Many have you heard about this device, but never tempted to use it. Most would even say why would it even exist or who use these gimmicks. The answer to these questions are that Microsoft is committed towards their unified ecosystem dream and windows phone still have an exclusively rare market of 1%. Though Microsoft themselves don’t make windows phone devices anymore, but makes their OS and encourages OEMs to make the device. Their last device was Lumia 950 and 950XL, which are more than 18 months old. HP (Elite x3) and few other OEMs are still producing the device. Microsoft themselves have been rumored for making flagship device, but still that’s the rumor. Let us see when it all started, why it failed and what was that history which may repeat.
Windows Mobile – Windows Phone
Windows Mobile was the first mobile operating system from Microsoft, which first appeared in 2000. It was the most used OS in US, but everything got changed after the launch of iOS and Android. Microsoft shifted gear and announced Mobile Phone would be going to be the successor of their mobile OS. Windows Phone 7 was launched with the unique concept of horizontal UI named metro UI. It gained users’ attention and got nearly 100,000 apps to their store, but Microsoft was already developing a new mobile OS with different kernel and within 2 years Windows Phone 8 was there and Windows Phone 7 was scrapped. Users with Windows Phone 7 was having software updates, but they didn’t get Windows Phone 8 update due to hardware limitations. This upsets many Windows Phone 7 users.
As for Windows Phone, because of different kernel all of Windows Phone 7 app was useless, means new app store with new apps. This upsets the developers who need to develop their app again for the new OS. Fast forwarding it today with merely 1% users and with an app count of nearly 700,000, it’s nowhere in the competition.
This was Microsoft’s 2-in-1 tablet with ARM processor and was positioned in direct competition with Apple’s iPad line. OS used in it was a version of Windows 8 for ARM processors. ARM processors were used because they required low power to operate, hence more battery backup, they too were low-cost, resulting whole device to be affordable. The same problem arises here again, since ARM processors they can’t run win 32 applications and developers again need to develop new app for this. Surface too had Intel’s version (Surface Pro) which were costly and can run full flexed win 32 app, but two versions created confusions for users and problematic to developers. Though Intel’s version was acclaimed but negative review for the ARM version resulted in the negative review of the whole product line. Microsoft had almost US $ 900 Million loss.
They realized their mistake with Surface 3 they changed everything and each and every Surface version now come with Intel’s x86 architecture chip. This was a big move for users and for developers. Surface with very low app support can now run any win 32 application. As for developers, now they only have to make one version of their app. After that definition of the surface is changed, from low-cost tablet which can run trim down mobile version of every app to laptop in a tablet form factor.
A rumored flagship mobile device by Microsoft’s which even was confirmed by Microsoft’s CEO “Satya Nadella”. Speaking during an interview with the Australian Financial Review, the he talked about his company redefining the field with the “ultimate mobile device”. More than a year ago, Microsoft executive vice president and chief marketing officer Chris Capossela said the company was working on a “breakthrough” smartphone that would make Apple fans “pause before they buy their 17th iPhone”. No one knows is it still going to come to market or not. If you think about “Apple fans” and “17th iPhone”, Surface Phone can be launched until the end of this year as till iPhone 7 there are only 15 iPhones. iPhone 8 Plus would be going to be the 17th iPhone.
Let’s think about the major reasons for the failure of Windows Phone, it is the lack of third-party app, lack or developer support. The same thing which happened with Surface RT. The question is why there are low developers for it, the answer would be less no of users, but users were less in the first place because there were less app or there are less app because there are less users. This is quite a confusing statement. Summarizing it, both are dependent on each other. It’s kind of loop which you can’t break. Surface RT broke this loop by adapting Intel. This can’t be done with a mobile device as all mobile phone chips have ARM architecture.
There was another rumor, regarding x86 architecture based mobile chip by Intel (Atom). Microsoft’s Surface Phone was dependent to it as this would open the Windows Phone to the enormous list of win 32 app. Intel cancel the project and Surface Phone got delayed. Microsoft once failed with the Surface RT attempt to bring Widows on ARM. They are doing it again on mobiles.
Will History Repeat?
Surface succeeded because it has now support for a vast catalogue of win 32 app. Once reason for loss of billion dollars, Surface is a billion dollar business now. Recently Microsoft topped J.D. Power’s consumer survey in three key areas including internet connectivity, availability of official accessories and the variety of pre-installed applications. Microsoft also beat the iPad when it boiled down to consumer preference for tablet attractiveness, quality of materials and size of the tablet. Mobiles can’t have Intel chips and ARM can’t run win 32 app, or do they.
Microsoft is investing heavily on Windows on ARM concept, which in fact would break their dependency on x86 chip. Microsoft has ported its Windows Server operating system to the Qualcomm Centriq – a 64-bit ARM-compatible server-grade system-on-chip. They have now partnered with Qualcomm to put Windows 10 and Win32 apps on ARM devices. Sources say that partnership is designed around the Snapdragon 835. This would lead Surface Phone to run all the win 32 app. Performance is the major hurdle over here. Emulation doesn’t always gives what we want. Emulation takes an instruction written for an X86 chip, intercepts it, and translates it into the chip’s native instruction set. In practice, emulation can slow the chip’s apparent performance considerably.
These theory arises lots of question. Is emulating Windows 10 on ARM work? Surface Phone would be as powerful as dreamed to be? What about the performance of win 32 app on ARM and many more. To know the answer of these question we just need to wait for the launch of rumored Surface Phone.