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Microsoft and Qualcomm: The architects of an always-connected computing future

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Microsoft logo (Image credit: Windows Central)

Many companies, like Apple, are consumer-focused and offer products that resonate with the masses. From smartphones to smart speakers the world is watching as Google, Apple and Samsung fill the consumer space with an interconnected assortment of exciting new devices.

Qualcomm, the company that makes the processors that power much of our mobile technology, is less known by the regular Joe and less exciting to write about for outlets, but a necessary player nonetheless. Additionally, Microsoft's dwindling presence in the consumer space is bringing the company's long-standing mission to provide the tools (opens in new tab) others use to "do more," to the forefront.

If Microsoft is the 'platform for everything' does it really need a phone?

Both companies, one by virtue of how it has always operated, and the other as a product of a shift from the consumer space, are laser-focused on providing the platforms that power the technology the world uses.

The tools we use

Microsoft's platform strategy is broad and diverse. It includes an operating system that spans a family of devices, a cloud strategy second only to Amazon, and an IoT and intelligent edge strategy targeting tens of billions of devices. It also provides a platform for augmented and virtual reality, AI and bots, gaming, and even quantum computing.

Microsoft provides companies, OEM partners, and individuals with the tools to create products and services in each of these areas.

Microsoft and Qualcomm want to provide the platforms that will support the industry's products.

This strategy differs significantly from that of consumer-focused companies that push products designed for specific purposes based on that company's vision. Marketing plays a much bigger role in these strategies since informing consumers of the company's vision for the product is paramount to its adoption. Conversely, Microsoft's mission is akin to providing businesses and individuals with a toolbox filled with the appropriate tools for them to create their unique visions to "achieve more."

Qualcomm's strategy parallels Microsoft. It provides the foundation for the technology we use. For instance, before the smartphone became mainstream in 2007, Qualcomm worked on the technology that made smartphones possible. Qualcomm's goal, according to CEO Steve Mollenkopf is to "invent the core technologies and the tools that allow the mobile roadmap to move forward."

As it did with smartphones, Qualcomm wants to provide the fundamental cellular technologies that people will use ten years later and that brings innovation to business models. I know that's not exciting for the guy looking for a shiny new smartphone but without the cellular technology Qualcomm provides, smartphones would be shiny new paperweights.

Mollenkopf said this of Qualcomm's mission:

Qualcomm is this big innovation house that tries to figure out how we can get as many people as possible using the cellular roadmap. The smartphone is just the first step along that journey.

What's next?

Qualcomm's multi-faceted impact.

Whereas tech pundits focus on what type of device will succeed the smartphone, Qualcomm, and if you look closely, Microsoft, are focused on the technologies that will power the next shift in computing. Cloud computing, IoT and the intelligent edge are where Microsoft is placing its bets. And Qualcomm is innovating technologies parallel to this vision that will enable its implementation on a broad scale.

We can see computing move to the intelligent cloud led by Amazon, Microsoft and Google even now. Qualcomm wants to provide the fundamental industry tools to empower innovation in this area. It's not betting on a particular implementation of the technology, however. For instance, in the past, Qualcomm anticipated the data connection would be essential. So it invested in video and audio compression technologies that made data transfer easier. That bet paid off.

Microsoft and Qualcomm are betting on cloud computing and big data.

In a similar manner, Qualcomm anticipates that the next significant shift will be in massive data transfers with low latency, which will profoundly affect computing. This vision coincides with Microsoft's cloud computing and intelligent edge vision of computing. As more computing power — data — moves from the cloud to the intelligent edge, where devices close to the user process the data, supporting technologies will have to be in place to facilitate the process. This is where Qualcomm is focusing innovation.

Secure networks for autonomous cars and remote healthcare

Autonomous cars and connected healthcare are part of the intelligent edge. These mission-critical industries require highly secure networks for both privacy and safety purposes. Qualcomm is attempting to create the technology that will support robust and secure networks so that investments in autonomous vehicles and remote delivery of healthcare can develop. Without secure communication networks, the broader industry goals to scale and build infrastructure for these technologies can't be met.

