued the platform.

Unless Microsoft is oblivious or simply doesn't care, experience should have taught it how not to fail. The coming ultimate mobile device, an ultramobile Surface PC with CShell and telephony, may succeed.

As a telephony-enabled, pocketable Windows 10 PC with Continuum, it will fill Microsoft's smartphone gap and challenge the "rectangular-slab-smartphone" status quo. Despite the best-laid plans, however, success isn't guaranteed. And Microsoft's fight to position an ultramobile Surface PC in the mobile space will be wrought with challenges.

Positioning matters

Positioning any "Microsoft" mobile device directly against the iPhone and Android phones in the smartphone space would be suicidal. The market has grown cold to Microsoft's phone efforts. Fans are bitter, consumers apathetic, OEMs uncommitted, the enterprise is disinterested, and many bloggers are hostile. Another strictly "phone" attempt would be fodder for more negativity.

Microsoft cannot position a "Surface phone" as a phone. As a telephony-enabled ultramobile PC it must be positioned accordingly. It must be clear to fans, consumers, the enterprise and bloggers that this ultimate mobile device is something new.

It mustn't look like a smartphone, but it must be familiar enough to be recognized as a mobile device. It must provide new ways of interaction but also be intuitive.

It must be positioned in the mobile, not smartphone, space as an ultramobile PC both because that's what it will be as well as to escape the stigma of Microsoft's past phone failures. It must appeal to consumers who are dictating personal computing's direction and be suitable for the enterprise. If Microsoft fails at positioning the ultramobile Surface, it will lose before it even gets "re-started."

Surface phone needs "One Microsoft"

Microsoft's strategy is the coalescing of various technologies synergistically in an ultramobile Surface. This is important to making an ultramobile Surface unique.

Surface lead Panos Panay expressed how the Surface team's working with the OneNote team was important to making the pen and Surface work together seamlessly. A more extensive level of collaboration must take place to bring an even broader range of innovative technologies to the ultramobile Surface.

Surface phone needs company-wide support.

Microsoft's four engineering groups Cloud and Enterprise Engineering, Office Product, Windows and Devices, and Technology and Research were structured to allow engineering heads to report directly to Nadella. This makes for a more efficient product development and product-to-market system.

This structure should also provide a collaborative environment where teams can work together efficiently and intentionally to bring various technologies to the ultramobile Surface. Panay and his team will need the folks working on mixed reality, Office, inking, AI, gaming, CShell, Continuum, Project Centennial, Cloud and Windows to make Nadella's ultimate mobile device a reality.

Marketing and distribution

Beyond the divisions building the device, other teams must ensure its marketing and distribution.

Microsoft marketing and operations.

The Corporate Strategy and Planning, Global Sales Marketing and Operations, Marketing Group, and Worldwide Commercial Business divisions must position it for success.

These teams and leaders must be held accountable for ensuring Microsoft puts 100 percent of its weight behind building, positioning, marketing and distributing Nadella's ultimate mobile device. If this doesn't happen, Microsoft's mobile efforts may fail again.

Developers, Developer, Dev … Microsoft you're a developer!

As we move toward an AI, bot and progressive web app world, no current mobile ecosystem can thrive without a strong app ecosystem. If Microsoft can't attract developers, its ultimate mobile device will be doomed from the start. Developers need to be convinced Windows is a viable platform.

Microsoft can potentially woo developers and prove its commitment to mobile by launching an exclusive suite of unique, high-quality Universal Windows Platform (UWP) productivity, entertainment, gaming and utility apps. They can fall under a "Surface exclusive" branding reminiscent of "Lumia exclusives" of the past. Microsoft must also keep its promise that cross-platform first-party apps will be best on Windows.

As the world's leading software company with resources spanning Windows, Office, Microsoft Garage apps, AI, Xbox and more, Microsoft itself is its best asset for winning developers. If it puts a 100 percent effort into building exclusive UWP apps and games before Surface phone's launch, it may inspire third-party developers to follow.

If Microsoft continues business as usual, as usual it will fail.

Beating consumer apathy requires ultimate effort

Winning mobile users requires an enormous effort. If it happens, it won't be overnight. Many consumers have a negative view of Windows phone, and after being burned, many no longer trust Microsoft.

