You know whenever I start to write about Windows Phone-Mobile I hit this wall.

Like the words are there but they are blocked by this mental barrier. And I have struggled to understand what this thing was until recently.

The fact is the only thing said about Windows’ mobile effort is all about how it’s faltering. About how Microsoft is abandoning it; OEMs are abandoning it; how software developers stay away from it.

We talk about it always dying. How Windows is and was to late to matter in mobile. How Microsoft only Plan B is to use Android. We make jokes about things coming SOON.

I’ve read the analysis around Windows Phone’s dwindling numbers, it’s lack of features, and it’s precarious importance to Microsoft.

Microsoft came out with a new set of phones and commenters complain they aren’t enough. Windows Phone adds a new feature and we go, “Who’s going to use THAT”.

So five years and Windows Phone has been dead or irrelevant for at least four of them.

So let me ask this question: What’s NEW.

Windows Phone is where it is and everyone knows it. So what new analysis, what new insight can the peanut gallery provide that will give us a glimpse of what’s next.

I mean let’s talk about how Microsoft should be an app provider. Or write a post on how Android is a better fit for Microsoft than Windows. Or hell let’s talk about Microsoft getting out of mobile altogether and let Google and Apple fight over mobile while Redmond moves the hell on.

I will take almost anything over this insipid mishmash of bitching, moaning, and Apple shinning that I see going on now.

At some point we cross over the point where the con fort and security of innocence is broken by the cruel touch of reality.

Sometimes it’s the realization that your closely held beliefs are shared by everyone or the reality you had is taken from you.

Reality is as they say a harsh mistress.

Today is World AIDS Day. It a day in which we observe the impact of AIDS and HIV has had on the world.

One year ago I had a friend of mine die from complications of Pneumonia due to HIV. I didn’t know he had it.

He wasn’t the type that one imagines when you think of someone who has HIV/AIDS. He wasn’t on drugs, running around, or a gay man on the down low. He didn’t look sickly.

He didn’t fit the profile.

And the thing is there is no profile.

There is no face, no type that you can scream AIDS-face.

HIV affects women, men, and children.

So on this day I want to take a minute and remember.


In a few short hours Microsoft’s latest Surface devices, the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book, will go on sale. The release of the devices coincides with the release of HALO 5: Guardians and its first flagship store in Manhattan, New York. The devices got decent reviews. The Surface Book, a 13.5 inch laptop with detachable screen, was the surprise of Microsoft’s recent Windows 10 devices event.

It is amazing that four years ago the Surface line was revealed in a surprise event in Hollywood. Then there was the Surface lineup came in both ARM (Surface RT) and Intel (Surface Pro) models. Over the years the line has faced challenges with a $900 million write down of the Surface RT devices; along with grumblings from PC makers upset with Microsoft getting into hardware. Reviewers liked the devices but felt Windows RT and Windows 8 held them back. Analysts looked at the devices as a diversion for the software company and urged them to quit.

I mean what did Microsoft think it could do against the iPad?

Apparently build up a small hardware business that, on the heels of the Surface Pro 3, became a small billion dollar enterprise for Microsoft and a brand.

With the Pro 4 and Book the Surface team is refining their product and moving into new fields. Now the question becomes what next.

In the immediate future I think the next Surface device will be a refresh of the base, entry level Surface. Last year the Surface 3 was announced midway into 2015 as the successor to the Surface Arm based tablets. The Surface 3 updated the entry level model to reflect the Pro 3 and created something that was closer to the iPad. The Surface 4 could be similar to the Pro 4 with the removal of the Windows logo and reduced bezels. My hope is the Surface team also take cues from the Surface Book’s thin and lightweight design. I also hope if there is a Surface 4 is coming that the focus is on creating a thin device and redesigning the tablet with a new design.

Another immediate future device is the next version of the Surface Book. Taking in the early reviews, I imagine a Book 2 will work on reducing the screen wobbling along with improving the hinge mechanism. I also expect the Book 2 to improve battery life for the tablet half which currently runs only for 3 hours. Of course the Book 2 will be thinner and they reduce the hinge size to close the  gap.

Beyond the obvious updates, what’s in store for the Surface brand?

At the beginning of its life Surface was about priming the pump for the PC market; it was about being a standard bearer. That hasn’t changed. But one of the other aspects to Surface is about rethinking device categories, and this is where I think the next devices will come from.

In my mind I see Microsoft working on either a variation of the mini PC or an All in One.

