Reading between the lines: What Panos was telegraphing about those new Lumias
Microsoft's Windows 10 Devices event on Tuesday goes down as one of their best shows yet. The presentation was convincing, there were no real lags, and the products announced were all awe-inspiring. Well, almost.
One area though that was rather peculiar was in regards to Panos Panay's presentation on new Lumias. Specifically, the short duration and lack of enthusiasm were quite evident. It felt like he wanted to get through it get on to the real story, those new Surfaces. I even joked that Microsoft may squeeze in the Lumia 550 during the event, and sure enough it got about 15 seconds of stage time.
Not the Microsoft Lumias you were looking for?
I have been talking about these new Lumias for some time on our #AskDanWindows series specifically about the origins of the phones. It should be clear that these new Lumias are carryovers from the Nokia days and not "pure" Microsoft devices. That is not a slight against how good they are – something we still don't know much about but rather a clear observation about how Microsoft feels about these phones.
It should be obvious that Microsoft stands firmly behind these devices like any other Lumias. As they should, they pack more hardware and features into one device that many Android ones spread over a range. Expandable memory, Qi wireless, an iris scanner, Gorilla Glass 4, liquid cooling, Continuum, and a killer camera are all a big deal. Still, they feel like stopgaps a bit too.
Remember, these Lumias started at Nokia during a big transition time for the company. They were not designed from scratch by Microsoft something I expect to happen sometime in May 2016 with their long-gestating Intel-powered phone aka "Surface phone," which I mentioned back in July (see below).
Microsoft's Satya Nadella says if OEMs don't make Windows phones they will
What was on stage
When you take a look at the Band 2, Surface Pro 4, Surface Book and HoloLens, there is a clear cutting-edge design aesthetic running through those devices. The Band 2's fantastic display, which is much more touch-sensitive is a carry over from the Surface. Even the Lumia 950 XL's liquid cooling system is borrowed from the Surface.
Should we be surprised at any of that? Not at all. Panos Panay is in charge of all Microsoft hardware taking over the Lumia division in July. Panay even hedges at the beginning of his Lumia presentation saying he has only worked with that team for a "very short time." I read that – as did many others – as code for 'Hey, these are not my phones, and I would have done things differently.' It's distancing.
Thinking about it makes sense. The Microsoft hardware team clearly agonizes over minute details in their creations. When handling the Band 2 you can feel the engineering quality. And don't get me started on how radically insane the Surface Book is from a design perspective.
When you see all of Microsoft's new premium hardware and then glance over at the Lumias you cannot help but see something is, well, off.
Continuum is just the beginning
Microsoft Continuum for the phone is easily one of the most interesting aspects of the new Lumias. However, being able to run Universal Windows Apps on a large display means you are carrying a Windows RT device around with you. Granted, in Windows 10 the UWA model is much better, but you still cannot run x86 apps on your phone.
If I had to guess – and once again this should be evident – Microsoft keeps talking about "Windows 10 in your pocket" and that idea only really resonates if you can run full desktop apps.
I have reported before about a Microsoft-Intel phone, and my bet is Microsoft's goal is for you to be able to run x86 apps with Continuum from your phone. What we see with the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL is one step towards that goal. You can hear more about that in Episode 4 of #AskDanWindows from August, including some well-informed foreshadowing about this "Surface phone".
AskDanWindows Episode 4 - When can we expect Win10 Mobile with Intel?
This goal is not easy, but the technology to enable it to happen is finally within reach. Just listening to Microsoft's language about Continuum tells you that yeah, they want you to have a full PC in your pocket (yes, and we've come full circle with the PocketPC branding).
I still don't know if we will have a Surface phone per se, but you can bet that Microsoft is going to go for something crazy now that Panay and his group are heading things. Remember, Surface is more than just a name, it's an idea. These Lumias don't fit.
This situation is one of those "good news / bad news" moments. The bad news is what I have been saying for months: these are not pure Microsoft phones. But hey, new high-end phones with Nokia DNA is still a good problem to have. I have no concern about picking up a Lumia 950 for my usage (I worry more about the OS part).
The upshot is we have witnessed Microsoft being very serious about hardware, not just in attempts but delivering high-end, premium, hardware that leave people shocked. Is there any reason to believe Microsoft cannot do the same with phones? They can and I'm sure they will.
Just ask yourself: Would the same group who made Band, Surface, now Xbox and even HoloLens make the Lumia 950? Probably not. So, if those phones feel out of place, well, it's because they are.