Microsoft made a strategic (but painful to users) gamble by "purging" the market of Windows phones in hopes of purging the failed platform from consumers' minds as it prepares for what's next.

Microsoft's ultimate mobile device will be its next attempt at mobile. If it supports mixed reality, Xbox and Windows gaming, becomes a desktop via Continuum, conforms to context via CShell, has a suite of exclusive apps, has first-party apps that are best on Windows and a growing pool of third-party apps, Microsoft may have a shot at winning consumers and the enterprise.

Microsoft's Surface phone must be the ultimate mobile device

Microsoft's ultimate mobile device must be just that: the ultimate mobile device. It must be that single computing device that does virtually everything for virtually anyone. Microsoft can spare no effort and must target broad markets. It must appeal to consumers, the enterprise and gamers.

Microsoft simply must deliver.

Inspiring mobile device concepts from HBO's Westworld (left) and SyFy's The Expanse (right).

Inspiring mobile device concepts from HBO's Westworld (left) and SyFy's The Expanse (right).

Pooling the efforts of multiple engineering, strategy and marketing teams around an ultramobile Surface is a tremendous gamble. If Microsoft fails, resources will be wasted, the press will be unmerciful and the industry-esteemed Surface brand will be marred.

If it succeeds, the rewards will be equally as profound and Microsoft may well change the game.

Must Read

How Microsoft can ensure Surface phone success

Is Microsoft's rumored Surface phone a reimagined Surface Mini?

With Surface phone will Microsoft learn from past marketing mistakes?

Microsoft will release a Surface phone - but it can take a while

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!

