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

The existence of Microsoft's mobile strategy is debatable. One fact is certain, however, Microsoft needs a mobile device to ensure present and future personal computing relevance.

Smartphones are at the center of technologies that are shaping the future computing landscape. Without a mobile device, Microsoft is solidifying its position as a non-participant in personal computing's consumer-driven future.

A potential ultramobile PC category may help Microsoft and its OEM partners carve out a new, initially niche, telephony-enabled PC category that addresses its absence in mobile but doesn't compete directly with smartphones. PC manufacturer partnerships, electronic or embedded SIM (eSIM), IoT, 5G, edge computing and the synergy of Windows 10 features are all important factors to the long-term positioning of what may potentially become an evolving new PC category.

Assuming this analysis is correct, and results in an actual device, how might Microsoft, OEM partners and Qualcomm position and market ultramobile PCs?

If it's a PC, sell it like a PC

Microsoft must avoid two major pitfalls while executing its mobile strategy. Selling a traditional smartphone against the competition is a no-brainer. The other, presuming ultramobile PCs are the goal, is trying to sell them through traditional smartphone channels. The PC distribution channels Microsoft and its manufacturing partners have established over the past 40 years may prove a more viable strategy.

With Surface and Windows 10, Microsoft inspired partners to build quality 2-in-1s and mobile-oriented PCs that are predicted to remain growing PC segments. These PCs take advantage of Windows 10 features like inking, gaming and more. Ultramobile PCs can be positioned to make use of these successful OEM relationships and range of Windows 10 features.

Ultramobile PCs can be sold through traditional retail and B2B distribution channels.

Existing PC retailers like Best Buy, Staples and Walmart could sell ultramobile PCs to consumers, and existing business-to-business (B2B) channels could sell to the enterprise. Like existing PCs in retail outlets, they can be displayed and packaged with peripherals like monitors, mice and keyboards, like the Continuum-enabled Acer Jade Primo Windows phone. Or like the HP Elite x3, it can be packaged with a Lap Dock-like peripheral. This potentially foldable device could be a tablet when unfolded, a phablet-sized handheld when folded and a laptop or desktop when docked.

Like all technology, over time these devices will become more powerful, and we have evidence that Continuum will become more capable. Consequently, users could potentially create touchdown spots in homes and offices where ultramobile PCs would connect to stationed peripherals in place of old PC towers. Windows 10 on ARM can already run demanding PC tasks such as HD video playback, Inking, Adobe Photoshop, Halo Spartan and Office.

Since the telephony capabilities of ultramobile PCs are not the focus, positioning them as PCs is strategically appropriate and helps avoid carriers as the primary means of distribution.

eSIM and 'bypassing' carriers

Windows 10 on ARM doesn't support telephony yet, but we're conceivably moving swiftly in that direction. With Qualcomm's integrated eSIMs, Microsoft's partners are bringing always-connected, cellular PCs to market beginning this year. eSIMs require less space, allow for lighter and thinner devices, and enable connected devices to be recognized on cellular networks just as traditional SIM cards do. They also allow users greater flexibility with choosing cellular providers. Consumers will have on-device ability to switch between carriers and plans as they see fit and to purchase data directly from the Windows Store.

Microsoft announced carrier and OEM partnerships for cellular PC vision.

eSIMs on tablets are nothing new. But if cellular PCs segue to telephony-enabled ultramobile PCs, the flexibility in carrier choice for voice and not just data helps Microsoft step back into the phone space "from a side door" while still not competing directly with smartphones.

Telephony-enabled ultramobile PCs could offer flexible telephony options to the mobile space.

If iPhone and Android phone users purchase an ultramobile PC for PC purposes, they would in effect have a second "phone." This trojan phone effect could be a slow and methodic strategy to bring flexible telephony options to the mobile space.

The GSM Association (GSMA), a body of over 800 mobile carriers, has standardized eSIM guidelines. If Microsoft progresses from eSIM-capable cellular PCs to telephony-enabled ultramobile PCs, it will be following the evolution of supporting technologies.

IoT, 5G and the edge of the cloud

Edge computing allows IoT and connected devices with increasingly powerful processors, that are close to users, to handle much of the processing previously relegated to the cloud.

Reduced latency (time it takes data to reach connected devices), increased processing power and proactive abilities of AI on devices on the clouds edge (like mobile devices) are some advantages of edge computing.

What is Microsoft's intelligent edge and how does it affect mobile?

Qualcomm's CEO Steve Mollenkopf describes it this way:

[When] you touch something hot, your muscles move away from that hot thing before your central nervous system even knows it. Because that information is so important to take an action on that...processing has to occur locally. More...of the interesting things that happen in the connected Internet of Things will happen in that way.

The imminent implementation of 5G networks will add more capacity and greater data rates to the lower latency that edge computing enables. Mollenkopf says data centers can "essentially be moved closer to where data is used making distributed computing happen." Ultramobile PCs as part of distributed networks could be one business model Microsoft envisions. Monitoring and acting upon the real-time status of equipment or processes may be more efficient on such devices in that context.

Living on the edge

Ultramobile PCs would be positioned (with billions of other IoT devices) on the edge of Microsoft's cloud.

This perspective potentially reveals how Microsoft's cloud strategy works in accord with its mobile objectives. A new category of highly mobile PCs that take advantage of the processing power on the intelligent edge could leverage AI and other high-data processing tasks.

Microsoft may envision a consumer model where ultramobile PCs proactively communicate with connected cars (for which Microsoft provides cloud support (opens in new tab)) or a growing number of other connected consumer appliances and IoT devices.

If this view is accurate Microsoft's cloud initiatives are forward-looking and foundational to a potential mobile computing paradigm which benefits from edge computing, 5G networks, Microsoft's cloud and Qualcomm's vision of mobile computing's future.

Windows 10, a synergy of features

Microsoft's personal computing strategy is driven by its one-Windows vision to bring the power of Windows to all form factors.