Many Microsoft fans are upset the company doesn't have the smartphone-based in-car presence iOS and Android have. That's understandable. But analogous to Qualcomm investments, Microsoft's Connected Vehicle Platform supports devices behind the scenes (opens in new tab).

Furthermore, Microsoft's hospital (and workplace) focused AI-driven cameras can access patient information and support staff. The secure network technology Qualcomm will provide is paramount to the widespread implementation of this tech.

Cellular PCs, 5G and new business models

Qualcomm's goal to "get as many people as possible using the cellular roadmap" fits organically with Microsoft's personal computing goals. Cellular PCs using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor are coming this year. With its cloud-focused strategy, Microsoft wants as many people as possible always connected to its cloud-based services. Cellular PCs will enable the necessary always-connected scenario for the masses.

The long view is that always-connected PCs connected to the intelligent edge will become the norm. With 5G introduction in 2018 (and continued growth thereafter) there will be greater capacity, data rates and lower latency for these and other edge devices — like your shiny new smartphone. Mollenkopf shares that new businesses are poised to become part of the cellular roadmap just as 5G is implemented. More eSIM-equipped IoT devices are also expected.

Furthermore, as bandwidth increases and latency drops, Mollenkopf envisions data centers moving closer to where the data is used, enabling distributed computing. Complimentary to this view is Microsoft's goal to support distributed networks on its intelligent edge. Mollenkopf says:

When everything gets connected, and the computing power is resident at the spot that the data exists, and...companies [are] saying...how can I change my business model?... People are...saying this is going to be so significant to economies, the growth of jobs, growth of economy.

Synergy in the shadows

In a connected world where processing and AI power is profoundly increased at the local device level, business models, economies and governments will be poised for a transformation akin to what smartphones introduced. Microsoft is positioning itself to reap the financial rewards of providing the platforms for these new economies.

As Mollenkopf shared, smartphones were just the beginning. Qualcomm and Microsoft's positioning to power the next shift also include Microsoft's device family (including potential ultramobile PCs) that will run on the intelligent edge and Qualcomm processors that will power connected devices.

Microsoft must leverage partnerships, eSIM and edge computing to position ultramobile PCs

Microsoft drifting from the consumer space toward primarily being a platform provider disappoints many fans including yours truly. But its relationship with Qualcomm may ensure its relevance in an always-connected future where the devices we use will rely on the platforms these companies provide.

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!