413 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks!!! Microsoft must launch what some call a Surface phone, I call an ultramobile Surface and Nadella calls an ultimate mobile device. It must put the entire weight of the company behind the effort and bring a synergy of technologies to the device. The effort is a gamble, but to do nothing is suicide and a half-hearted attempt is equally as void. Microsoft must go all i and position a device that appeals to consumers, enterprise and gamers, if the ultimate mobile device will be an ultimate mobile device. What are your thoughts? LET'S TALK!!!
  • Well thought out. Koodos
  • Meh, nothing that hasn't been known for at least two years. "Microsoft cannot position a "Surface phone" as a phone" How about we start by never again referring to it as a phone?
  • Yep long live the Pocket PC...I mean return of the Pocket PC :)
  • lol, 100 points for coming up with the only name that is likely even worse than refering to it as a "phone". ;-)
  • You seriously think this is well thought out? He has been rehashing this same article for more than a year now.
  • So true
  • It might be true, hut still needs to be said. Some of us still like hearing it, though I don't have the time to read them anymore.
  • If I could sit here name all of the Microsoft products I've deovoted loyalty, money, and time, only to have Microsoft sacrifice, disavowal these products for their on selfish reasoning. Feeling a sense of betrayal every time it happened. Microsoft, stay out the hardware building business. You suck at it!
  • So they should close xbox and Surface lines? Microsoft is actually pretty good at hardware when they decide to support it. Microsoft's biggest problem is that they act like total spoilt brats. If they can't be the best at something right away they decide to take their ball and go home. Zune had fans, it was niche but there was a contingent of people who liked what Microsoft was doing and I even remember people wishing for a Zune Phone. But no, Microsoft did not do that because they didn't become #1 and instead of improving their product they simply left the space. Same thing with the Band, great device  but they weren't number 1 so they said they quit and left the market, same thing with Lumia Phones, bought a promising phone device business from nokia they finally could have given them full control over how their software looked on a mobile device and they put ZERO effort into making it a success. I don't believe that the problem with Microsoft is their hardware or software it's their culture of abandoning their most loyal customers when the goings gets tough. It is your most loyal customers who convince other people to try out your products but Microsoft has burned us so many times that it's a joke to try to convince someone to switch. So Micorosft can call their next effort a phone, an ultra mobile or whatever they want, the true test will be if they show that they are committed to the device or will it be another list of headline like..... "Microsoft releases Surface Phone with terrible marketing campaign showing people dancing with the phone", "Microsoft releases new Skype and Office integrated apps on iOS and Android before Surface phone debut", "Microsoft sees Lackluster Surface Phone Sales", "Microsoft announces firing of Surface phone team says Surface phone 2 could arrive in next decade maybe and it will change the game". 
  • They don't suck at it, but they care more about all the customers they don't have than the loyal ones they have. And that's wrong.
  • I totally agree with him. Android (Google) has taken over the mobile market and soon will take over the home computing market unless Microsoft comes back with a mobile version of Windows.
  • Great and interesting article. I feel also that it needs to run full Windows 10 on Arm and have something like bluestacks so it can have android apps. I am a Windows mobile fan  but use an android device for the apps. It needs to be able to have the most popular apps such as snapchat and also he able to run smaller apps. I have some smart technology in my home such as alarm systems, solar panels and cctv that have android and ios apps but not Windows.   Without being able to support popular and lesser known apps, any Windows device will surely fail.   Other unique selling points are greater games that integrate with the xbox one ecosystem    
  • We don't want to have to run blue stacks for apps! Microsoft needs to get serious about their app (UWP or whatever they want to call it) ecosystem . They must focus on their own mobile platform instead of neglecting it for Apple & Android who piss on them!
  • Of course UWP needs to be the main focus, but let's be realistic.  UWP could be the best api out there and still wouldn't have any developers because there is no users!  It is a chicken and egg issue.  MS needs android apps to get users, then the native ones will come over time.  Android bridge is a MUST for windows on mobile to succeed.  I CAN'T come back to windows on mobile with out it.  There are simply too many apps out there that I rely on a daily basis.  I love the windows mobile platform but will never come back with out android app support or something similarly effective.
  • It isn't a chicken and egg situation. Users will always come before apps. Microsoft needs to acquire users. It wouldn't hurt to make sure the Facebooks and Twitters of the world have apps, but they really need to concentrate on convincing users to support the platform. Then apps will come naturally.
  • Agree. IPhone had zero apps when it launched.
  • At that time other phones didn't offer apps at all that people cared about.
  • Yea because 10 years ago everyone used dumb phones and there was no need for apps.  Today huge part of your interaction with the world is via a smart phone.  
  • Actually a lot of us were already using smart phones that could do a lot of what the iPhone could do...but Steve jobs did an absolutely brilliant job of selling a story and a vision to people and putting an ecosystem in place. Still agree with your point though that times have changed