I believe Microsoft intends for ultramobile PCs to present a synergy of Windows 10 features. They would be a single device useful for a range of creative, productive and leisure purposes, including:

  • Windows Ink and digital notepads.
  • Windows Mixed Reality and virtual and augmented reality handsets.
  • Continuum and desktop or laptop PCs.
  • Windows gaming and Xbox as a powerful gaming platform.
  • Composable Shell (CShell) as a consistent context-conforming UI experience.
  • Cloud and AI to leverage Microsoft's Azure, AI and edge computing investments.

The synergy of these features on unique PC form factors optimizes the benefits of edge computing that may make this device Nadella's ultimate mobile device.

Microsoft and partners can market a unique experience.

Such a device would not categorically be a productivity, leisure, business or consumer device. It would be all these things. Microsoft and its partners could potentially market the unique experience Windows 10 ultramobile PCs may offer.

Following the breadcrumbs

This speculative analysis offers an outlook of how current and evolving technological infrastructure could support the positioning and distribution of a new telephony-enabled PC category.

With a Windows 10-driven strategy, and eSIM, IoT, edge computing and unique hardware investments, Microsoft may be en route to Nadella's ultimate mobile device.

Jason Ward

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!

100 Comments
  • Thanks for reading. There have been questions as to how Microsoft might position this potential device category in the market. Hopefully this piece gives a thoughtful view as to how that very difficult challenge might be approached. Microsoft's silence offers little hope while the alternatives are steadily and vocally moving forward. Would this type of device and market position appeal to you if it ever makes it to market or are the alternatives more appealing than holding out?
  • While I partly commend you for your optimism and belief in that Microsoft can get all parts together, I also get a bit frustrated in the part that you always skip. That part is about confidence and trust. If it is anything that microsoft lost more than a precense in the mobile segment so is it the developers and customers confidence and trust. I am afraid that no set of improvement, new thinking and groundbreaking devices can win the sceptical crowd before that all the concurents have something close. Even with CShell you will need developers that create versions of applications where functionality are adapted to the format, the shell will not be enought. Even with a flexibel screen, a format small as an phone, always connected you need to win the crowd that either have been burnt or already bought into an other ecosystem. Today most people do not need an PC.
  • MS has indeed lost trust among the WP/W10M users but not necessarily the growing W10 users whom the new ultramobile device is targeting.  The device will run all the Windows Store apps, web apps and progressive web apps which can only grow.  The KEY is whether MS can build the foldable screen well enough to attract the W10 users who are mostly productivity minded users.  This new category - 'pocket tablet with phone capacilities' - should get strong support among all the MS OEM partners.  For them, it is just another W10 form factor which is more versatile, convenient and productive.
  •  Yepper's at one time I was excited about My windows phone at one time, even figured I could start my career of developing apps on fresh market but... Well, We all know What happened their. I jus+ don't get it. PC's & Tablets can already make calls and my phones already pretty much a PC, just add a bluetooth keyboard.  Although, I really would like to have window's 10 on my phone.
  • "If it's a PC, sell it like a PC" I always wanted phones to be sold like a PC.  Where you could special order the specs you wanted.  If you could only afford X amount then build your phone accordingly.  Just a thought...
  • That isn't what he means. He thinks Microsoft should try selling phones in Staples. As if that is going to be a good experience. Have you seen their PC offerings?!
  • Actually bleached I mean Microsoft and its partners like Dell, Asus, Lenovo and others should continue doing what they've been doing for decades, selling PCs through retail and B2B channels. This would just be another type of PC to join the desktops, laptops and 2-in-1s these companies sell via these venues. "Since the telephony capabilities of ultramobile PCs are not the focus, positioning them as PCs is strategically appropriate and helps avoid carriers as the primary means of distribution." I know you think its semantics. It is not. These are ultramobile PCs, not phones. They are no more phones than a Surface Pro with Skype. I presume CShell would optimize tje UI for aobile experience and eSIM with telephony would enable voice in addition to the data it currently enables. Cellaur PCs will be out soon. Does the always-connected nature of the smallest of the range of those devices make it a phone? Is it your contention that as soon as voice is added to the breadth of capabilities of celluar PCs it becomes a phone and is no longer a PC though the only difference between its latter and former state in regards to capbilities is the ability to make voice calls?
  • You just echoed what is said. Selling phones through Staples (legacy PC retail) isn't the answer. Nobody goes to Staples looking for a phone (see phone definition below). Selling someone a phone who goes in looking for a laptop is going to be tough. Same with enterprise. The phone experience is going to be a tough sell when the business apps aren't there. I actually use a Surface Pro with Skype as my primary work phone. Skype for Business works but man it is awful(why isn't it UWP?). I wouldn't call it a smartphone or the "Ultimate Mobile Device". It is way too big. I would call the "Ultimate Mobile Device" a smartphone because it will needs to be a 5-6" glass slab that may unfold larger and then dock for a PC experience. Any bigger than that and it ultimately isn't mobile. That device is a phone no matter what Microsoft trys to brand it.
  • You said, "Selling someone a phone who goes in looking for a laptop is going to be tough. Same with enterprise. The phone experience is going to be a tough sell when the business apps aren't there." I'm not sure where the disconnect is here🙂 but just like the 7" GDP Windows 10 PC(think I'm close to the name😃) is not a phone (though I only use it for size comparions) nor is this PC I'm describing. Someone going into a retail store looking for a PC would be presented with this new PC category for which there is no precedent so it needs to be looked at differently than the "smartphone" box its size may compel you (or others) to want to put it in. From the piece: "Like existing PCs in retail outlets, they can be displayed and packaged with peripherals like monitors, mice and keyboards, like the Continuum-enabled Acer Jade Primo Windows phone. Or like the HP Elite x3, it can be packaged with a Lap Dock-like peripheral. This potentially foldable device could be a tablet when unfolded, a phablet-sized handheld when folded and a laptop or desktop when docked." It would be on display like other PCs, demoed with monitor mouse and keyboard and sold with the same or/and a Lap-Dock like peripheral. The phone capbabilites would not, in my analysis, be the front-running feature. But it listed, or talked about as one of the things this PC can do, offering users flexible telephony options through the Windows Store if they want to use them.