94 Comments
  • Comming soon Surface Phone? 😮😐😃😂
  • There is no such thing.  And there never will be.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but were you not the same guy who dismissed the Surface Studio patents?
  • Ok ok Surface UMPC. 
  • Its not a Surface Phone, it's a inexpensive "for them";" expensive for you" Surface Snapdragon that can "call home"...
  • Skippy says, "you flea bitten...NO!!!"
  • For the new "Surface Phone" the should look at the Com-Link in Marvel's Inhumans :)  
    http://marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/wiki/Com-Link 
  • MSFT has no stomach for the risks of the personal consumer market...since they are extremely innovative, their new model appears to be develop the tech first then license it...less risks, greater profits, stay in the background...
  • They are learning with apple, let the others invent and invest and apply it years later, then comes the media saying apple innovate...
  • Wait until the iPhone has a live tile interface. It will be innovative. 
  • Then I would have no doubts - I would switch in a second! At least Apple has stable strategy and whole range of all devices. Already iOS 11 have so many UI/UX solutions from WP7.x
  • Yeah, Apple is going to copy the interface that failed every time Microsoft has based a device on it?! I doubt even Microsoft is going to continue with that interface.
  • We can only dream of this. Finally, and iPhone that is not painfully annoying to work with
  • The thing is, if Apple do implement Live Tiles, I imagine it would work a lot more fluidly than it does on W10M. So many apps don't update unless you actually open them, kind of defeating the purpose.
  • Sounds like an app issue, not an OS issue, so I fail to see how Apple can make that work better.
  • If they did,  Which i highly doubt they will,  their developers would have it nailed before release  dont worry...unlike microsoft,  who had approximately 10 grade 7 students developing for their platform.
  • Would be an instant buy for me ;-)
  • Microsoft is definitely targetting business/enterprise... the annoying thing with that though is business and enterprise are made up of all these insignificant CONSUMERS. Till they wake up and get back to the whole idea of what Office did with their 80/20 rule to get more consumers using Office and bringing consumer features to Windows to gain market share they will start seriously losing ground, and the writing is on the wall now in many businesses looking 'elsewhere' instead of Microsoft.  Dropping products and services here and there sends ripples through business and enterprise because IT Managers, staff and decision makers (me being one of these), are 'consumers' first. It plays a significant role in what decisions you make for the companies you are responsible for.  
  • I guess I can agree. Microsoft is making the safe, conservative bet by trying to be the invisible, but indispensable, back end on all the technology we all will use. That kind of tech isn't subject to the whims of the consumer, here today but replaced by something "oh shinny!" tomorrow. Sadly, while I think its a good move for a business/quarterly profit organization, I also think that it breed a culture of complacency and lethargy. We may not see Microsoft want to innovate and take risks anymore once they complete this "refresh".
  • Just give me a 7" inch tablet that can also make a phone call. Even if it runs Win 10 in it's current non-touch-friendly state. Is that too much to ask for?
  • This is exactly what I was thinking early today. I just do not like Android or iOS and I do not think that my current WP with broken hardware buttons will last more than a year. I will love to have a Windows tablet that can make calls and it will be better if that supports VoLTE.
  • I don't know what model you have but search the internet. You can but replacement parts for some.
  • There was some Chinese manufactured 7 inch tablet running Windows 10 Mobile
  • There was some Chinese manufactured 7 inch tablet running Windows 10 Mobile
  • How can anyone have any faith in Microsoft's consumer product ambitions when these days they hardly ever come through on their promises.
  • Good question. Here's a legitimate question what would it take for users to trust MS again?
  • For one thing, Microsoft needs to get over the notion that the general public is going to be swayed by throwing words like "productivity" around. When was the last time you heard anyone telling their friends "look at this amazing Word document I created!"? They need to find out how the average person in the general public is using a mobile device and base their strategy on that. They also need to accept the fact that mobile is popular for a reason (hint: MOBILE.) Realize that aggressively marketing their products has to be a priority.
  • Free device replacements/discounts on surface products for all existing Lumia users. and a clear spelled out future strategy and show commitment on ground.
  • This is all great (not really), but with Amazon and Google also working in the same arena, I think Microsoft will actually LOSE any relevance they hoped to get.  As a consumer, I'm not going to be choosing a device thinking "oh, cool, Microsoft backend system are supporting this thing!".  Apple already gave the finger to Bing. And I'll be most are funding more native iPhone or Android services are better or "good enough" that Microsoft's presence there will diminish.
