Hey Windows phone fans — Microsoft doesn't need you for 'Surface phone' to succeed

Despite the benefits our years of commitment have brought Microsoft's Window phone efforts, we may not be important to the success of the next step in its Windows-on-mobile strategy.

Consequently, those fans who feel abandoned due to Microsoft's lack of communication, minimal support and apparent lack of passion for Windows 10 Mobile are likely acceptable collateral damage from Redmond's perspective.

Microsoft's ultimate mobile device strategy is, in my estimation, about inspiring a new category of ultramobile PCs with telephony. I believe Microsoft sees that potential market, in the long-term, as much bigger than and far different from a handful of passionate smartphone fans.

Still, Windows phone fans have invested time, energy, money and passion into Microsoft's shifting Windows-on-mobile vision. Besides supporting its decisions, we've offered Microsoft candid constructive criticism, held leadership accountable to their commitments or lack thereof, and even expressed our ideas on how Microsoft's mobile vision could potentially succeed.

Loyalist's investments are not one sided either. Microsoft includes fans in the OS's development via the Insider Program. Early access to new builds and open dialogue with Insider Lead Dona Sarkar have empowered fans. The reciprocal sense of involvement has given loyalists a feeling of real investment in the present and future state of Microsoft's Windows-on-mobile vision. The candid truth, however, is that Microsoft may not need our help to ensure whatever's coming next succeeds.

Windows phone fans have been all-in

Fans have prided themselves on how they've contributed to keeping Windows phone alive beneath the shadow of the iPhone and the army of Android phones that dominate the market.

So, of course, we're important, if not vital, to Microsoft's mobile vision, right? We're essentially partners with Microsoft in its Windows-on-mobile journey. Well, that at least seems to be the sentiment of some Windows phone loyalists.

Microsoft has benefitted from our promoting the platform, passionately dogfooding (and enduring) buggy OS builds and purchasing unpopular yet expensive smartphones. Certainly just as the past and present state of the platform has "needed" us, the future success of Microsoft's mobile vision must be equally dependent on our support, right?

That's a reasonable deduction, but it's not necessarily true. What many call a Surface phone, and CEO Satya Nadella calls an ultimate mobile device, can likely succeed without us.

https://twitter.com/erisdanmacielbr/status/820053136530440192

Given the increasingly toxic environment that is the Windows phone community and the diminishing goodwill fans have toward Microsoft, Redmond has likely deemed little meaningful support would come from the minuscule community of fans. Its long-term strategy probably doesn't include its shrinking crop of smartphone loyalists as factors in the success of its PC-oriented ultimate mobile device strategy.

The sad and humbling truth for both Microsoft and fans is that if this is the company's view Microsoft has contributed to turning fans away from the platform. Also, Microsoft is probably right; we're likely not needed to help an ultimate mobile device succeed.

It's not over

Microsoft's apparent strangling of Windows phone is likely a strategy to remove its smartphone efforts from the market in preparation for its ultimate mobile device strategy. This process is causing a lot of angst for Windows phone fans, however. The community is becoming increasingly angry and impatient as it awaits a definitive word about Windows 10 Mobile, which isn't likely going to come before the next phase in Microsoft's mobile plan is ready to launch.

It's important to note that Microsoft is not just moving old smartphones out to move another smartphone in. I believe as a new category of mobile device, Microsoft does (or should) have an accompanying strategy tailored to introducing, positioning, marketing and encouraging PC manufacturing partners to "copy," as they have the Surface, its ultramobile Surface PC. Part of that strategy, in my estimation, requires the current phase of radio silence so as not to tip its hand.

Windows on ARM is for PCs not phones.

My analysis is that Microsoft's next take on mobile will be with a Continuum-powered Windows on ARM ultramobile PC with telephony and CShell. This, I believe, will be Nadella's ultimate mobile device and will not be a smartphone, nor will it be marketed as one. It will be a pocketable PC, positioned in the market as a PC that will be capable of making phone calls.

Acer Jade Primo packaged more like PC than phone.

Acer Jade Primo packaged more like PC than phone.