  • Yeah, that is a phone that docks. Semantics. They will be trying to sell someone a phone who comes looking for a laptop. If it can't replace their phone, what is the point? It is no longer the ultimate mobile device. The ultimate mobile device can replace my phone, otherwise it isn't the ultimate. Anyways, I see no indication that Microsoft is still pursuing this. Their treatment of UWP alone makes this very obvious. It is hard to think Microsoft has any mobile ambitions when they can't even be bothered to release their own services as great UWP apps. If they were truly building the ultimate mobile device, then UWP development would be their #1 focus right now.
  • The more I think about this, the more ludicrous it becomes! "This is my iPhone and here is my ultimate mobile device and here is the lapdock my ultimate mobile device plugs into." Makes no sense.
  • "Do you want the phone number for my ultimate mobile device or the phone number for my iPhone?"
  • No, it is not a phone that docks, it's an ultra-mobile PC with telephony.  And it's not semantics. Just like saying "I would love a phone that runs Photoshop" and "I would hate to run Photoshop on a phone" are not contradictions. It's about context.  To you (it seems, correct me if I'm wrong) the context in which you use software is device dependent. ie. Desktop for work (lean in), tablet for consumption (lean back), phone for ultra-portable (mobile computing).  MS, Jason & I believe the device and software should understand the context in which you're using them and adapt accordingly. Here's an example: a 6" diagonal 16:10 aspect device would have an approximate size of 5.1 x 3.2 inches. Only about .25 inches taller and wider than an iPhone 7 Plus. If that device was unfolded it would turn into about a 7.5 inch diagonal (about the size of an iPad mini) with a 4:5 (almost square) aspect ratio. The same device when "docked" can run multiple 4k monitors.  So we  have the three common computing "modes" (lean in, lean back and mobile). Now imagine the lean in (desktop) context is powered by a dock that utilizes Qi, nfc, Bluetooth and WiDi to make a 28" inch touchscreen monitor with inking light up and connects to your BT keyboard/mouse without plugging in a single cable. That is ultra-mobile computing. And it should be the future. Now, where we agree is Microsoft's lack of understanding that all contexts need to be equally exceptional. UWP should be (and should have been for a few years now) priority number one.  If MS were my company, I would spend 4-6 billion dollars over the next 2-3 years buying app and developer commitment to get the ecosystem to a competitive position. Think about it. If MS laid out the same amount of cash they spent buying Nokia on apps instead, both companies would most likely be more than bit players in mobile today.
  • I have a 28" monitor. Why would I want my phone powering it?
  • Why would you want your phone doing any type of computing? Why Would you want a "phone" powering your 10" experience? (Which is what an iPad basically is) Why have a phone (with Chromecast) power your 50" experience? For one there's cost. I'm guessing these devices will run about the same as an iPhone X or Note 8 (~$1k). So you have a $1k Phone experience and a $300 iPad experience. For another $200-$300 you can add a 27" 4k uhd desktop experience. It's very cost effictive. Security. You now only have one attack vector to secure (instead of three) The benefits and cost savings to both consumers and enterprise is overwhelming (especially enterprise).  Portability of experience. Let's say you and I...ok probably not you... Jason & I have UMPCs and docks. When we are together and want to "compute", we just connect our personal device to the other's dock. Our files, our settings, our applications are ready to go. I now hae my PC at Jason's house. Same for work/home. The real question should be: Why do you think a 28" experience needs to be powered by a mini-fridge chained to the wall?
  • It will be several years before even a cheap, low end "mini-fridge" is surpassed by an ARM chip. If you have a 28" 4K monitor, you aren't just looking to surf the web. It will probably be a decade before ARM can meet my personal desktop needs. My Surface Pro 3 is almost too small to be comfortably productive on the go and even if you fold it in half twice, it is still way too big to fit in your pocket. A 13" screen seems to be the norm for a laptop. You are going to need a laptop dock even if you only want a netbook sized experience. Your data is already available anywhere and cross platform through the cloud. That isn't an issue in 2017 let alone in the future. This would be a killer feature in 2005. What is a Staples salesman going to say to convince someone to carry around a Windows phone and a laptop dock instead of a traditional laptop? The only thing I can think of is not having to tether for data. This UMPC idea is a wet dream from 2005. It is no longer relevant today. I don't see how you ever make the argument that a lapdock is a better experience than an ultrabook. Microsoft's UMPC wouldn't be the ultimate phone or the ultimate laptop. It will be mediocre in either form at best. You haven't seen recent examples of Microsoft pursuing this because they are no longer going in this direction.
  • It will be several years before even a cheap, low end "mini-fridge" is surpassed by an ARM chip. If you have a 28" 4K monitor, you aren't just looking to surf the web. It will probably be a decade before ARM can meet my personal desktop needs.
    Okay, so if it doesn't suit your needs it's a bad idea. I see. Oh and thanks for pointing out that most people that would be intested in this would only need to spend ~$100 on a full HD monitor instead of $200-$300 on a cheap 4K.
    My Surface Pro 3 is almost too small to be comfortably productive on the go and even if you fold it in half twice, it is still way too big to fit in your pocket.
    I do not believe my posts mentioned laptops once. But hey, if strawman arguments are your thing then cool. Oh and I'm perfectly productive on my SP4 which is why my 14" Ellitebook with similar specs is little more than a dust-collector. 
    Your data is already available anywhere and cross platform through the cloud. That isn't an issue in 2017 let alone in the future.
    Yes most of my data is in the cloud and accessible, but my apps and settings are not. My mom's AiO doesn't have any of my software on it so what good is my data if I don't want to bring my Surface when I visit?
    What is a Staples salesman going to say to convince someone to carry around a Windows phone and a laptop dock instead of a traditional laptop?