  • Google Home worries me a lot, I think its more popular today than Xbox One which has sold 30 million units, I really like Microsoft but they need to have more penetration in the consumer Internet of Things market with something else than Xbox One if they want to have developers support their IoT home platform.
  • Unfortunately, MS doesn't understand the consumer market space. PCs they get, gadgets not so much.
  • I believe within 10 years and the way things are heading in MS currently, Windows 10 might actually be the last OS that they make. I'm not saying they will go bust, but they will turn into IBM, move into SaaS running on Android, the now dominant OS. This isn't coming from an Android guy either, I'm writing this on a X3, but I work in an enterprise IT environment and I can see the writing is on the wall for MS. It's glory days are over, much like IBM's are. Sure, it'll have a great stock price, but you mention IBM to anyone born this side of the millennium and I bet you they don't know who you're talking about. It's either that, or MS are planning on hijacking android, and I don't see that happening.
  • Microsoft already said Windows 10 will be it's last os, and in 10 years Samsung is more likely to hijack Android than MS. 
  • Oh shut up Mr. Ward!
  • Honestly, he needs to stop visiting the Microsoft Campus.  They're slipping way too much Welbutrin into his coffee...
  • Hi Madsci2 I know Qualcomm's platform strategy and goal to get as many people on the cellular roadmap as possible combined with MS platform strategy isn't covered much or popular among some readers. Perhaps you'd like to take the topic.
  • Just the same article over and over again. None of this is ever going to be reality.
  • Dusteater, I don't ever recall writing about Microsoft's partnership with Qualcomm. Can you post a link to the article you're referring to?
  • Frankly, I hope that Windows on Arm "devices" get introduced and shipping in 2017 from HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc. - with Surface, Microsoft "was FORCED to innovate and lead, but making a "tablet sized Always connected PC" should be something that these large scale PC manufacturers can do quickly ... Once WoA IS,READY and working well on the 835 - the question is - WHEN?
  • if WoA was ready of atleast had MS focus, then why would HP drop the elite X3 expansion plans and then blame MS.
  • Google Home is the proof Iot is dominated today by Google, Just looks hoy many Chromecast devices are there in hundreds of million consumer homes. i think Apple and Microsoft are far behind, and Microsoft IoT strategy only focuses on Xbox as your living room hub, I think Microsoft needs to launch a smart home appliance like Chromecast but that runs Windows and has Snapdragon CPU.
  • I actually know very few people with Google IoT products.  I know a lot with Apple TV, Roku, Smart TV (usually with proprietary OS) and Echo but I hear very little out of the Google side in my circle.  Same with Android Wear, lots of noise, lots of OEM, but everyone I know has a fitbit, apple watch, or Samsung (which runs Tinzen not Android).  Google makes a lot of products and has a lot of OEM, but outside of Android phones and Search they seem to be the minor player or the "budget" player.
  • Google Home Android app is shown in my country where I live it has been downloaded 50 million times, this just justifies investing on Google Home for companies making hardware, I doubt Apple and Microsoft have more than 25 million users  (half) together summed up.  If Microsoft and Apple don't think 50 million Google Home users is a big number, then I'm not sure what stats they're looking at right now.
  • My question would be device installs versus use. My wife's iPhone had an apple watch app well before she had an apple watch.
  • Surface pro Arm ?
  • I realize Joe said some things in a tweet. But his team only heads the Windows 10 experience. I don't consider him "Microsoft". Just a piece of Microsoft. Im still waiting for Microsoft themselves to release an official statement on the future of mobile. I realize I may be waiting forever.
  • Move on like the rest of us. We don't like it but we have to accept it. We should have gotten the hint when Bill Gates said that he uses an Android. 
  • Yes Android will have more apps AND be supported AND have more hardware options. But.....its still boring. Bland OS. If/when my phone dies, guess I'll see what boring feels like. But Gates' loyalty was gone long ago. Not mine.
  • If someone of note said it in Microsoft (and Joe is of note), that will be inline of Microsoft. Staff of Microsoft will not say anything without express knowledge of the company. They don't work that way. So if he said it, then Microsoft said it.
  • I mostly agree. Just wondering why it took a tweet. A response to some random question? When each time asked other heads have said that MS remain committed to mobile? My patience is for sure running out I'm one of the last for sure. But still gonna wait for something more official before I light everything on fire.
  • Keep waiting.
  • My phone still works. So yeah.. I'm waiting. It's by a thread though.
  • "Many Microsoft fans are upset the company doesn't have the smartphone-based in-car presence iOS and Android have."
    The car I recently purchased hasn't had any trouble talking to my Windows phone via Bluetooth.  I can use the car's infotainment system to make calls, access contacts and media, etc.  If you still have a Windows phone that is your main mobile device and your car won't interface with it, time to get a new car.
  • Yes, that seems logical.
  • Wow, your phone works over Bluetooth. That isn't what he was talking about.