The All in One I see mainly as something that works for both Windows Mobile devices and as a possible alternative to the Surface Dock. Now for those that don’t know newer Windows Mobile devices such as the upcoming Lumia 950 and 950 XL have backed in something called Continuum. Continuum is Microsoft’s way of transitioning Windows devices between various modes. This means on tablets and PCs running Windows 10 can switch between the desktop and tablet, and on phones provide a PC like experience. Now Continuum for phones can be done both wireless and through devices like the $99 dollar Display dock built for the 950s. So imagine a device that allows a user to walk up with their Lumia or Surface and send their screen to an All in One in their house. Something that is similar to the large screen Surface Hub but built for your desk or or office.

Now the second device I think may be in the mind of the Surface team is a mini PC. Now this is a black horse largely due to a device like this would really step on their hardware partners toes. But imagine a thin and light box that was co-designed by the Xbox team that was built with that Surface fit and finish.

Or maybe we may finally see that Surface Mini (now that Panos has outed it in a Wired article).

The ability to download and run Android apps on Windows Phone will not save the platform.

Will they hurt it? Not really

Will it piss off developers and reduce Universal app development? Maybe

All I know is it won’t save the platform.

Now Paul Thurrott wrote about why Android apps were necessary for Windows Phone. He cited the simple fact that many of the applications people use to go about their day are simply missing on Windows. And we aren’t talking about apps like Snapchat or Tinder, but apps for your local TV station or Public Transit. Those apps are available on Android though and he argues that Microsoft needs to be honest and just go get them. The argument behind all this is Microsoft already ceded the mobile market by one 1) going cross platform and 2) cutting back massively on its own first party Lumia hardware.

Read the post it makes for compelling reading. It jus has one problem or maybe two.

I do agree with Mr. Thurrott that the reality of Windows Phone makes it almost a necessity to push the idea of loading Android apps on the platform. I think that is part of the reason Microsoft is working a version of this for the Windows platform that is codenamed Astoria. I also think this is why Microsoft is also allowing iOS developers to bring their apps over with Project Islandwood. Both projects are about closing the application gap that is the biggest bone of contention for Windows mobile users.

The only problem I have with the piece is Thurrott leaves out a lot of the hurdles that this dream faces. For one what does it mean for developers already on the platform. Now to me these bridges to iOS and Android developers doesn’t impact people already working on the platform. However I know a few will be pissed that they put in all this work only for Microsoft to go off and court others. The second thing is how is Microsoft supposedly going to get these Android devs to suddenly add Windows Phone onto their plates when they haven’t in the past five years. How is letting Android apps run on the Lumia 950 or 950 Xl suddenly make all these developers turn their eyes toward Redmond? I mean wouldn’t it be better to seduce the iOS devs? And what about all the companies that commission apps, do they suddenly hit a button and BOOM we got bank apps? I mean a few will bite but even then will they fully commit to adding Windows Phone to their offerings? Or will they like many others toss an app out that will go unattended in a year.

Then there is Google itself.

Recently Google and Microsoft ended their longtime patent Cold War and agreed to undisclosed terms and vague statements on future collaboration. Does this mean official Google apps or access to Google Play? Or does it mean an update to their useless Windows/Windows Phone apps. Having Google fully support the mobile Windows platform would be a nice psychological victory, but not a big one.

And that is the problem facing Windows. It has the hardware and the software. It has a following and a UI that stands out. But it doesn’t have a developer base that is committed. Of course there are developers who make quality apps, but they are few. On the Windows side you have a developer culture that sees value only in .exe and the desktop. Windows has very few creatives on its platform backing up the developers. iOS and Android devs maybe the answer to the platform but to them Windows is enemy territory or irrelevant.

So no Android apps won’t hurt Windows Phone, but they also aren’t its salvation.

So the folks over at Windows Central have a countdown clock, and we have 7 hours 2 minutes and 27 seconds until Microsoft reveals its latest versions of Surfaces and Lumias in New York City. I’m glad Microsoft is doing the event on the East coast, but it’s really early in the morning.

I think most of us can already guess what Microsoft will show off in a few hours. There will be a new Surface Pro model, two new Lumias, and peripherals. The next iteration of Microsoft’s wearable, the Band, is also widely expected to be on hand.

Microsoft is expected to unveil the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. Both phones have flagship specs with the larger model supposedly coming with support for inking. Both models will be encased polycarbonate plastic and include wireless charging. Both Lumia models are also expected to be sold across carriers except for Verizon; however both 950/950XL work on both CDMA and other bands.

