Microsoft is putting everything it has into the release of Windows Phone 8 and many commentators are suggesting it could be a make-or-break moment for the company. But will the software giant take things one step further and move into the smartphone hardware market as well?
Along with its massive push into mobile software, Microsoft has revamped its desktop platform to create Windows 8, a new iteration which more aligned with its mobile counterpart on both computers and tablets to create a new ecosystem.
The introduction of the new version of Windows has seen tablet devices being created by manufacturers such as Samsung and Asus but there is one name on the list that has drawn more attention than others – Microsoft itself.
The advent of the Surface tablet has prompted speculation that Microsoft may also be working on a smartphone to complete a range of mobile devices. Whilst this idea mightn’t have crossed few people’s minds until a couple of months ago, it now sounds like a logical move for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the fact that the firm has introduced a tablet device for its new version of Windows means that the idea of a Microsoft-branded smartphone doesn’t take such a great leap of the imagination. Concept designs have even appeared online and while they are all unofficial images made by third-parties, they point towards what could be a very interesting device.
Secondly, more and more of the time people spend online is now done via mobile devices rather than the computers at which Microsoft has previously aimed its software products. PC sales are declining and companies like Apple, which controls both its hardware and software, are reaping the benefits. Microsoft could be aiming to adopt a similar business model.
Microsoft also has a product with a huge audience that could be tapped into; The Xbox. That particular brand is one of the biggest in gaming and a smartphone that ties in to this may have a big appeal amongst gamers.
Windows Phone 8 has Xbox branding on its games and entertainment features and the SmartGlass app turns a phone into a remote control for the console. Therefore, it’s not impossible that a Microsoft smartphone could emerge bearing the Xbox brand name.
A poll that we’ve been running on the Dialaphone blog for the past week suggests that our readers feel the same way about Microsoft’s possible future plans. Asked whether or not they think the firm will release an own-brand smartphone, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’, with very few people voting the other way.
We also had several comments on the Dialaphone Facebook page when we asked our Facebook audience the same question. Dialaphone Facebook follower Jon V. Coppin compared a potential Surface smartphone to Google’s Nexus handsets, commenting:“If Microsoft did the same with their devices, offering updates to Windows Phone as soon as they are available, it would be a good move for them”.
Billy Johnson noted that Windows Phone updates have rolled out faster than those on Android in the past but added that “a surface phone would be a good idea, it would definitely increase Microsoft’s credibility.”
Overall, we imagine that Microsoft has certainly entertained the idea of producing its own smartphone and may well have worked on designs or collaborated with other companies in doing so. It could be that the firm will wait to see how well the Surface tablet is received by consumers before embarking on another hardware project. Sales figures in the tablet market are lower than those for smartphones so Microsoft’s initial hardware moves are less risky.
Also, the software giant may well be waiting to see how well consumers react to Windows Phone 8 before investing in the launch a dedicated smartphone for the platform.
Whatever happens, competition in the Windows Phone 8 market will only increase if Microsoft joins the fray and since this often leads to innovation, a Surface smartphone could be good for everyone.