Redmond View

Sizing Up A Surface Phone

Could we see a new line of smartphones from Microsoft by the end of the year?

Rumors that Microsoft will deliver a Surface Phone have swirled ever since the company acquired Nokia's mobile handset business two years ago, but the latest buzz suggests something is in the works and such a device could appear this year.

The most recent unconfirmed reports have hinted that a Surface Phone would be magnesium-based and take on some of the characteristics of its Surface tablet PCs, perhaps even offering an optional keyboard. With the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) set to take place later this month in Barcelona, perhaps more news will surface at that event. Even if Microsoft doesn't announce one at the MWC, that wouldn't mean it's DOA, as the company has announced all of its Surface devices at its own events.

Given the masses aren't likely to give up their iPhones or Android-based phones, why would Microsoft even bother with a Surface Phone? One good reason would be to create a device that's 5-plus inches that can run x86-based apps natively with a reasonable amount of performance and battery life.

Some reports have suggested Microsoft and Intel are working on that, but obviously if it was an easy feat, such a phone would already exist.

Microsoft's newest smartphones, the Lumia 950 and 950XL, boast their support for Windows 10 Continuum. They're an advance for the Windows mobile platform, but a phone that's effectively a miniaturized Surface would be exciting, presuming it's useful and could be produced at a price that customers can afford—and that's clearly the key challenge.

Whether it's called a Surface Phone or something else, it doesn't appear Microsoft is giving up on first-party phones yet. If so, that's a good thing, regardless of your phone of choice today.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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