    Oh, I don't know. How about: "For the same price as a laptop, you get a laptop and a phone"? You see most people aren't as lucky as you and I. I have more PCs, laptops, tablets and phones than I know what to do with. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe do not get that luxury. They get one. And of many of them choose a phone form factor as their primary computing device for the connectivity it brings. Wouldn't it be nice if they could buy a iPhone 7 Plus/Galaxy Note 8 -sized device, unfold it for an iPad mini-sized experience and even plug it in to a cheap 20" monitor with usb keyboard/mouse and have a full PC experience? I think they deserve it. The question is: Why don't you?  Why do you hate these people that are less fortunate than you? :-) I for one would really enjoy not having to get up from the couch to switch from "phone" to "tablet". Do I need a device that can also be a full desktop todo that? No. But having the option to "dock" it and have that experience can never be a bad thing.
    This UMPC idea is a wet dream from 2005. It is no longer relevant today. I don't see how you ever make the argument that a lapdock is a better experience than an ultrabook.
    I personally feel that needing to change devices to change the context of how you work is a 2005 concept.  With a UMPC I can obviously go from "phone" to "tablet" with just a fold (or unfold). But I can also have laptop or desktop experience just by entering into proximity with other devices.  Here's an very simple example. I'm docked to my "PC accessory" (which in my case is a Surface Studio-like setup sans-computer. It's a $2k accessory, but like  I said above, I'm one of the lucky ones). A colleague sends me a PDF or PPT to look over. Since I no longer need to be in "lean-in" posture, I get up, unfold my "phone" and have an awesome one-handed experience as I walk to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee. You see what I did there? I just went from create mode to consume mode without changing devices or opening new apps. The device seamlesssly adapted to the context in whick I wnated to operate. Simple but powerful.  And I'll give you several arguments for how a lapdock can be a better experience than an ultrabook (even though I never metioned lapdocks). Lapdocks can be thinner & lighter or pack in much more battery than ultrabooks. They can run cooler, fail less often and cost a whole heck of a lot less. A lapdock doesn't need to be upgraded seperately. Get a new "phone"?  Awesome, your "ultrabook" just got a free spec bump too. Leave your lapdock on the train? Lost or stolen lapdocks put none of your data at risk and they're cheaper to replace. No need for seperate software installs. Programs on your "phone" are programs on your lapdock.     
  • The majority of Windows devices sold are laptops or convertibles (they are basically the same thing). The selection at Best Buy makes this obvious. That is what a UMPC is competing with. Desktops have become devices for heavy lifting or gaming, very few can be replaced by an ARM chip and you don't get a desktop because you are worried about mobility. Even a giant, 6" phone isn't going to unfold large enough to replace a laptop. Look at the ZTE phone being released next month. It is only going to be a 6.8" tablet when unfolded. A lapdock is certainly going to be required for the preferred Windows experience. Even an iPad mini folded in half is going to be beyond phone size. If price is an issue, than a $1000 or even $500 phone plus peripherials isn't going to be cost effective. A $300 laptop and a $100 phone is going to at least give a superior PC experience and likely a superior phone experience given Microsoft's complete lack of a mobile ecosytem. The majority of buyers going into Best Buy or Staples are looking for a laptop. It is going to be very tough to convince them to carry around a Windows phone instead of their iPhone just so they can dock it for a low performance PC experience. There really is no compelling reason. Everything you mentioned is very niche at best.
  • I don't know about the engineers at ZTE, but did you watch the iPhone event yesterday? Or see the Essiental phone or the Sharp FS8016? Using bezeless design you could make a device that is ~5.75 inches tall (shorter than an iPhone 7 plus) and 3.875 inches wide (.8 inches wider than iP7+) unfold to 5.75" X 7.75". That's 9.7" on the diagonal, or exactly the size of an iPad Air 2. Now while that width may be a little extreme, OEMs could easily make a 9" plus device that is about the size of a current large phone. Also, I don't know when the last time you used a $300 laptop was, but a lumia 900 running continuum gives a better "PC Experience" even in it's limited state. I've seen the demos of the new WoA (not just from the shanghi video) and the experience is probably on par with a core m3. Heck. go back and rewatch the Shanghi video. Photoshop loads in ~8 seconds And that was on an SD820. Also, no $100 phone runs anything above very basic apps well. Hell my Droid Z and Pixel XL stutter more than I'd like. And please elaborate on how  a sub-2lb 13 inch lapdock that runs about as fast as an entry level Macbook while carrying a bigger battery would be a niche product. Which would also mean your phone would run as fast as a macbook. While you're at it explain how upgrading the "phone" portion while holding on to the parts that don't chnage much over time is niche. Do you also upgrade your monitor everytime you upgrade your PC? 
  • It is a niche product just because it forces you to use a Windows phone. That is an immediate deal breaker. There is no ecosystem to speak of and Microsoft certainly doesn't seem to be working on that issue. For that reason alone I doubt Microsoft is still seriously pursuing this idea. With that huge hurdle, it would need a really amazing use case. I haven't heard any game changing use for such a device. Performance is unknown at this point. Some controlled demo a year ago isn't any indication of real world performance. Android benchmarks aren't a great indication of Windows performance. The device you mention would be substantially wider than a Lumia 1520 while the screen would not be very tall at all. Definitely not a laptop or phone replacement. There is a reason the ZTE is going to only be 6.8" when unfolded. It is practical making it any bigger.
  • I won't use my phone power my monitor too, but I'll want to dock it on my gamepad for XPA gaming.
    Use my pc hardware to run app that's stored in the phone when I'm in the office would be cool. Your work pc's login might not be your personal account.
  • May I ask why? the SD835 runs as fast or faster than an Intel core m3 with a better gpu. Would you not plug an entry-level Macbook into a larger monitor?
  • It is a bit too early to know the performance of WoA. We will have to wait until devices start shipping to know for sure, especially when during x86 emulation.
  • Well we know the SD835 runs single core as fast and multi core almost twice as fast (more cores) as a core m3 on Geekbench. I've seen it run. I wouldn't say it flies (as compared to a core i5/i7), but I would easily put it m3's neighborhood. 
  • As great as this 3 in 1 you talk about sounds, the ecosystem is still lacking. Your right, had they taken that cash and invested in their ecosystem, things would look a lot different now. Now they would have to spend twice as much to help undo the damage to mind share. All of the hardware, cshell whatever means absolutely nothing until an article is written by jason or whoever detailing Microsoft's detailed investment strategy as it relates to mobile.
