Mobile

Microsoft’s ‘Surface phone’ could hit next year (especially if Windows Phone 8 fails)

You have to hand it to Microsoft — the company knows how to persevere.

Yesterday we heard that Microsoft was potentially working on a Surface smartphone that would be the phone equivalent to its much-anticipated Surface tablet. While a cool idea in theory, a Microsoft-built phone would be a significant blow to Nokia, which has bet its future on Windows Phone. And Microsoft’s other hardware partners certainly wouldn’t be pleased either.

Now we have a few more details about the Surface phone: It likely won’t appear until 2013, and its release may also be dependent on how well Windows Phone 8 does with consumers, Tom Warren reports at The Verge. That makes a certain amount of sense — Microsoft wouldn’t want to squash any momentum from Windows Phone 8, but if the platform continues to languish into next year, it could roll out the Surface phone to spark some buzz.

Consider just how much the tech world has been drooling for Microsoft’s Surface tablets since they debuted in June, which helped spur on excitement for Windows 8 tablets in general. Microsoft didn’t have a release schedule for Surface at the time (we’ve since learned it’s launching on October 26, the same time as Windows 8), and we still don’t have any solid pricing info, but that didn’t stop people from getting excited about the Surface.

Indeed, Microsoft would be foolish not to explore a Windows Phone unit of its own. The company’s first stab at its own smartphones, the woefully misguided Kin phones, failed spectacularly. But that doesn’t mean a Surface phone would suffer the same fate, especially since it’ll be backed by a far more robust OS and app ecosystem. Microsoft may also long for the sort of freedom Google has with its Nexus line, which the search giant can push updates to without waiting for wireless carriers.

But can Microsoft really afford to screw over its partners again? That’s the biggest question the software giant faces after blindsiding its PC partners with the Surface and making significant last-minute changes to Windows Phone 8’s kernel (which left Windows Phone 7 devices without an upgrade path to WP8).

Microsoft will clearly try and try again until it makes some sort of dent in the mobile market. I’ve argued before that Microsoft is in this for the long haul, but it sure would be nice to see the company settle on a single strategy at some point.

Above: Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore shows off new Windows Phone 8 features on Nokia’s Lumia 920, by Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat


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