  • And why exactly would new users come to Windows if there are no must-have apps?   Ten years ago there was nothing even close to iPhone so some jumped on it (it actually took a while to gain such market share).  And back then there was no concept of "must-have" apps....  The world was pretty "dumb" and you could easily get by without a smart phone. This isn't the case today.  A smart phone is pretty much a must because many apps are a must
  • Either you didn't see this statement in the article, or you don't understand the implications:
    Microsoft cannot position a "Surface phone" as a phone.
    Do we see Windows users outraged over how their desktop PCs don't run mobile apps? No. People don't think of their desktop computers as platform for running mobile apps. Despite the popularity of mobile computing, that's simply not an issue.   So, whatever MS' mobile device ends up being, it may NOT ever be perceived as a platform for running mobile apps, just like a desktop PC isn't. That's why it can't be positioned as a phone, as "phone" and "smartphone" are instantly associated with "mobile apps". That's why you're confused. You are still thinking of this hypothetical device as a Windows smartphone intended to run mobile apps, despite the author telling you not to. If other people do that too when this device is released, then it is DOA. This device, whatever it is, will simply not be for people who want to run a lot of mobile apps. Period. If you want that, then iOS or Android is where you should look. Since this device won't be a platform for running mobile apps, MS must give potential customers (likely corporate types) other reasons for puchasing it.
  • We don't need the same apps on desktop because we have a a smartphone with the apps. However, drop the smartphone and get a mobile pc and now you need the mobile apps.
  • Lol. Ure clueless. How long have we been saying "we need users first"? Stop. Just stop. Users won't come because there are no apps. PERIOD. FACT. accept it for christs sake. It needs android app emulation or its D.O.A. end of discussion. If they don't add android app amu, I'll see u back here later to rub it in your face.
  • Then Microsoft needs to give up until they have a way to get users. Name one time apps came to a platform before users? Blackberry adding Android app emulation is the closest I think and that didn't work for them because apps wasn't the issue, same as Windows Phone. They need to build a platform people want to use. It is time to move beyond Windows. They cannot be successful if they tunnel vision thinking everything has to be Windows.
  • You're confused about who is clueless here... Bleached is right. The user base must come first, i.e. MS must find a way to create one despite the app gap. That is what this device is intended to do, by providing a unique value proposition and feature set. Mobile apps don't factor into the picture at all here, and you not understanding that is the source of your confusion. Apps not factoring into the picture is why the author of this article stated "Microsoft cannot position a "Surface phone" as a phone". Calling something a smartphone or phone implies it's for running mobile apps. MS doesn't want you to think of this device in that way at all, so it must be positioned as something else entirely. If at the time of release the majority of people think about this device the way you did here, then this device is DOA. It will probably be much worse off in the mobile app department than W10M devices are now. MS must give potential customers (likely corporate types) compelling reasons for puchasing it, that aren't tied to the mass market app economy.
  • That is a dangerous road to go down on. WP and Win10M were far better optimized platforms (hence the much lower specs of phones and very good battery times) than Android. Porting Android apps will create a dump of resource hungry apps like Candy Crush. Masses reported to be able to fry eggs on their phones while playing. WP and Win10M were far better platforms than any Android variant (security for/from apps, OS API). Higher quality native apps won't come if there's the cheap opportunity porting.
  • No, if MS open for android apps, the entire UWP ecosystem falls apart no matter how small it is now. To grow MS have to continue it's focus on PC/Tablet, XBOX and even AR/VR/Hololens where they have an either large or unique market position. MS need to convince debs that need to develop for those platforms, but they also need to see how it would be useful for them to make that app phone friendly. When people learn to use the store on their PC, debs will follow. And unlike mobile phones, the potential customer base on PC is huge.   
  • yeah!
  • This is false. Android apps in containers is the answer.
  • If you want to run Android apps, just buy an Android phone. Normal consumers aren't going to buy a Windows phone to run Android apps. What is the point in that?
  • This is spot-on correct!!! They need to get over this phobia and false narrative that running Android apps will kill the UWP. The users will not come without apps. Once they are on the platform, the devs will build native apps once they know there are users on the platform.
  • I have no idea where that thought comes from...OF course Windows and UWP will NOT fall apart if the devs port android through a bridge system.  That idea is just silly.
  • Ehm... the idea comes from decades of experience in the software economy. This isn't the first time an OS has run into this sort of problem. Using an emulator to widen the selection of software has alredy been tried many times. So far every such attempt has failed for many reasons MS could not mitigate. MS' attempt would also fail. Building an emulator would be a good idea if MS' goal was to earn money by selling smartphones. I suspect that was Balmer's goal, and in that context it makes sense. That obviously isn't Nadella's goal, otherwise MS would not have sold Nokia. MS' goal is to control the technological platform. Not only is an Android emulator useless in that regard, it's downright counterproductive. So, no, an building an Android Emulator would not cause Windows and UWP to fall apart, but nobody is claiming that it would. The mobile side of UWP would just sit there, unused, forever. Not broken, but completely pointless.