Panos Panay only took on the phone development team in late July. That should tell you something about whatever comes next. Does that mean you should skip the Lumia 950 and 950 XL? Ultimately, that depends on your wallet. If you don't mind getting a phone a year – which is where things are going now – then I'd grab a new Lumia and use it until Microsoft's next big thing. I am and have no qualms about it.
I think the important message after Tuesday's event is that Microsoft is very serious about hardware – all hardware – and we still have to see their full effort in every category. It doesn't even matter how well these new Lumias do, to be honest. If Microsoft can build a killer product like the Surface Pro 3 / 4 and Surface Book they can also drive demand for a world-class phone in 2016. They are capable.
Apple did it, and Microsoft proved Tuesday they can do it too. Doing yet another high-end phone won't save Windows 10 Mobile, but Microsoft has shown they can go beyond just specs and I think they will.
Buckle in, folks, we're in for a very exciting Microsoft lead future. You should be convinced that Microsoft and phones are here to stay. We haven't seen everything yet.
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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.
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But that's not likely though.. MS Band has it's own reputation so far.. So they don't have to rename it.. But Lumia doesn't have a Surface like reputation so far ... So MS should keep Lumia naming for cheap phones and for their high end devices it should be Surface... But that gets me confused about the Lumia 950/XL.. If they rename the high-end phone to Surface.. Those L950/XL owners would be complaining like they did with WP7.5 to WP7.8 transition.. It's gonna be a tough choice..
Would a Lumia Surface not fit in with the brand without a keyboard cover? Should we be getting excited at the prospect of a physical keyboard? Or is or is a surface phone something else?
Watching the livestream, regardless of Panos Panay's indifference I didn't feel like the 950 was targetting me the consumer but at businesses as a work phone, and a device I can be proud of and get excited about is still to come.
950 is pretty high-end (and costs more than I'm willing to invest in a phone to be honest) - possibly the best camera in a phone, continuum, heatpipe (no reason to buy it but it's cool ;) ). Nothing to be ashamed of. "Not invented here"?
I think the best option for premium would have been either what Mozo did (metal & leather) or the Sony solution (now followed by Samsung) of metal and glass (though glass cases would probably be a problem in the long-run). Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
If you still think that, you haven't been listening to Nadella ;) Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
That! That is what I will spend money on to buy! I've learned never to buy another rt device again after buying the first generation surface rt. I have no reason to switch from android but having a full windows os in my pocket would he pretty compelling. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android on my Oneplus One
Like Daniel, I'm going also going to grab one of the new Lumia's. But of course my eyes are on the horizon for the "Surface Phone".
We do have some pretty powerful hardware in these devices and what looks like an awesome camera. These phone will be worth showing off to iPhone/Android toting friends and family. :-)
But seriously release a Surface grey coloured shell for the 950's with metal sides and BAM(ish) kind of, sort of Surface looking phone.
Oh, and the funky blue from the earlier renders.
As much as I wanted a 950/950 XL, as you pointed out in a previous article these are the "enterprise" phones, so hopefully won't be too long til we see the "enthusiasts" phone! :) Edit: Glad to know that not buying these shouldn't have an effect on the future release of others.
Continuum is not a strong enough feature for many buyers .
Stopgap is right. They kept saying "its for the fans". Like here, hold this while we prep the surface phone ;)
Really don't get the idea of aluminum/whatever should define premium design or not. Find metal phones slippery, cold and hard.
Todays surface phone would be exactly the same inside.
Stop this nonsense.
You don't know timeframes.
"Reading between lines" is a slippery way.
Yes, maybe this is not what Panos would have done but I hope his thoughts were just about the design because the rest seems to be truly awesome.
Maybe he came on stage with all the bad feedbacks received from WP fans having seen those leaks images, and he hurry remarked that these are not his creations.
In that video about Continuum, they are using the phone screen as a trackpad.. I hope you have seen it.. I thought that's gonna be awesome ,because that feature can get rid of the mouse.. :)
Also, I do not share your interpretation about the supposed lack of motivation and all. It's because you guys have had it all leaked weeks ago and there were no reason to bore you all with it all over again; they know you need to write new stuff and journalists find delight in crusty things only. Sure, These Lumia aren't as jaw-dropping as would have been an Intel-based Lumia but they got to sell them too and since manufacturers haven't started to sell high-end Windows phones yet, they better have these handy because, let's face it, a single aspirational $1000+ smartphone is not just what Windows phone needs right now even to please a few fans. Anyway, I sure hope they aren't going to fire the old Nokians in the MS Hardware team just to keep the MS blood "pure"! They are now part of the family you know...