  • Agreed. I find it highly ironic that MS has been pushing a "One Windows" vision and a "contextual" device future with only one of the contexts robust enough for prime time (desktop). Again, look at the staement: "I would love a phone that runs Photoshop, but I would hate to run Photoshop on a phone." I think Microsoft is going to deliver on making a pocketable device that delivers a great desktop experience when used in that context. But as they often do, they seem to be missing the big picture.  If they are going to deliver a "tablet" that folds into a "phone" that also delivers a compelling desktop experience; all three contexts need to be equally compelling. And for the forseeable future a great tablet/phone experience revolves around apps. Unless MS makes a major investment in courting developers to make UWP versions of popular apps UMPCs will be relegated to niche status.  
  • Except the ratio should be 1:1.4142.
  • Jason, would you say that the phone capability are in front of any smart phone today? Was any phone like capability mentioned on the new iphone presentation this week? Where iphone x or the iphone 8's presented as phones by singling out the phone capabilities? I do not think so. They was mostly presented by thier interfase, thier easy to use access, thier power and speed and thier access to the internet. You don't buy an smart phone primerly for thier phone capabilities, if that was so you would by an feature phone in the form of an clam shell or candy bar. To day the phone capabilities are incentical to any smart phone. Th main capabilities are the interfase and the power giving access to internet and powerful apps and not forgetting the camera. 
  • Hi maddogmoffit, let me answer you this way. I would not say that the way we use are phones put the voice telephony capabilities at the forefront. My multi-part "Smartphones are dead" articles use that and other facts as a basis for arguing about an evolution toward ultramobile PCs: https://doc.co/xt51rA Though Apple focused its presentation on non telephony functions, the company is still positioning the iPhone as a phone. And the mere incremental advancements to the iPhone:, better glass, better camera, faster chip, and a collection of features other phones have had for years support the argument that I make in that series. (Please check it out). The rectangular slab smartphone is reaching a dead end in regards to its form factor limitations and platform limits. Certain tasks are not suited for the distinct mobile OS that evolved around a mobile paradigm. As computing becomes more complex at some point users may be required to put a smartphone down and sit at a laptop or desktop. Though it has its challenges ideally this is where the strength of Microsofts OneCoe, one-Windows, Continuum and context conforming hardware comes in. One, since our behavior with our mobile devices is more PC-like as you acknowledge, Microsofts positioning of ultramobile PCs is consistent with our behavior., Two, since mobile computing is becoming more complex, lightweight mobile OSes are evolving toward more robust systems in an attempt to handle more and more tasks previously relegated to PCs. What began as distint mobile Oses, iOS and Android, are becoming (in a more secure platform in iOS for instance) what Windows already is, a powerful OS capable of a full range of personal computing power. So iOS and Android are trying to become what Windows is in that regard, while Microsoft is trying to make Windows more mobile. Put another way the power iOS and Android want Windows has, and the mobility Widows want rivals have. Windows on ARM with Cshell id it comes to fruition will give Windows that mobility, thus bringing the power iOS and Android covet to the mobile platform. Three, context conforming hardware and Continuum ideally allows a user to use the same device for different contexts, rather than picking up a new device for different tasks. Touch spots at home or office, where PC towers are replaced with monitor, mouse keyboard gives users a desktop. A Lap Dock like peripheral gives users a laptop. A foldable design gives users a tablet and phablet. I acknowledge Microsofts uphill battle to achieve this, and lack of dev support, but this vision with a foundation of a single core OS across form factors and UWP positions Microsoft in a direction rivals aren't positioned for. This vision stands in stark contrast to the iterative incremental advances to rectangular slab hardware (we see annualy) but that doesn't revolutionize the personal computing experience in the way Microsoft's would with proper execution and support.
  • I guess here we see the big diffrence in our views. You believe in putting most of the computing in the devise and by that getting an seamless experiance thru diffrent perephials conected to the device. To solve this you need full fledged comåuter an OS as a PC running win10. I see a solution where most of the computing is done in clouds (for example in ms Azure) and is accessed thru lightweight consoles designed for the purpose, i.e. apps on mobile devices. Could be anykind of devices running anykind of OS. Question is why would it be Microsoft when people have got used to Android and iOS? In my scenario there is no need for anything but a leight weight OS so why would win10 be chosen?
  • These ultramobile PCs come at a higher cost and lower processing power, that makes the use case and the target audience very limited. If I'm not on road all the time, I dont mind carrying a laptop that is a "proper PC" not the imaginery unicorn that will be far from usable in actual. Why you ask, coz it neither replaces phone nor laptop. you yourself have mentioned right that this is a device that you ll carry along with your iphones and androids right.
  • @bleached LOL!  Thanks for attempting to tell me what he meant or didn't mean.  I think I understood it clearly.  Maybe you didn't understand what I was saying.  Yes.  If it's like a PC, sell it like a PC.  Give the consumer the opportunity to purchase a telephony device with the specs they want.  If you want to purchase it off the shelf as is great!  If you're interested in a better equipped device or less equipped device give the consumer a chance to build it their way.  Like going to the HTC or Dell web site and custom their own telephony device.  This may not be popular but that's something I would be certainly interested in.  Now a customer would not beholden to what is on the shelf.  But can put together their own telephony/PC.  I hope that's clear.  :)
  • I'm hoping that whatever Microsoft develops iit is in a new category by itself and marketed as such, not as a PC and not as a phone.
  • Ehm... that would be to "design" or "support standadized hardware interfaces" like a PC. What you're asking for has absolutely nothing to do with how phones are SOLD.
  • The way MS works, lets be honest Microsoft has about 3 years more software and engineering work needed to make Windows10 useful on mobile. At that point devs might actually want to create good apps. Microsoft simply offers NOTHING to customers in terms of mobile hardware or devices smaller than the Surface Pro (which has too small a screen 13.5-14.0" and no bezel would be great )
  • A lotta win10 store app scales pretty well when you resize your window to a small portrait window. e.g. Windows Central.
    Unless a dev is giving up on win10 (win10 + win10s + win10.arm) then that's another story.
  • I hope they do it BEFORE others do... that's been there issue... Samsung is close already..