MSFT_Event_October6_2015image: Microsoft

The Surface brand will be the star of the show with the possibility of multiple devices. Of course many expect to see an updated Pro model. The Surface Pro 4 is expected to be a modest revision with the biggest update being under the hood. The Pro 4 is rumored to be packing Intel’s new Skylake processor. There are also rumors of another Surface device that is at least 14 inches. One story reported by WinBeta is that it is a 12 inch Surface model which can switch the screen to be 13 inches like Intel’s North Cape concept. Another rumor posted by Paul Thurrott says this potential device is a 2-in-1 with a foldable keyboard making this Pro model Microsoft’s first laptop.

Early rumors indicated a new model Xbox would be announced but that was squashed by Xbox chief Phil Spencer. However many believe the Xbox Slim is still in the works. Microsoft is still rumored to show off the second iteration of Microsoft Band which should improve on the first model. Band 2 is rumored to be a more curved model to better fit the wrist and improved sensors.

I am hoping Microsoft may show off a Surface 4 model for those of us who like portability. Also new versions of the Surface Pen and TouchCover. However I think the biggest news will be around applications. Recent rumors have announced the possibility of Google finally creating apps for Windows 10.

If you want to watch the event it will be available online HERE.

Also know various tech sites will be doing liveblogs:

Windows Central

The Verge

I find it kind of apropos on the eve of new Lumias to talk about the death of Windows Phone and what and who was behind it. I do so in some ways because people like to debate it and also because it doesn’t really matter. Windows Phone despite struggles is still out there and yet people continue to twiddle with the worry beads over its future.

So let us look back and see where it’s been.

There was a number of factors that have led to Windows Phone struggling beyond the often cited app gap. Some of these are the fault of Microsoft and others on phone makers and carriers. And if you are looking for what went wrong maybe you should ask what Android got right; also what did carriers and device makers want from an OS platform.

Applications: The continued struggle of Windows Phone to breach the mythical and psychological barrier of enough apps continues to plague the platform. Applications are the Achilles heel even as the situation improved.

Developer story: A long time ago there was once something called Silverlight; then it died and Microsoft bungled the whole thing. The type of developers that build for mobile did not exist on Windows and spent scant attention on Windows Phone when released. It didn’t help that Microsoft was starting over and would again until now.

What Carriers wanted: Carriers wanted something LIKE an iPhone but under their control. Windows Phone was a candidate but it didn’t offer the level of carrier control Android ultimately did.

What Phone Makers wanted: The ability to own the device and tweak it so it sold over other phones. They wanted to skin their devices. What Microsoft was offering was not that.

Speed and Focus: Windows Phone never moved fast enough on features.

Too Radical? Maybe it was the Live Tiles

Nokia: Fanboy mixing is bad

So Windows Phone is dead and tomorrow we get new Windows Phones. Such is the way of the world.


So we are now in the Satya Nadella era of Microsoft and honestly all is right with the world. He is making the moves many have long asked Microsoft to make. Office is on mobile devices. Microsoft is making services cross platform. And the “specter” of Windows 8 has been replaced by the well received Windows 10.

People Mr. Nadella is ready for his hagiography.

But before we go that far I think we need to discuss one of the potential problems Microsoft will have to navigate; Windows itself.

As Microsoft has moved more of its services cross platform many are asking what is the point of Windows. While Nadella has put forth a goal of getting billions on Windows 10 and getting people to love the OS, the company seems neglectful. While many praise Outlook for iOS Outlook on Windows still needs finishing. People also complain about the fact that Windows 10 isn’t as good on tablets as Windows 8 was. Lastly many are asking if everything is available on Android and iOS what differentiates Windows and Windows Mobile.

A lot of the of the good vibes around Microsoft stems from Nadella not being Ballmer but also that a lot of his moves are not about making the preciouses not have to touch icky Windows. But as Microsoft increasingly makes its services work cross platform Windows has become a sort of Black box.

For some enthusiasts Nadella is here to KILL Windows and especially Windows Phone.

It is clear Satya Nadella wants to change Windows and Windows Phone. When he or the company talk about More Personal Computing they mean Windows and Windows Mobile. But I also think he sees the need for Windows to change its approach. Windows 10 was about reaching out to desktop computer users, but its future is in creating a product that is wanted by users.

I think the future of Windows, at least from my view, will increasingly involve hardware. While Nadella may have been against the purchase of Nokia hardware, he has championed the Microsoft Surface and HoloLens. I think he sees hardware as this lynchpin for the Windows platform. Now the question is can Windows be that platform.


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