  • What about the "bridge".   that was a thing......was it not?  made it easy for apps to be ported into UWP apps?  NO?  Or was that more bullshit spewed by MS?  There seems to be lots of that lately!
  • @Steve Adams I have no idea what happened with the iOS bridge (Islandwood). MS just stopped talking about it. WCentral apparently doesn't care about it or doesn't want to follow up on it. Either way, that would have been a real option, as the resulting piece of software would have been a real UWP app which could have been extended with WP specific features (legal issues with Apple maybe?). The Android bridge (Astoria) would not have resulted in a real UWP app, but in something entirely incompatible. It would have combined a lot of different technologies to get apps running, one component of wich would have been an an emulator. It was trashed for the reasons I alluded to. The Win32 bridge (Centennial) is alive and well, but despite WCentral's very misleading description of how it works, it doesn't actually create a real UWP app either. It just allows the Win32 app to be distributed through the Windows store. It does create a good starting point from which developers can port their app to UWP however, but that is a potentially long, expensive, and entirely manual (software development) process. So, in summary, yes, one of three is a "thing".
  • Hi @5cent and @Stwve Adams here is a Windows Central article where I had a Q and A with Stefan Wick who works on Project Centennial. Here it is from the horses mouth🙂: https://www.windowscentral.com/why-windows-s-and-project-centennial-are-...
  • Hey Jason, thanks for the link! I hadn't yet seen that. Probably the best WCentral interview on Project Centenial to date, but still not that great :-( I'm a software engineer. I've used Project Centenial. I think I have a very good understanding of what Project Centenial is, how it works and what it does and doesn't do. I'm glad to see Stefan Wick confirming everything I've been telling you. However, based on the questions you asked and how you asked them, it seems highly unlikely you really understand what I and Stefan Wick are telling you. For example, you asked Stefan Wick whether apps that use only compliant APIs can undergo the "full process" (whatever "full process" means). I suspect you were fishing for an answer along the lines of "yes, in this or that case Project Centenial can fully convert a Win32 app to UWP". That's not the answer you got. IMHO your question was barely coherent, and to give a coherent answer to a non-coherent question Stefan Wick had to reinterpret the question and as a result went off discussing issues that are far too technical for a site like this (HWND based UI APIs). He's definately not answering the question you thought you asked. I have no idea what you took from his answer, but I'm 100% sure it wasn't what Stefan Wick actually explained. You didn't get the answer you wanted, so you followed up by asking whether the "process can be completed" (whatever "the process" actually means) for any developer ... because non-compliant APIs can be replaced? I'm guessing that you envision porting as the process of replacing non-UWP compliant lines of code with UWP compliant lines of code... line by line. That would be totally and utterly incorrect. At this point in your interview I think you and Stefan Wick are talking about entirly different things. What Stefan Wick is telling you, is that some Win32 function calls aren't compatible with the way UWP does things, so manually porting parts of a Win32 application to the UWP might have unforseen consequences elsewhere and require changes that weren't yet planned. To me it sounds like you still assume that the removal of all "non-compliant API calls" will allow Project Centenial to then convert Win32 to UWP automatically. That would still be utterly incorrect. As I've always said, porting a Win32 application to the UWP is practically a ground up rewrite (with the added benefit of knowing exactly what you intend to build). Stefan Wick confirms that, with one exception which I hadn't yet considerd: Unity based software. Software that doesn't use the Win32 API directly, but restricts itself to using Win32 only indirectly via the Unity API, can potentially be brought over to the UWP with almost no effort at all. If the application was already based on C# and the developers avoided ever calling any Win32 API, then that likely works, because in this case there is just literally nothing to port. The C# based app isn't a Win32 app at all. It's a Unity app. Because the Unity API and runtime is available for Win32 and UWP the whole app can just be moved over unchanged. Still, even in this case there is no conversion at all (because there is literally nothing to convert). As far as Project Centenial is concerned, the "full process" you continually speak of (assuming that refers to fully automatic conversion of Win32 to UWP) doesn't exist. The entire process supported by Project Centenial, both it's first and last step, always ends when the app is wrapped and made compatible for the store. There is never any API based conversion! That is the developers job. Anyway, I could go on, but my main point remains... the interviewer didn't have the technical understanding required to ask clear questions and get clear answers. At least once the interviewee and interviewer wern't talking about the same thing. I know what Project Centenial does. Nothing Stefan Wick said here was news to me. I suspect if you understood everything the way Stefan Wick meant it, at least some of it would be news to you. IMHO you guys need someone who actually understands software technology to do this type of thing for you and then translate the technical speak into what it actually means. You guys just alwys translate it into what you think it should mean, which is rarely accurate. That is still my basic problem with technical content published by WCentral. Sorry for the long and somewhat inconsiderate post. I'm just don't feel like beeting around the bush.