  • Apples introduction into the $1k Ultra Mobile market is nothing but an incremental smartphone with technology some of which is 5 years going on Lumia devices... MS is safe there.
    ......
    Jason Ward was right about this one.
  • With current app and accessory platform...where microsoft fails miserably!  dont leave that out dear rodney the koolaid drinker...
  • That 5G thing. MS only has that area where they can do something in future. Azure service for a general consumer will be awesome. Play games, Edit photos online and much more is the future of mobile computing;")
  • True 5G is years away.
  • So, do we think one of the reasons surface mini got cancelled is because they always had something like this in mind? a foldable tablet or phablet.
  • every time they had a good idea, they cancel it, the surface mini, the band 3, lumia phone, windows mobile...
  • Surface Mini was not going to be a ground braking device, IMHO. The windows experience with regular shell is pretty bad on smaller displays. I have a 7 inch windows 10 tab, and the expereince is not good. So I don't think cancelling mini was a mistake. Lumis also I understand. I don't condone, but understand. Band is one thing I never understood why it got cancelled. They could have sold more of them. Probably wasn't fitting in MS's vision, so they sold it off.
  • Canceling winPhone and go for win10.arm is actually a smart move imo.
    No one has time for uwp.phone SKU (busy QA iOS and Android because there's users) but people cannot ignore uwp.win10 (accepted by win10.pc, win10s and win10.arm).
  • The Surface mini was cancelled years ago. Why would they cancel it for a device coming SEVERAL years later?! They cancelled the Mini because Windows RT was dead.
  • idk. It was canelled in 2014. They started retrenchment in 2015. Probably they were still playing with foldable display. They might have thought it can come sooner but the inital phase of any tech is very tough. Lets see how it goes. We'll never know the reason of Surface mini being cancelled. Just speculations.
  • Microsoft doesn't make displays. They are dependant on LG creating the technology and selling it to them. It is quite obvious the Surface Mini was cancelled because Windows RT was a flop. Being able to release a folding device in the future is a reason you would want the Surface Mini released. Building the ecosytem is important for future products. Killing the Surface Mini is exactly the opposite.
  • Yeah. I agree on the major reason for cancelling fo mini was windows experience itself, as I said in comment above.
  • mini was supposed to be window RT, they already knew they l kill RT and hence the product was killed, saved MS from a few more angry customers.
  • we do know, its because RT got cancelled.
  • I actually think that this is an awesome idea.  I would certainly purchase a device that offered these capabilities and solid performance.
  • I think your suggestion regarding leveraging 3rd party retail channels is counter to the trend with Apple and Amazon making substantial investments in first party retail. I would make the case that Microsoft would do better to expand their first party retail footprint, specifically keeping their current 'premium shopping experience' that goes toe to toe with Apple Stores and opening a new line of Stores that is targeted to a less premium shopping district. Personally, I think owning the sales channel is the fastest way to improving sales to consumers. With regard to 5g, ultra-mobile, and eSims.... It all comes down to how easy it is for a person to manage and interact with such a device. People 'need' a phone. How can we explain an alternative? Only if it truly does 'do more,' I think. We will see what we get with "Windows 10 on ARM ," right? Those devices will be the precursor to the devices you postulate. Dan and Zac hit upon this question in their last Podcast: Will Microsoft take the time and make the commitment to "get it right" or will we see 7 quarters of effort and then a strategic retreat?
  • Hi I agree that their first-party device would likely be best distrributed throgh Microsoft Stores with the acknowlesgment that thise stores are limited in number. Second, we have to remember that this is not just about a first party "Surface ultramobile PC" but about the OEM devices ot would inspire. HP, Dell, Asus, Lenovo and others could and should be represented in Microsoft Stores as they are now, but they should also continue to utilize the easily accessible consumer distribution channels, Staples, Walmart etc, that PCs are distributed in today, for possible ultramobile PCs.
  • Holy crap Jason! Were you typing this reply on an iPhone? The spell checking is horrendous.
  • Maybe it's just me, but I don't understand how a 7-8" tablet running full Windows and capable of making phone calls is supposed to be revolutionary. Even if it does have some sort of folding design.
  • It's the combination of all these features that is revolutionary.
  • Is it? Really? Let's pretend that there isn't a business out there working for years building os's speacily crafted for small devices with legions of developers doing the best they can to put those arm processors to good use. No chance and cshell won't magically do the trick. It Will very very tough.
  • Windows central, Engadget, OneNote, and others seem to run fine when resize your window to a small portrait view?
  • You can do your XPA gaming on it, better than most phone games...
  • So how am I supposed to make a regular phone call with one of these "ultramobile PC's"? Am I supposed to hold a tablet up to my ear or use crappy ass Skype?
  • Included bluetooth earbuds/or headset. I also envision an included pen.
  • Sorry, virtually nobody is going to do that.  They're simply not.
  • Having to use earphones or bluetooth headset with a new category defining ultra-skinny, ultramobile device is a no-go for me and the majority of buyers that would have given a microsoft device a chance. And this device will cost over $1000?? Thats called a step back. So if you want to stay super ultramobile, stick to the smartphone, if you want just ultramobile go with this new category defining device.
  • This device if ever it comes would be 2000$+
  • so instead of laptop, we carry this device and a mouse and a keyboard, and a portable screen and a pen and a power bank.
  • Precisely. How do I get it to work in a hotel room? Do we have to carry all those things?
  • It's foldable so it would be the size of a regular phone.
  • No,  it would be twice as thick...which makes for a poor pocketable experience. 
  • it's on arm... sooner or later someone's gonna release a 5" 6" portable win10 imo...
    like... who's stopping your from making one?
  • None of that stuff will matter if Microsoft doesn't have an ecosytem ready. They needed to start pushing UWP heavily years ago. At the very least their first party apps should be leading by example. Today, even Outlook isn't available on UWP! That is mind blowing. Why would developers pay any attention to Microsoft's platform when even Microsoft doesn't take it seriously? Even this site doesn't take UWP seriously or trust Microsoft's commitment to UWP. The Windows Central app sounds like it has massive issues! To fit your description of an "Ultimate Mobile Device", it needs to be the ultimate phone and the ultimate PC. It will be impossible for Microsoft to make the ultimate phone anytime in the near future without a strong ecosytem. It will be impossible for ARM to power the ultimate PC anytime in the near future either. Microsoft is no longer creating the "Ultimate Mobile Device". They were thinking about it in the past, but now they realize it is a futile endeavor. They are moving away from UWP, stepped back the expectations for WoA (not for phone experiences), and have placed the majority of their development resources working on other platforms. This isn't the actions they would be taking if they planned on releasing the "Ultimate Mobile Device". eSim and edge computing (whatever the convoluted definition of that is) are the last things Microsoft should be worrying about.