Start saving folks.. ;-)
Intel device in 2016 is not possible.
SD820 can only come in late 2016 according to ms plan to have 3 segments covered yearly.
The ones I mentioned above are, the ease of development is an important factor, updates are a factor, power, graphic processing capabilities is a factor and battery life is a factor..
The no of apps is a by product of consumers on platform not apples doing. I get that it affects us and microsoft but its not their fault! They have made available 90+% code reusability, the best IDEs on the planet, freed up in app purchase policies.. What Microsoft has in their control they have done. Its now about getting users on the platform for the apps to flow in
He pushed everything that was new there were just more new things to talk about in the surface line.
Keep your wet dreams of surface phone to yourself and represent what we get today with 950's
This is disconnection, kind of.
Going to get one of them, not going to wait for a, "maybe someday in a not defined future there will be", Surface phone.
A. We already knew everything about them.
B. Windows mobile is not ready, too risky to show stuff.
C. Nobody except windows phone fans are interested in their phones, doesn't matter how great they are. People who use iPhones or Galaxies won't jump ship. But people do jump ship for a surface. Why? Because windows 10 has a mature ecosystem. Windows 10 mobile has not. The reason why they don't pay much attention to phones is because they want to grow the phone business in a later stage. They take a reverse path to finally lead people to use windows phones. Maybe in 4 years. Until then they will focus on apps everywhere and on surfaces because that is a hole in the market.
This all stands apart from the Lumia 950 and 950XL being top flagship premium phones. They are. They have almost everything you could wish for. Except no metal housing. Are you kidding me? Metal sucks.
You are talking this phone down for no reason. Because of articles like these even fans won't buy these phones and Microsoft will have another reason to invest less in these kind of phones.
Wait until you get these phones with a more polished w10m. They will blow your mind.
You better buy one because I promise you the 'surface' phones are not going to supersede these flagships. They will fit a different category. People will regret not getting a 950 when they find out.
Microsoft knows that lumia 950/xl are not what people expected, and increase interest with leaked images.
I think that "if oem doesn't make windows phone they will" is the exact thing that happened with the first surface: They showed how power microsoft is and that they had enough of waiting oem to make something interesting. At first oem were angry and scared, but after that they follow the same line and let microsoft try something new at its own risk and take all the advantages. I bet this will be happen again
I say as more people get used to W10 on their PC a certain percentage of those people just might check out a W10 phone..
"Don't you know who Panay is?". Yes, and he's doing a bang up job on the Surface, (cringe-worthy presenter tho) but to make his phone announcement sound so "meh" makes me just think he should stay off the stage altogether.
May b there are waiting for profits to climb, before they can pour money on it.. Which today isn't a bad idea. But what is suffering is image of Lumia line.
I think if applications were developed “Mobile First” it could actually be possible to have our phones do more than just consuming content.
Have you gone through the recent data for the second quarter of this year. Windows phones have managed to occupy more than 14% market share in most of the big EU countries like Germany, France and Britain.
Secondly, Surface is a nice product. Agreed. But do anyone of you remember a device named Lumia 2520. I have question for Microsoft. Why did they kill it? Everyone will agree that it was better than the then surface tablet. Only problem was the Win RT.
That device proves one thing. That is Lumia will die, no matter how good they are. You are right! But it will happen after other oem start developing Windows phones. Then Microsoft will kill Lumia line up and start making their "prototype phones" aka Surface phones.
Instead you should point to certain things that led to them using a design carryover from Nokia, not hyping the phone up like you feel was missing & focus on getting the reader to understand better why Microsoft isn't doing it this or that way. All you are doing is casting doubt to those that already think Windows has abandoned the phone & has already failed.
I know Microsoft has a very good reasoning behind this strategy & it's very clear no one is pointing it out. Microsoft is simply setting the expectation level lower this time around to avoid the same mistakes they did when they launched the Windows 8 Phone. Tech journalist have had a field day ever since about how big of failure it was. I think their approach this time will be put them in the hands of enterprise users who don't have a choice on what phone they are given & as the users see the great features that the devices have. This will create a trickle down effect into the mainstream with little risk of being seen as another failure if they don't gain significant market share.
Just my 2 cents on how articles don't show a different approach to the Phone strategy.