This analysis is consistent with Vice President of Operations Group Joe Belfiore's recent statements that Windows on ARM is not for phones, but for PCs. From Belfiore:

The Windows 10 on ARM effort is about enabling the PC experience on devices that are built on ARM so that they're connected all the time and have great battery life ... it's not a phone-like experience.

Windows on ARM and an ultimate mobile device

What I am and have been proposing would not be a phone, but would, via CShell, have a user-friendly context-conforming UI that adapts to desktop mode via Continuum and a touch-and-pen friendly UI when in hand.

Also, Belfiore's reference to Windows 10 Mobile as the current OS for phone-like experiences, was just that, a reference to its current OS for phone-like experiences.

I believe the ultramobile PC will have telephony as one of its many PC capabilities, but it will not be its leading attribute. The anticipated form factor is expected to be unique. The design and positioning may also be meant to conform to the reality that telephony ranks after traditional PC activities like web surfing, messaging, social media and other activities users engage in on their smartphones.

Since smartphones are increasingly used more like PCs, developing a pocketable PC with a touch-friendly UI that becomes a desktop via Continuum and for which telephony is but another "app" function is a reasonable strategy. Many fans are looking forward to such a device that challenges the concept of what a mobile device can be.

Out with the old, in with the new: telephony-enabled PCs

Microsoft faces the challenge of using its position as the creator of category-defining Surface PC hardware to educate the masses about this new type of telephony-enabled PC. The idea of a device that can make phone calls while not being a phone is a difficult concept for many to grasp, however.

Perhaps the precedence of millions of people using Skype on laptops, 2-in-1s, Surface Hubs or tablet PCs to place voice or video calls over the internet can be used to provide helpful context and to stretch naysayers' imaginations. And for those who diminish the role of imagination in the practical application of technology, all of the technology you love began as reality-challenging ideas in someone's imagination.

After a shift to Windows on ARM, Microsoft's long-term goal is likely to target a much broader market than the relatively few dedicated Windows phone fans who remain. As a PC, and with the critical and strategic support of PC manufacturing partners, in time the ultramobile PC category's target market will likely extend beyond select markets to encompass hundreds of millions of PC users. This is a multi-phased and long-term effort that requires strategic marketing. Support from PC manufacturers is also critical to bringing this device category to the masses.

Though over time, the telephony aspects of this device category will allow these ultramobile PCs to begin to overlap the smartphone space, it is not expected nor is it my analysis that they will drive iPhone and Android users to immediately replace their phones with these devices.

Your services are no longer required

Naturally, developer support remains a key factor in the efficacy of ultramobile PCs, particularly when in hand and not in use as a desktop. Thus, Microsoft has a lot of work to do to create a unique experience and to win developers in order to position an ultimate mobile device for success. Though some fans may feel their past support suggests that they're also needed for Microsoft's future success, they may be mistaken.

Candidly speaking, of the world's billions of smartphone users, Windows phone users make up less than one percent of the market. Of that one percent, just over 20 percent are Windows 10 Mobile users. That negligible number of Windows-based smartphone fans, from Microsoft's perspective, likely has little strategic value for helping to promote the concept of a new brand of Windows PC with telephony.

So, Windows phone fans, Microsoft's ultimate mobile device, if it succeeds, can likely succeed without us.

Also Read:

How Microsoft can ensure Surface phone success

Is Microsoft strangling Windows phone to prepare for concept of a Surface phone?

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

Microsoft's Surface 'phone' should include AR glasses, a pen and exclusive apps

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!

