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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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Surface is as good as I thought it would be
By Tony Swash on 10/28/2012 3:33:35 PM , Rating: 2
A video showing some typical usage experiences on a Surface RT

The videos are part of a series of blog entries reporting on Brent Ozar's blog Technically Funny. Worth a read. This guy has technical knowhow (read some of his bio' info) so one can only wonder what an average consumer will make of all this.

Surface is turning out to be a quintessential Microsoft experience.

RE: Surface is as good as I thought it would be
By themaster08 on 10/28/2012 4:58:42 PM , Rating: 2
The Surface hasn't properly linked with his Windows Live account. This happened to me on the Release Candidate and I had similar issues. He simply needs to reset to factory defaults and start again. Gathering from his inability to sign in properly that shouldn't be much of a loss.


RE: Surface is as good as I thought it would be
By Tony Swash on 10/28/2012 7:11:59 PM , Rating: 1
Presumably not signing in to his Windows Live account properly is what makes Word so sluggish :P

RE: Surface is as good as I thought it would be
By themaster08 on 10/29/2012 3:24:21 AM , Rating: 2
I'd rather have sluggish performance than it not loading at all:

C'mon, Tony. It's easy to pick out isolated incidents. Here you are criticising a product you've never used or have no intention of owning.

Try watching the impartial review I posted below. I know it will pain you so much to see someone enjoying using the Surface for 30 minutes, but it will give you a more true to life experience.

By Cheesew1z69 on 10/29/2012 10:08:06 AM , Rating: 1
Here you are criticising a product you've never used or have no intention of owning.
And he says shit about other people doing that...

By themaster08 on 10/28/2012 5:39:04 PM , Rating: 2
To be more specific, there are two tpyes of user management with Windows 8/RT. You can create local user accounts on the system, or you can use your Windows Live account to log in.

This issue specifically appears to happen when a local user account has initially been created, but later the user assigns a Windows Live account to log into the OS. This is a relatively rare scenario, not a typical usage experience as you would like to imagine. This is likely as a result of this being a new method of logging into Windows, it obviously has some flaws which will be ironed out.

Nevertheless, this was obviously a cherry picking from yourself. It obviously makes you feel better knowing that someone is having problems with the Surface. It would be just as easy for me to find hundreds of videos showing flaws within iOS, but what would be the point? I don't need that to make myself feel better, or to grind on other people, which is clearly your intention, isn't it? To be an annoying little cretin? Anything made by humans will have flaws.

How about a more impartial review of the hardware and OS:

(Skip to 13:40 for how the Mail application really works)

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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