  • Hi @a5cent As I read your response I noticed some presumptions you made upon which we founded a "response".🤔 In some cases your presumption is missing the mark, consequently your "response" is as well.☹
    Anyway,🙂 the information Stefan understood the questions I asked and gave the response to the questions providing readers with accurate information about the full process for getting a Win32 app to the UWP. Stefan reiterated the Convert - Enhance - Migrate - Reach All, process I explained in this article long before the Q and A😉: "Windows 10 on ARM makes sense of Win32 apps on Nokia phone"
    https://www.windowscentral.com/microsofts-centennial-bridge-key-making-w...
  • You sometimes correct a person in the comments who didn't grasp some aspect of your article. I've never encountered such a comment where I wouldn't have corrected the person in the same way you did. That is to say that in general, I get your drift. In this particular case I had no issue at all with anything Stefan said. I don't think he always give an answer to what you think you asked, but the answers he did give were flawless. If anything was sub par, it was the questions. That was the only thing I had trouble understanding. I don't think that has ever happened in any of your previous articles. Like I said, I usually have not trouble at all understanding your point. In this case I think it's safe to assume that your (or anyone's at WCentral's) poor understanding of software development allowed you to frame questions in a way that don't really make sense. I think I'm qualified to determine if a question related to most software development related issues makes sense or not. If I misunderstood or made incorrect presumptions about the subject matter, I'm pretty sure I'm at least not the only one to blame here ;-) Really, I'm not trying to get under your skin. I'm just trying to get accross that WCentral generally fails whenever it comes to technical issues (this criticism isn't specific to you at all). This article was, IMHO, no different. TBH, I'd also be very surprised if what you took away from Stefan's explanations accurately reflects reality.
  • You sometimes correct a person in the comments who didn't grasp some aspect of your article. I've never encountered such a comment where I wouldn't have corrected the person in the same way you did. That is to say that in general, I get your drift. In this particular case I had no issue at all with anything Stefan said. IMHO his answers were perfectly fine. I just don't think he was always giving an answer to what you think you asked, but the answers he did give were flawless. If anything was sub par, it was the questions. That was the only thing I had trouble understanding. I don't think that has ever happened in any of your previous articles. Like I said, I usually have no trouble understanding your point. In this case I think it's safe to assume that your (or anyone's at WCentral's) poor understanding of software development allowed you to frame questions in a way that don't really make sense. I think I'm qualified to determine if a question related to most software development related issues makes sense or not. If I misunderstood or made incorrect presumptions about the subject matter, I'm pretty sure I'm at least not the only one to blame here ;-) I'm not trying to get under your skin. I'm just trying to get accross that WCentral generally fails whenever it comes to technical issues (this criticism isn't specific to you at all). This article was, IMHO, no different. TBH, I'd also be very surprised if what you took away from Stefan's explanations accurately reflects reality.
  • Exactly!!! The main problem are the apps.
  • No, apps are the symptom, not the cause. A lack of users due to an unpopular platform is the cause. Microsoft needs something new that can bring users back to their platforms. I doubt that such a thing can ever be called Windows. After decades of poor experiences it will be tough to successfully market anything called Windows.
  • Windows is a better ecosystem than Android, it's shouldn't have to emulate Android. Apps should be made for Windows, period.
  • As always, very good read and really well put together. This is how I see things. I agree with many of the points you made about the effort this will take from all of Microsoft to pull off without it looking halfhearted or anything less than all-in for them. But, with that said, I feel like Microsoft has made their mobile strategy clear with offering an extensive list of first party developed apps for Android and iOS and fulfilling many consumer and enterprise users needs that have come to rely on MS services. It's hard to believe that the effort they have put into these apps is for nothing and that ultimately they are still going to develop another Windows variant to run on a more mobile device and a whole new set of apps replicating the Android/iOS versions at the very least. As an OS and a device, this new Surface device will have to provide something so remarkably different and useful that pulls away those already comfortable using Microsoft's apps already on offer in those other OSes. What I think will likely happen is Microsoft is making a forked version of Android, with a skin that is uniquely Windows, be it the tile interface or something new but still have Android underpinnings and with full access to the Play Store but the device will also have some unique hardware characteristics like further advancement of Continuum or other 2-in-1 functionality with external peripherals. Also we have to be careful how we measure success of such a device. The Surface line is not targeting the general consumer the same way Apple products (computers not phones/tablets) also have a key demographic that regulary buy their stuff so marketing strategy will be key to getting eyes on this device and