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The future of Windows: We vet the rumors of what Microsoft may announce this week

Mark Hachman | Oct. 26, 2016
A Surface all-in-one? OK, Microsoft, wow us.

Rumor: The Surface Phone, dead or alive

What we’ve heard: Nothing. Reporters, fans, analysts and partners are waiting for Microsoft to answer the question: Is there a Surface phone? Is this what the Dial is?

What seems likely: Microsoft certainly won’t launch the phone at the event, and even a glimpse of it would certainly be newsworthy. What Microsoft needs to do, though, is put minds at ease: Is there still an opportunity for a “category-defining” Surface phone?

I would say no: my bet is that Microsoft’s Surface phone died when Intel essentially killed off the Atom. But the Trademark Ninja also dug up a “Surface Dial” trademark, which sounds very much like a phone.

What seems certain, though, is that Windows 10 Mobile will live on. Microsoft will wholeheartedly back hardware partners with UWP apps, as well as legacy, virtualized Win32 apps. I believe that Microsoft sees this combination as wholly unique, and that we’ll eventually see Microsoft’s own version of the HP Workspace Win32 virtualized app subscription, but powered by Microsoft’s own Azure cloud.

surface phone mockup 
Could a Surface Phone replace an actual PC? Given the Atom chip in the Surface 3 tablet, it didn’t seem too unrealistic...until Intel killed the Atom.

What we want: Here, my heart contradicts my brain: I’m still hoping that a killer productivity phone is waiting in the wings. I’m heartened, though, by reports that say HP's Elite x3 uses the same fingerprint sensor found on some of the latest flagship Android phones. If Microsoft can’t capture some of that old Lumia magic, maybe one of its partners could at least build a phone that uses the best components in the Android world.

Rumor: the Home Hub, a Cortana-powered appliance

What we’re hearing: Smart appliances: Amazon has one. Google does too. We’ve privately wondered why Microsoft hasn’t bothered shipping a Cortana-powered gizmo that could do the same. Noted leaker Walking Cat seems to think that Microsoft will, eventually.

walkingcat homehub tweet
Twitter/@walkingcat

So far, this LinkedIn link is about the only indication that Microsoft might be planning a Cortana-based device to compete with the Amazon Echo.

What seems likely: I tend to believe that Microsoft explored cooking up its own Cortana appliance, though I’m skeptical that it’s developed enough to show off this week. Microsoft has no viable home-control solutions outside the Xbox. Sure, this NYC event could be Microsoft’s in-home coming out party, forging connections between an AIO, Xbox, your Office PC, and more. But that seems rather wildly speculative, if not overly ambitious.

What we want: If this is real, Microsoft is going to have to sell me on why I’ll want it. Microsoft has a solid foothold in the living room with the Xbox, and Cortana’s a decent assistant. But a home hub doesn’t really strike me as a viable product, given Microsoft’s focus on productivity. 

 

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