427 Comments
  • Thanks for reading folks! This was a harsh truth, but likely true nonetheless. Microsoft does not need the 20 percent of the less than one percent of Windows smartphone fans to help its vision of a new PC category, ultramobile PCs with telephony succeed. We've invested a lot and many passionate fans feel abandoned. This truth that this article highlights probably does not make you feel any better. But hopefully it provides perspective and helps someone think about things from a less "restricted" fashion. Many people consistently see things within the limited context of the smartphone space and only entertain the variables associated with that space and how they may affect a user and his/her personal desires and expectations regarding a device. I've tried to communicate what may be just beyond the threshold of the stage of transition we are in and the realities, factors and variables of that new context. This discussion is often difficult to have when participants occupy to different sides of that equation. Hopefully, this piece effectively conveys where I believe Microsoft's strategy is taking us and why our role as Windows smartphone fans may not be important (as it has been) to the next stage of a category of ultramobile PC's with telephony. Also though nothing is guaranteed I hope it is clear that the strategy is not what many seem to presume is being argued: "entry of a Surface phone in the market will change everything and iPhone and Android users will simply flock to it." That's has never been my position. I've argued before and hopefully more clearly articulated here that this is a long-term process of introducing a new category of PC into the market that requires the support of manufacturing partners. And of course as I have done in the past, I acknowledge that Microsoft must work hard to address the app situation. So I think we have a lot to talk about here beyond the usual "iPhone and Android users won't drop their phones for this and it needs apps." What are your thoughts. Can a Surface phone, ultramobile PC succeed without, us? LET'S TALK!!!
  • I see you've finally been certified :)
  • As an useless writer that writes about nothing. Remember he is the one that thought that cerulean was going somewhere. We should really listen to his analysis :-D
  • Put a smiley face at the end of your nasty comment as if that makes it better.  He is entitled to his opinions, wrong or right.  That's why its an editorial.  But hammering him for being useless is about as useless as your comment.
  • It's a laughter so it's appropriate. And I pointed out that his opinions are always either very inconclusive or plain wrong so this time it won't probably be any better.
  • So what? That's what opinions are, NOT facts.
  • The "distinction" between opinion and fact is quite useless.  When people "give an opinion" they are invariably stating what they believe to be the truth, or a fact.  At the best a distinction between truth and opinion lies in the "complexity" of the issue asserted.  For example, World War I started on July 28th, 1914,  yet the reasons for World War I are more complex and more likely to be a matter of opinion and debate. So any speculation about the future of Microsoft's endevours in mobile is a matter of debate or opinion, yet Mr. Ward asserts the liklihood that his analysis is correct.  That is certainly his perogative to express what he believes to be the case.  It is however useless to say it's an opinion as that adds nothing to the discussion.  Mr. Ward is asserting what he believes is true and stating that it's an opinion certainly does not remove his assertions from debate or critique.
  • Thanks for taking the time to explain this, the opinion excuse is getting old.
  • Actually, the distinction between fact and opinion is profoundly useful. A fact can be relied upon no matter who holds it or acts upon it. Gravity, for example, is a fact. Whether you believe in it or not, if you jump out of a plane it WILL pull you toward the earth, end of story. An opinion, however, may vary wildly. I might say "Broccoli sucks!" for example, but someone else might say, "Nah, it's alright," while another says "It's amazing!" and still another says "Depends how it's prepared". If I say "gravity doesn't exist", I am wrong, period. If I say broccoli sucks, that holds no weight outside of my own perspective. See the difference? Far from useless, it's PROFOUND.
  • less illuminating that you might think. yes, some empirical data is discreet and well accepted to be defined as "fact". However in analyzing complex issues and trying to extrapolate from incomplete information leads to the likelihood that the analysis would be best defined as "opinion". As invariably people state their opinion implying it's truth, their opinion is up for question and critique. There are no special rules for analyzing or critiquing opinion versus other assertions. Mr. Ward has presented what he thinks is a possible stratagem and trajectory of a "ultimate mobile device." Therefor those assertions is up for debate and critique.