  • uwp.win10 SKU (runs on standard win10.pc, win10s, win10.arm), uwp.iot SKU, uwp.xbox SKU (that leads to bc/fc/xpa/GamePass), uwp.AR/MR.
    uwp.phone is dead tho, people are busy enuf QA iOS and Android phones.
    Unless you are giving up win10, win10s and win10.arm, there's no choice other than uwp.win10 SKU...
    As a startup or freshman, you not gonna write your own mechanism to install, update, crack-proof, advertisement, the-old-fashion-way right? Unless, you are the employee of a traditional software giant (e.g. Adobe).
  • " Best Buy, Staples and Walmart "  seriously, Jason, you should go out to those places and see the state of PCretail. They are actively contributing to the decrease in pc purchases because of the sad state of the retail demo machines, untrained and apathetic employees, selection etc. Staples is even worse than Best Buy.
  • Our 'local' best buy has awesome selections of PCs.   I spent an hr there last time I was in the city and used the surface book, Surface laptop, XPS 15 and apple macbook pro.   Tons of selection.   ALL were great execpt the damn macbook which was horrid.
  • Jez responded in his last article to me that X86 apps on an Ultra-Mobile PC (phone) were the killer feature.  It still doesn't answer my question that I asked him and Jason to answer - What is the business case for this?  Very cool tech but that is it!  Is there a survey out there that says that consumers or the enterprise want this capability when they can buy a $100 Andriod smartphone and a $400 laptop and have all of the same functionality.  Given the Apple X, this Ultra-Mobile PC will be price accordingly.  And then there will be the NECESSARY accoutrements of some kind of display and keyboard + mouse and we are talking +$1K for this setup. If they can do it all of $500, then they may have a winner.  I see no reason why the MASSES will move to this strategy.  Traditional tech is just too inexpensive to justify this. This doesn't mean that this isn't very cool technology, it is.  I'm just wondering why consumers, beyond the tech fanatics, would move to this.  There are cheaper options and you'll have to basically lug a laptop around.  The same with the Enterprise.  Do they want to be responsible for data and phone plans instead of using a BYOD approach? Hey Jason, instead of writing about the technology, how about writing about the reasons folks will move in this direction.
  • Very true.
  • You're expecting Jason to answer as if he works for MS... Jason is only providing ideas for a vision of the future, and he doesn't claim anything else. It's called an EDITORIAL, and Jason doesn't have to submit facts to you to voice his perception about what MS may be doing. Take it with a grain of salt. These articles are just for perspective, and if they upset you then don't read them. But, you can't ask Jason not to voice his take. That's obviously his job, and Mobile Nations keeps paying him despite you guys pessimistic view of his opinion.
    Take it, or leave it......
  • I'm sure pretty soon he'll get a rap similar to the cerulean series.
  • What I'm expecting is for Jason to think about why this will be successful.  Jason is saying that some tech could be connected and it will be great.  His approach to writing is that this is what he thinks the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team (MSFT) will do.  As you said, he doesn't work for MSFT and he really has no idea.  He could be totally wrong.  I'm cool with that.  I'm just asking for him to provide his opinion on why he thinks this will be successful.  What is his opinion on why he things this will work other than it is cool tech.  I have loads of cool MS tech (WHS, WMC, Band 1&2, lots of Lumias and currently using a L950XL) that I'm still using.  All the BEST IN CLASS for what they do.  But they have all gone by the way of the Dodo Bird.  Cool tech is just that.  Successful tech may or may not be the BEST IN CLASS. I don't work for the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team and I have an opinion on if it will be successful or not.  I really don't think that MSFT gets the consumer and if they are playing to the consumer, they are probably dead in the water.  So, the Enterprise is the play.  Much of Enterprise has a BYOD policy and they reimburse folks for their phones.  It is a pretty easy system to administer.  The Enterprise doesn't have to deal with phones or plans.  They just reimburse their employees.  They also have control over their employees computers and are on some kind of tech refresh schedule that keeps getting longer and longer.  Also, this means that folks have 2 devices they need to worry about. Now Jason is saying that this mythical unicorn device will come out and things will change.  For the enterprise, this means that they will have to do a complete tech refresh.  I'm not sure that the Enterprise has the appetite for that but I'm not someone who is "researching and reporting/editorializing on the tech industry" like Jason is trying to do.  Has anyone thought about the implications of moving from a BYOD policy to an Enterprise Device policy?  Is the Enterprise prepared for the administration of the plans themselves?  Is the enterprise prepared to physically support an Enterprise Device?  Not only is there the cost of the phone but there is also the cost of the mobile display, mouse & keyboard - the things that make the laptop portable. And is the price point for everything below $1K.  Because the BYOD cost per person from the Enterprise perspective is probably around $1K or could very easily be that. So Rodneyej, I'm just asking Jason to come up with an article that talks about the "business side" of why he things this will work.  I've acknowledged that it is very cool tech.  But that is all it is.  I don't believe that a "consumer first" approach will work for the Massively Screwed-up dys-Functional Team because most folks don't believe that the MSFT will support the consumer.  So, I think their only play is Enterprise and I'm seeing lots of barriers to that success.
  • They simply won't succeed, folks. At best, they would be a niche device, probably never even reaching the market share the Windows Phone reached.  People simply are NOT going to carry a device like that AND a smartphone.  With exceptions, if they are willing to carry any device other than their phone it will be a tablet or laptop.  Microsoft is completely wasting its time on this.  If it can't REPLACE a smartphone or a tablet, there's no market.
  • Said the guy in 1934 who claimed that pictures couldn't be sent over the radio.👴🏽👵🏽👴🏽👵🏽👴🏽👵🏽👴🏽👵🏽👴🏽👵🏽👴🏽
  • Microsoft's lack of committment would be the only thing that scares me off. They seem to start a lot of things and then bail out of them when they are not an immedate hit.
