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A Surface phone is rumored

Should we be preparing ourselves for a Surface phone?  

I. You Ready for a Surface Phone?

That's what Chris Green, principal technology analyst at Davies Murphy Group Europe, claimed to BBC News.  While he says that Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) may never pull the trigger and release the device, he explains, "Microsoft is hedging its bets.  The firm is heavily invested in Nokia succeeding with its Windows Phone handsets but can't allow for its failure to torpedo the platform.  At the very least Microsoft will be developing its own handset to go to market in case Nokia and others don't do better."

That's essentially what Microsoft did with Surface, a 10.6-inch Windows RT-powered tablet.  After watching its partners flounder in the tablet industry, thoroughly outsold by a savvy Apple, Inc. (AAPL), Microsoft sprang into action announcing its own first party hardware.

The results have been mixed.

While there was much initial enthusiasm, Microsoft faced tough questions about its hardware decisions and pricing (though to be fair Apple has seen its own recent hardware choices scrutinized).  And preliminary reviews were hot and cold, arguing the device was unbeatable by some metrics, but rather flawed by others.

Microsoft Surface phone
Microsoft hinted that a Surface Phone might be incoming. [Image Source: Softpedia]

But Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tells BBC News that his company won't shy away from trying to "set a new standard" in hardware markets where it sees its partners struggling.  He comments, "Is it fair to say we're going to do more hardware? Obviously we are... Where we see important opportunities to set a new standard, yeah we'll dive in."

"We have committed ourselves on a path where we will do whatever is required from both a hardware and a software innovation perspective and the cloud innovation perspective in order to propel the vision that we have."

II. Microsoft Entrance Scares Some Struggling OEMs

The promise of Microsoft "diving in" is alarming to some OEMs.  Taiwan's Acer, Inc. (TPE:2353"warned" Microsoft to reconsider the Surface tablet.  In an interview its CEO JT Wang commented, "We have said [to Microsoft] think it over.  Think twice. It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice."

But Acer is not exactly the most self-assured PC maker out there.  Mr. Wang described the build quality of his company's own products last year as "cheap", bemoaning how "unprofitable" his firm was.

More confident firms seem less worried about Surface phones or tablets.

Dell headquarters
Dell says it's fine with Microsoft making its own tablet. [Image Source: TMG Buzz]

Dell, Inc. (DELL) VP Kirk Schell views the Surfaces as an opportunity to introduce customers to the promise of Windows 8, which will in turn drive his company's sales.  He remarks, "The announcement of Surface was necessary to have a proof of concept and to get people excited about what was coming to push application development and create some buzz out there. They've invested so much in Windows 8 it was important to make it work, so I felt Surface was the logical thing to do."

III. Nokia on Surface Phone: "Great!"

When asked about the prospect of a surface phone, former Microsoft Canada executive Stephen Elop -- now the CEO of Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V) -- offered praise for the idea.  He commented, "[It would be] a stimulant to the ecosystem."

It's possible Microsoft could partner with a third party to produce its vision in the form of Microsoft-branded hardware; if so Nokia would likely be a leading candidate.  That's the approach Google Inc. (GOOG) -- like Microsoft, a software company at its roots -- used to promote Android tablets/smartphones, via its Google-branded "Nexus" devices.

But it's possible that Microsoft will simply design the devices on its own.  As it has shown with the Surface tablet and the Xbox/Xbox 360, Microsoft has evolved into a company thoroughly capable of producing its own intriguing third party hardware.

Microsoft isn't looking to leave its treasured OEM partners behind.  In fact much of its own Surface tablet launch event was dedicated to promoting its OEM's Windows 8 designs, designs which are technically rival's of the event's star attraction.  Talking about Windows 8 and Surface Mr. Ballmer stated, "This is one of two or three big moments in Microsoft's history."

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer called the launch of Windows 8/Surface a top moment in Microsoft's history. [Image Source: Getty Images]

Big indeed, but Microsoft isn't looking to usurp its partner OEMs quite yet, although it's clearly unafraid to give them a friendly push.

Sources: BBC News, Nokia [Surface Phone discussion]

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RE: The biggest lame excuse ever
By themaster08 on 10/27/2012 4:02:37 AM , Rating: 2
When was the last time Apple took down a botnet?

When was the last time Apple work with police departments to develop counterterrorism and crime prevention systems?

Does Apple have their own unit specifically geared towards combatting digital/online crime?

Does Apple have a support agreement with the MOD, saving them millions in downtime?

Does Apple work with the Portuguese Navy to implement project management systems?

Have Apple helped NATO to implement their IT solutions for collaboration using SharePoint servers?

Here are some more of case studies from Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit:

There was me thinking Apple is really making a change to the world </s>

RE: The biggest lame excuse ever
By Tony Swash on 10/27/2012 7:10:57 AM , Rating: 2
Poor old Microsoft. So busy running around chasing bad guys and making the world safe that they forgot how to run a tech company. Of course the reason they are running around chasing bad guys is that they sold a POS operating system full of ridiculous security holes for many years and single handily created a viable cyber crime underworld. Oh well, accidents happen.

Problem is Microsoft is not a police agency run by Eliot Ness, it's supposed to be a tech company but it's run by dopey Uncle Fester. Do you remember this?

Meanwhile Microsoft stumbles forward, carried by it's size and inertia, lumbering towards where the puck once was, except the pucks long gone and what awaits is just a big hole in the ice and a lot of cold deep water.

Surface launch day came and went in the absurd Microsoft 'Apple Store' clones and the after a flurry of visitors the tumbleweed is back.

I am sure they will sell a lot of PCs that come with Windows 8 installed. Good, because if there is anything that is guaranteed to drive up Mac sales it will be people actually using Windows 8.

Surface will flop. So will Windows Phone. But Uncle Fester will keep shouting. It's just that hardly anyone listens anymore.

RE: The biggest lame excuse ever
By themaster08 on 10/27/2012 7:42:41 AM , Rating: 2
That's right, just keep deluding yourself into believing it would have been any different if OS X became dominant :)

You also failed to answer any of my questions :)

RE: The biggest lame excuse ever
By themaster08 on 10/27/2012 7:52:03 AM , Rating: 2
Ballmer laughs at the extortionate price of the initial iPhone - big deal. I guess you also missed the part where Ballmer said "It may sell very well".

RE: The biggest lame excuse ever
By Tony Swash on 10/27/2012 9:18:47 AM , Rating: 2
Ballmer said "It may sell very well".

Other than the fact that this counts as the biggest understatement of all time, I guess Uncle Fester also decided not to do anything about the iPhone too quickly. One wouldn't want to rush would one.

Uncle Fester says all is well in the House of Microsoft. Some believe him.

Personally I find all the desperate manoeuvres at Microsoft a form of high entertainment that can hardly be matched, it's like watching a blind man you dislike wandering near the edge of a cliff, will he fall or will he by chance stumble to safety? Only time will tell, meanwhile grab some popcorn.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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