  • No, it's not less illuminating at all. A simple fact about information: it's ALL incomplete, ALWAYS. 100% of the time. Our universe is a complex place with more variables than we'll ever be able to account for, that's true--but it doesn't mean facts and opinions are essentially the same. A fact is a piece of data backed up by empirical observation and testing that yields consistent results regardless of who's conducting the test. An opinion is merely an expression of personal interpretation. It might have an empirical component or it might not. For example: I might step outside where someone's been working all morning while I've been sitting in the dark inside and say "Damn, the sun is crazy bright today!" They might reply that it's no more bright than usual. Both these have an empirical component, derived from an observation of the outdoor lighting conditions provided by the sun, but further refined by each of our respective "lenses" on the subject, mine being that I came from a darkened room, his being that he's been working outside and has acclimated to the conditions. On the other hand, it may have no empirical component at all: "I hate Tom Petty", I might say, no additional empirical data at all. As I said: there is a profound difference between facts and opinions. I fully agree Mr. Ward's view is an opinion and comes with an assortment of supporting data (much of which he's misinterpreted because he's a fan who simply doesn't see the writing on the wall), but that has no bearing on whether facts and opinions are the same thing. They are not.
  • Let's make this super succinct for you.  If someone gives their opinion their assertion is both up for question or debate and the method of analyzing or critiquing their opinion is done in the same fashion as any other analysis.  That is are the premises true and is the "argument" sound?  As I stated, there are no special rules for analyzing opinions and to state that something is an opinion does not except it from critique.  I repeated both those ideas multiple times. So when real0395 stated "So what? That's what opinions are, NOT facts" they are adding nothing to the discussion.  Opinions are still able to be critiqued and critiqued in the same fashion as any other assertion.
  • He stated many times he didn't know what was going to happen with the cerulean, and he didn't have high hopes. He was doing what he is paid to do, tell the story, uncover the facts. Stop being a ****
  • Hi Paolo, thanks for devoting a portion of your finite and irrecoverable time to virtually every one of my articles despite your "stated" opinion of their value. Given that the things to which we devote our time are usually the things we value, your actions by faithfully attending my work, betray you words regarding its value. So thank you for coming. Also, as my parents taught me, If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I have pretty thick skin. As a minister, writer, former educator etc, I need it! But, when you say mean things it says more about you than the person you're talking about. Something to think about. Have an AWESOME DAY!!! :-)
  • keep up the good work. It's too easy to go negative on MS these days as seems to be the trend, so the fact that you keep pointing out that there might be a larger strategy in play has value in this community. 
  • Said the guy spending tens of rows to respond. And no, everyone of us spend time on stupid things too like reading silly void articles or wathcing a stupid movie and so on and so forth.
  • So, if you don't like it, and know you never will believe it, then why do you waste your time reading it?
    1: You don't read it, which gives you no room to disagree
    2: You agree, but at this point don't have the nutz to admit it.
    3: You want to be negative, because you're a troll.
    4: You don't have a reasonable reason.
  • I already answered, for the same reason you watch stupid movies, to have a good laughter.
  • #4, and
    5: You don't have a life... Got it. Understood.
  • Childish
  • The guy who mocks a reputable editor, for the fun of it, says childish.
    ......
    The guy who has a cartoon cat as his avatar says childish.... Please
  • I mock a writer because of what he wites. An avatar is an avatar. Grow up.
  • You're telling someone else to grow up.... You'll never learn. Please.
  • Please don't put Jason Ward and reputable editor in the same sentence. It's a disservice to real journalists everywhere.
  • Dude, leave this guy alone. He is just trying to get a rise out of you and the writer...don't let him. He doesn't believe what he writes, again he is just trying to goad you all.
  • Oh, I know who he is.. No matter what you say he will counter it.. If I said MS sucked he would disagree.
  • You know who I am because since the site exist you were never able to contradict me while I always explain things for what they are. I defended MS when was the time, now MS, on mobile, needs to be attacked, as simple as that little guy.
  • Ah, ha. Your epidermis is showing.
  • Jason...check out the Windows Central podcast where Zach and Daniel had Dona Sarkar on. They talked about mobile and Dona goes on at length about how the future is not walking around hunched over your phone and that the future is not through a screen. Could the new ultra mobile device be a pocket computer that stays in your pocket while tethered to smart glasses to give an AR user interface ? That would be a new category for sure and would bring together all of MSFT's areas of expertise.
  • Hi sph0308 Could be. I actually wrote an article not long ago, it's linked at end of the article under Also Read: Microsoft's Surface phone should include AR glasses, a pen and exclusive apps. Check it out, I delve into the whole AR aspects of an ultimate mobile device.😎