  • Do you have some amazing power of perception or insight into the mind of Mr. Ward, not available to others reading this article, to know what was "really" meant?  If that statement was not intended to refer to the ability of cars to interface with mobile devices running a Microsoft platform (operating sytem) then the fault is not with how I interpreted the statement.  The fault is with the statement, that it could be interpreted that way.
  • Bluetooth audio is extremely basic and limiting. Every single one of my Windows Phones had big issues with Bluetooth audio. Texts would almost never be read, music would almost never resume after a call. Now that I have an iPhone, I can see how valuable CarPlay is. I have all of my maps and music on the screen of my car. That is 100x better than anything Microsoft ever had. And the frustrating part was they were a member of the Car Connectivity Consortium. They had a working demo years ago with MirrorLink. But they never actually put into the product. That was the #1 thing that made me leave to iPhone.
  • He is obviously talking about Android Auto and Car Play. They are much more powerful than Bluetooth audio.
  • remember Microsoft Auto in Ford cars... called Ford Sync from 10 years ago?  I once saw it in a rental Ford Focus several years ago... http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/reviews/4224767-4
  • yes...and it was just microsoft branding for bluetooth connections.  I had it in a couple of my trucks.
  • This is slightly confusing. I get the idea of an always connected PC. No problem with that. However the market for PCs has been contracting for years and is juddering around a flatline now. The ipad is the only significant tablet device and is centred on consumption. Of course there is the Surface line of devices but they sell in relatively low numbers compared to the laptop market in general. All in all the form factor between 6 inch screens and 13 inch screens is peppered with the ipad mini, ipad and low end Chromebooks or the HP Stream. In other words the mobile space is dominated by phones under 6 inches. Now Microsoft isn't competing there for hardware or as an OS provider anymore. It's focus is on apps. No one can really tell the future but the tablet revolution that began with the ipad seems to be showing significant sales slowing and no evidence that the form factor is moving further.  So Qualcomm have a chip for laptops with a long battery life. I have no problem with that but it's a laptop. Doesn't seem to me that it's a revoution just a chip variation. Windows on ARM is fine. It comes with built in LTE and for certain business users it's going to fit a space in the enterprise armoury. However mostly enterprise users, if they need to communicate, they will use a mobile phone. If they need to work then they will tether the laptop. Are they going to see an extra data contract on a device as something they need just to save the 30 seconds they need to tether their phone. Maybe for some. Seems a niche market to me.
  • I feel the same way. How powerful is ARM when paired with full Windows and how efficient are they when being forced to put up with that workload? I doubt the differences will be that dramatic. I bet the performance trade off will barely be worth the increased efficiency. I may be wrong, but we will see soon unless Microsoft pushes the launch back.
  • Not to mention that any Win32 apps will be running in an Intel emulator.  What could possibly go wrong there? Why anyone thinks this will fix the app gap, is beyond me.  There still won't be any MOBILE apps.  
  • This isn't for phones, just normal laptops and PC form factors. Apps won't be an issue on these devices.
  • Who will want a ARM pc with NO apps, that only runs win32 apps in some kind of Contiuum mode? As many at Windows RT? and oh how many folks are making these devices? Not Dell. LENOVO, means Enterprise.  HP, the same HP that got royally burned and lied to about Windows Mobile, what could go wrong with that?
  • Agreed. Seems to be a solution in search of a problem. Longer battery life & built in LTE are nice features, but that's all they are- nice features. Perhaps some engineering team will wow us with an innovative form factor or function, but these devices seem like they've been way overhyped on sites like this as compared with what will actually be produced in the coming months.
  • Stephen Townsley - I've been asking Jason Ward for the business case for this always connected unicorn device. I don't seen the Enterprise chomping at the bit to get involved with phone and data plans and having to deal with all of that hassle.  Sure there may be inefficiency in subsidizing someone's phone & data plan but they don't have the headaches associated with dealing with 100's or 1000's of plans. To do any meaningful work, you need at least a 13" screen and using that in most cases is painful.  There is also the need for input DEVICES.  Touch screens are great but for a lot of work, a mouse and keyboard are required.  That means in addition to this unicorn device, someone will basically have to lug around a laptop. And after the fiasco that is W10M, the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team better not even look in the direction of the consumer!  DOA!!!  No one can seriously consider MSFT to be a consumer focused company or even if they aren't, to have the fortitude to stick through the tough times to make a consumer product work.  Does anyone, other than those of us who have continually been burned on the consumer side, even remotely think that MSFT is cool? So, once again Jason, what is the business case for the unicorn device?