  • It takes them over a year to make cloud clipboard work (useless feature imo, but whatever), but they're going to be able to make a device that you can seamlessly purchase connectivity, service, voice, data, it runs full Windows & is your phone and computer and monkey butler...
  • «Microsoft may be en route» Still to many ifs, coulds and woulds. MS needs to deliver on ALL fronts like a beast, or GTFO.
  • Even though I have many doubts about the success of this stuff, I really wish they or HP will release an affordable black slab that will be optimized for my fingers, and enables me to do just "it" and not "more". Because I still feel at home on Windows Mobile!
  • Is a picture of the Jade Primo really the best example? Don't showcase a terrible phone that had no support from day 1. It's criminal MS sells those things on their website.
  • Does anyone recall the time when oems released a new device in the bracket of UMPC?  Asus R2h etc.  They failed. Heavily.  They were then re-branded as 'mids' but that also failed. Also the Toshiba w100 (Courier) device. It also failed. Article writers, these days, often fail to recall history. Good luck to ultra mobile computers. They'll need it.
  • A question, Jason is trying to sell in this idea of the ultimate mobile PC but the thing is, I doubt there is any real need for it. What is the use for a PC to day? This is my list of shrinking use groups: Those who are serious about content creation, Photos, Movies, Music and Software. Dabblers and causal creation are fine with iOS and Android. The question is will an ultra mobile PC be good enought or do this crowd need an workstation? Those who are serious about non-console gaming. Dabblers and causal gamers are fine with iOS and Android. Console gamer will ofcourse us the thier preferable brand of console. The question is will an ultra mobile PC be good enought or do this crowd need an proper gamin rig with powerful graphics and VR capabilities? Who else? Ofcourse proffessionals doing content creation but most others will be best served by an device running Android, iOS or linux with Citrix capability or some other flavor of console. What I'm trying to say is that the market for this devise are already slim and shrinking. I think the boat have already sailed, the train left the station a couple of years ago. The ultra portablie mobile PC devise is much an Norwegian Blue, un ex-parrot, pining for the fjords. An has be idea.
  • I don't think so it's shrinking. I do the PC is merely changing. Windows tablets however are a growing market and are doing fine.    I do think there is a growing need for foldable devices, and naturally Apple and Microsoft are best positioned in that future. 
  • "could", "will" Jason Ward's favourite words.
  • Could, and will, are in opposite context.. What are you even saying?
    ........
    Second, would you rather him speak as if he knows for fact, when he doesn't? Wouldn't you be complaining about that as well?
    What's your objective here? What do you want?
  • He's trolling
  • 😆😆😆
  • The thing is Jason, Microsoft isn't interested in anything but cloud computing.  Just listen to how he beams when he discusses the cloud vs any conversation he might have about mobile. Its night and day.
  • That needs to change... Pathetic
  • Nadella certainly focuses on cloud. But if my analysis is correct, as I point out in thw piece, Microsoft's cloud and edge of the cloud (edge compiting) and IoT is part of its mobile strategy. His silence on mobile could be the HoloLens-like silence the company exercised while that was in the works. Or his could be my analysis is wrong and he doesn't care or have a plan for mobile. We'll see.😉
  • Obviously everybody only think at PCs or Phones. I personally think of a device that can do everything. Yes I belive in MS thinking about one device.
    I need a device that i can use everywhere and can do everything on it. This is the future. I just neet different screens to work on.
    I even think at 2 devices at mobile, one ist the core and the other is the screen and input device that connects wirelessly or as plug in.
    This core device can be used everywhere at home, at work or mobile.
    There it will be pluged in to that screen that will be used. Every accessory can be connected as desired.
    That ist my thinking of future devices.
  • eventually the screen and all peripherals will be wireless. You will be able select what devices you want connected and even set up profiles so that when your at work it automatically connects to your monitor, printer, check scanner, audio system and PBX system. When in the car it will connect to the functions you want in that car. That phone will be everything that you use in all scenarios. There will be a point that the heart of the system will be embedded in your skin. If you choose to use a screen that is all it will be is an inteactive display. In 30 years the display may be broadcasted directly to your brain for that matter all data will go directly to your brain. 
  • "Water is wet" article. Not to mention the fact that MSFT is the best in the industry at hardware partnerships (see the fractured, fragmented Android ecosystem for a textbook example of crappy hardware partnership management.)
  • Even if you haven't been reading between the lines, you can still follow the trail. Start by looking at some common criticisms: 1.     MS innovates but when falls short of market potential due to piecemeal solution, poor marketing, and/or being too late 2.     MS creates something of value but brings out an iterative replacement with features that aren't backwards compatible and I have to upgrade 3.     MS claims to have a mobile strategy but can't compete in the phone market Then assume that they want to do something about them. How do they address these issues? Whatever they release next would need to be a complete mobile solution, bringing together technologies and real world use cases in a way nothing currently does. It doesn't have to be sci-fi, it just needs to represent the best use of each technology that combines to meet your needs and extend your capabilities. They can't be late to a market they're creating and it should practically market itself. (e.g. portability, docking with scalability, wireless presentation, modes for different purposes, pen support, AR, voice, always connected, pass through authentication, wearable support, transferrable session, snap on extensibility) Starting something new means creating a supported line of products that don't need to iterate to play catch up with competitors because there are none. A reimagined product that already encompasses a wide range of supported peripherals and connections creates stability if done right the first time. They don't need to have a product in a market to compete with it. Microsoft did this with the original Surface. It took a few iterations to get where it needed to be and perhaps was always intended to be. How should they go about this? Take their time. Get it right. Make sure the tech is ready to achieve the goal and if not, work on it and wait for it. Keep it quiet. Stop releasing what they know are dead end products. Work on prototypes. Cancel them if they don't reach their goals. Maybe that’s what is going on right now. It’s not a big stretch to imagine… the device that can replace your phone.