Microsoft's predicament in the mobile space for 2015 is no mystery. For years now, in fact, many have been saying Windows Phone is dead and calling for Microsoft just to give up (or even 'go Android'). The problem here is that Windows 10 and its Windows everywhere story relies heavily on having a mobile chapter. What good are Universal Windows Apps if you chop off one of the octopus's legs?
Another unsurprising move is that Microsoft is releasing two new flagships phones this fall for their core audience. Codenamed Cityman and Talkman these phones have the public name of Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL.
In a recent Q&A with Chris Capossela, the Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, some details, and a more clearly articulated position was put forth for Windows 10 Mobile. The news here is more about their intentions and commitment rather than any bombastic proclamations. In fact, the sober reality of Microsoft's challenges are fully realized.
On Windows 10 consumer flagships
Capossela was a speaker at the Citi Global Tech Conference in New York this past week, and the full transcript of his question, and answer session has been posted. In regards to mobile, here is what he had to say. Walter Pritchard asks Capossela about their plans for phone, pulling no punches:
Capossela, to his credit, doesn't even say they have pulled back a little, but a lot. These comments reflect the observations of many users of Windows Phone, who have seen a drying up of hardware and less visible approach. However, Capossela goes on to repeat and more clearly articulate what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in his famous letter to employees:
These phones are obviously the yet-unannounced Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. The important point here is that Microsoft recognizes that it is their core audience driving (and sustaining) Windows Phone today. Microsoft's goal is to keep those users happy by giving them a phone that they can be "proud of". Certainly, that is a tall order to fill and how people react to these devices – expected to be announced in October, with an early November release – remains to be seen.
On Windows 10 Mobile for enterprise - Hints of a 'Surface phone'?
It is just not the enthusiast crowd, however, that Microsoft proclaims interest. The other leg for mobile is about their usual bread and butter: enterprise. Capossela turns his attention to this side of their strategy:
I have reported a few times that an Intel-Microsoft phone collaboration has been in the works now for some time (my sources say from last October). This device is reportedly a metal phone, due in a May 2016 timeframe, and is supposed to feature a next-gen Intel processor. Indeed, the Surface brand has been tossed around as a potential naming scheme, although it remains unclear if this will occur.
Since this enterprise-focused phone is not a consumer flagship, it reasonable to assume the specs will be very good, but not out-of-the-ballpark expensive. Microsoft would likely to make a premium device for companies that can be bought en masse at a reasonable cost. BlackBerry is switching to Android with their Venice slider and still in the game with their recent acquisition of Good Technology. Microsoft is releasing a phone with Continuum and an Intel processor – possibly to run Win32 apps – and it could be a strategic hit.
Microsoft's mobile plans in four years
Capossela ends his remarks about mobile talking about the future:
His remarks are sobering. Microsoft is taking a step by step approach in trying to nail these two segments first. If they are successful, they can think of moving on to other categories e.g. niche phones like extreme photography.
The important take away from his comments is Microsoft's restated commitment to mobile. As mentioned earlier, mobile is key to Windows 10, and they cannot just surrender to the satisfaction of critics. However, the second half of that statement is whether Microsoft can deliver on their promise.
All eyes are on October.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.