  • He doesnt have a business case, admitting that will cease readership interest, so obviously these articles will continue for some time. I do think MS has mobile strategy, Windows mobile still runs on many handhelds, RF scanners, PDA, I believe MS will soon relace legacy WM with something W10 based, may be once W10 core is ready, but it will never be for consumer consumption.
  • "These articles?"🤔 I'm a bit confused here. THIS article is about Qualcomm's and Microsoft's synergistic mission to provide the cellular and cloud platforms for the next stage of always connected computing. Qualcomm's mission being to bring as many people as possible onto the cellular roadmap per CEO Steve Mollenkopf, and Microsoft's mission, with a multifaceted faceted platform approach, including cloud and edge computing and the goal to connect as many people as possible to its cloud-based services. In this piece I talk about the implications of 5G networks, edge computing, the increased power of AI as more data moves to edge of the cloud, Qualcomms innovation focus on robust and secure networks to facilitate the foundations of the next stage of an always connected computing world where Steve Mollenkopf stated the "smartphone was just the beginning." The focus of the piece is NOT any type of device as the opening statement makes clear. I also explicitly state in the text before diving further into the above: "Whereas tech pundits focus on what type of *device* will succeed the smartphone, Qualcomm, and if you look closely, Microsoft, are focused on the technologies that will power the next shift in computing. Cloud computing, IoT and the intelligent edge are where Microsoft is placing its bets. And Qualcomm is innovating technologies parallel to this vision that will enable its implementation on a broad scale." How the focus of the bulk of the commentary I see on this revolves around ultramobile PCs and such escapes me?🤔Did you guys read the piece? Where are the thoughts about the fundamental technologies and platforms that will power the cellular foundation our future devices will run on, or the thoughts about the implications of 5G networks, or the potential of AI's boost as more data is processed at the edge of the cloud, or your observations of the synergy of Qualcomm's and Microsoft's mission and vision. That's what this piece is about. That would be an engaging and interesting discussion. Did you guys read the piece.🤔
  • Where's Jason's usual "Let's Chat!" comment? I just wanted to say you could replace Qualcomm with Intel, and Always-connected with Always-On, and it would be the same story.  Oops, I guess I ruined Jason's post count for the day. 
  • I would think that, in order to be relevant in the "always-connected future", one would need to be relevant in the "always-connected present."
  • Perhaps MS will be relevant... but to whom? Will that include us?  It would be nice to think the MS strategy is leagues ahead of us mere observers, but their track record suggests caution.  I bought a Dell XPS for a couple of grand, and I'm okay with that because W10 isn't going anywhere during the useful life of this gizmo. Would i consider buying MS hardware? No longer. Would I consider signing on to an MS service? Office 365 is an essential for me, but that's where I throw down my anchor and go no further. MS is too quick to dip its toes in the water and then run the other way. 
  • Watch Tim Golik's Q&A on Msft LTE, e-SIM strategy at Ms Ignite to get a glimpse of always connected: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ2ClkCImtM&app=desktop
  • Microsoft should look at getting into mobile phones.. they are pretty well the 'stay connected' device of today and years to come. 
  • Well the question is, if this post is still relevant, HP is pulling back their expansion of mobile devices, they have blamed microsoft's lack of mobile push for the same, so either MS has cancelled woa or put it on backburner.
  • WoA has nothing to do with phones. This has been made quite clear, but people just think what they want. It is just going to be traditional laptops and "tablets".
  • I know that and have been saying that for quite a while, but all the articles from Jason Ward keep up that hope for hopeful fans. I know he mentioned it a few times in his comments but doesnt bring in that clarity up front in his articles that these devices that he talks about will not be a smartphone replacement.
  • Jason had too much Kool Aid...his articles, most of them, are out of any reality.
  • Hi techiez. Perhaps you're a speed reader and simply missed very clear statements I've made in my articles that my vision of ultramobile PC are not positioned to compete with phones. And perhaps you thought excerpts from the text that I may have used to respond in comments we're just comments, and not up front examples from the text stating that the device is not a smartphone competitor. I don't have the time to draw excerpts from ALL my pieces but here are a few. To make clear these are excerpts I've included publication title, date, author and link to the work. Hope this helps.: Why Microsoft's 'we have Windows 10 Mobile for phones' doesn't contradict Pocket PC vision By Jason Ward Tuesday, Aug 29, 2017 at 1:00 pm EDT https://m.windowscentral.com/why-microsofts-we-have-windows-10-mobile-phones-doesnt-contradict-pocket-pc-vision The power of a PC with CShell and Continuum* If a Continuum-enabled mobile device is to replace a user's PC, that mobile device must be a full PC. Thus, we must recognize that Microsoft's strategy