Microsoft is constantly rumoured to be on the point of releasing a new Windows 10 Mobile that will reach the market and save the business. The mythical beast is almost universally known as the Surface Phone on the rumour sites and some with good track records are suggesting that it will arrive in April next year.
Jam tomorrow? Almost certainly. A whole year is a long time to wait for something that may or may not save a dying platform. However, let’s be honest here, outside of Windows Phone fans, Windows 10 on Mobile isn’t really ready for a big push. Since its launch Microsoft has pushed out 11 fairly big updates, each of which has brought the platform closer to completion. There are still some holes and bugs, but Windows 10 Mobile users can be pretty confident they’ll be filled or squashed as a matter of routine.
Its the same sort of process which has taken Windows 10 on the desktop from unfinished to nicely polished part way through its first year since release.
So we know that Windows 10 Mobile will get better and we’re also seeing more and more third parties releasing universal apps to fill the app store gap. Its only a small number in the grander scheme of things, but its the sort of movement the Windows Store has lacked since arriving with Windows/WP 8.
With gaps in its armour being closed on an almost daily basis it makes sense for Microsoft to hold off on a flagship phone until such time as both hardware and software are as good as they can be.
Assuming that the Windows Phone fan community keeps buying devices in sufficient number to keep platform recognition up (and prevent Windows 10 Mobile disappearing into the Other category in market reports) Microsoft has the time in hand to delay its big play.
But it needs to make that big play.
The last Windows Phone that really drove any kind of consumer interest was the Lumia 1020. Its camera was a big enough differentiator to be recognisable even amongst focused consumers who could see no further than Android and iOS. The camera was a talking point and an opportunity to demonstrate what Windows Phone could do.
Of course the marketing was tepid and sales weren’t great, but the very existence of such a remarkable phone (well okay, a remarkable camera on a phone) meant that potential customers saw and tried a Windows Phone, most of them for the first time. And some of those users went on to buy a Windows Phone of some description.
If Microsoft does create a Surface Phone next year it has to have that same jaw-dropping, attention grabbing quality that the 1020 had when it arrived – looking like and working like nothing else out there.
I’m not sure that anyone can create such a phone given the maturity of the market however given Microsoft’s low market share and apparent desire to lead (as demonstrated by the Surface / Pro / Book range) maybe it can create something which doesn’t fit the current smartphone template and is better for it.