ARM can’t fix the Windows 10 mobile problem. It will make a great Surface Pad though.

Posted on 12 January 2017 by

Windows’ mobile problem is well know. Apps. Will an alternative processor architecture help? It’s great to see ARM in the space, but it won’t fix the problem.

There are two mobile-related Windows problems. The first is the close-down of the Lumia brand. It was the first big indicator that the Universal Windows Program wasn’t attracting the developer hours that were so badly needed. They were needed to bring Windows, and not just Windows Mobile, to a point where Win32 / desktop apps could be ignored in favour of mobile apps. Under UWP I would argue that apps are more user-friendly, cheaper to develop, more secure and more efficient. Ultimately there would have been a mobile-first scenario similar to that which we see on IOS and Android in the IoT, personal mobility, remote control and social network sectors but with the introduction of an ARM platform, fitting into the 6-inch to 12 inch space, that supports legacy desktop apps, it’s now 100% clear that UWP failed to achieve its goals quickly enough. Intel pulled the plug on the space and, laughably, Qualcomm is stepping in with a top-end processor platform that won’t do anything to help. Microsoft needs millions of mobile devices out there running Windows 10. What on earth are they thinking? While Windows 10, Snapdragon 830 and a Surface Phone could be a match made in heaven, it WILL NOT HELP.

 

The cheapest way to build Windows 10 numbers in the mobile space would have been to subsidise the sale of Windows phones and tablets but with Intel and Lumia gone it seems Microsoft want to put a high-end mobile device in this vastly competitive and saturated space. A Surface Phone, a Surface Pad, a Surface UMPC isn’t going to help.

A Snapdragon 835 will not result in low-cost phones and ‘multimode’ doesn’t sell.

Snapdragon 835 is high-end. It is perfect for a Surface Phone at 6-inches that will lever integration skills and demonstrate, perfectly, the capabilities of Continuum and multimode dockable usage but expect that to be an $800 product. It will be as fast as a Core M and  extremely interesting for ultra-mobile users. Tight integration will make a very smart-looking device but it will have to compete with the iPad Pro, iPhone, Pixel devices, Galaxy brand and a bunch of cheaper, but very good phablets. It will compete with some very good Intel-based Core M devices that can handle, without software emulation or binary translation, full HD videos editing, advanced photo editing, basic CAD and entry-level PC gaming. In short, it will end up being a desirable but niche and expensive product.

The second problem is that ‘multimode’ doesn’t sell devices.

We love them, as do the press but the Motorola Atrix (2011), Lumia 950 (2015) and other devices have proven that selling multimode is hard work. When was the last time you saw a mainstream user using Miracast and a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse?

Established electronics manufacturers don’t like them either. No one is going to build a multimode phone that potentially trashes the profitable sectors of laptops, tablets, 2-in-1s and desktops. The only manufacturers that have space to do this are the startups. Microsoft have space too. Consider the Surface Pro 4 at $1000 and the Surface Book at $2000. A Surface Phone (Surface Pad at 6 inches) would fit in at $599-$899 and it could replace the old Atom based Surface products nicely. Would Microsoft be stepping on the toes of its partners by doing this? It would shock the hell out of them.

 

Does a high-end device solve the app problem? Do Windows-based mobile devices become more interesting? No they don’t

What, then, is the point?

Categorized | Opinion

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  • It really depends on Microsoft’s goal and intent. *I* am a rabid customer for Lumia (or better, Surface Phone) and I know many, many others who very reluctantly gave up on a Windows-based mobile platform– and only because, for the time being, Microsoft has.

    If Microsoft can and will accept a select high-end, business-driven demographic for a rebooted mobile experience, they’ll be fine. It’s worked for Surface Pros even after a rough start.

    The drawback here has nothing to do with technology. It’s all about promotion and support, which Microsoft failed miserable at with WP/Lumia. No real reason for it, either.

    disclaimer: former Nokia developer ambassador for Windows Phone platform currently using a Lumia 920 with no hangup over apps

    • Great to have you commenting! My issue is that Surface sales won’t be big enough to drive UWP adoption in the developer community and that adoption is critical to future success. I am also a Lumia fan, Surface user but have serious app problems now as I explore IoT, new photo devices (two of my cameras aren’t supported under Windows) and local transport apps.

      • I’m sure a Surface Phone will at least pick up Surface Pro developers by virtue of UWP alone. Whether that’s enough again depends on Microsoft’s definition. I’m definitely willing to get back into development for Surface Phone, and I haven’t coded for two years…

        • efjay

          And why will a “Surface Phone” be more attractive to developers because of UWP when its not attractive enough today?

        • There is no Surface Phone today

        • efjay

          So what will make it more attractive if and when its released?

        • Please understand I’m mostly speculating re Surface Phone. That should be clear from my previous posts. Until it’s actually released, it’s difficult to make any certain predictions. All we have to go on now are leaks and rumors.

          But as a Lumia user and former Windows Phone developer/evangelist who encountered a great deal of enthusiasm for the platform, I know there’s pent-up desire for a solid alternative to Android and iPhone. Success will come down to Microsoft’s execution and support. They performed VERY poorly in that regard with Lumia, but I believe that a stronger approach can bring back at least a percentage of former WP devs and possibly some new ones. Again, UWP should be a very helpful contributor. We’ll see.

  • cmvrgr

    There are many users that need a single All in one mobile device that combines Desktop Windows 64bit apps and Mobile apps. It is amazing to be able to run your desktop games and apps in an ultra mobile form factor.

    The attempt to use an Arm CPU for running X86 Desktop apps mobile will not save MS. Is a step back and will send more users away.

    As a UMPC user I had Gigabyte M704 and Viliv N5 (that your site convinced me to buy).

    Now as a Solution I bought 2 separate devices a GPD WIN 5.5” 4GB RAM Atom 8700 64bit windows and I am running all my Apps (cad, games, game engines) and with an external monitor it replaces my main pc in many tasks and a Doogee 6.5″ ultra cheap smart phone with android for my daily tasks( that I am using as a wireless main or second screen for GPD win) . Guess who is loosing profit. MS does !!! I know many people that they did similar combination and with less that 500 euros combined both worlds in 2 different devices.

    I am willing to pay a hundreds of euros to buy a single device that is both a UMPC with 64bit Desktop app support and mobile phone with “surface” standards and I am not alone. There are thousands of people that require that. Is the next logical step.

    I am very happy that GPD planning a device with 7” screen that will make a super UMPC device. MS till now has disappointed many users by delaying every good project that can merry both worlds (mobile & desktop) in one device.

    I hope that MS will make an intel based Surface Phone with a 6.5” screen that would be capable for both world Desktop and Mobile. It is a difficult task as Intel’s plans for mobile cpus is uncertain but this will boost surface phone and will conv ice to

    I am willing to pay a 1000 euros to buy a single device that is both a UMPC with 64bit Desktop app support and mobile phone with “surface” standars and I am not alone. THere are thousands of beople that require that. Is the next logical step.

    I am very happy that GPD planning a device with 7” screen that will make a super UMPC device. MS till now has disappointed many users.

    I hope that MS will make an intel based Surface Phone with a 6.5” screen that would be capable for both world Desktop and Mobile. It is a difficult task as Intel’s plans for mobile cpus is uncertain but this will boost surface phone and will conv ice to

    • Pervez Rumi

      Very good point. There are power users who wish for a Surface Mini 6.5 to 7 inch device that can do it all. Many novice users will follow soon as such a device would reduce cost and confusion of carrying and maintaining 2 devices.

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