You may have heard the rumors of Microsoft building their own phone. Many have dubbed it the “Surface Phone”, taken from the name of Microsoft’s soon to launch tablets.
A quick Bing search of “Surface Phone” will bring up quite a few articles about this possible venture, along with a lot of analysis stating that such a move would be hurting their OEMs; especially Nokia, their most dedicated OEM.
Perhaps people are looking at it wrong.
Microsoft’s Surface Tablets
First, let’s have a gander at the reason that Microsoft is creating the Surface tablets. Windows operating systems have an unfortunate reputation for being buggy and slow. A consumer might go into a store and pick up what appears to be a decently fast PC, only to have a bad user experience when they actually try to get work done. This was especially prevalent during the popularity of netbooks.
PC manufacturers, better known as ‘original equipment manufacturers or OEMs, were notorious for including bloatware and cheap hardware in order to bring down costs. This resulted in a low specced computer being bogged down with too many running processes.
These same OEMs created Android tablets that run just as horribly. This didn’t help Android’s reputation when it comes to tablets.
In order to show consumers that a bad user experience is not the fault of Windows, Microsoft is releasing the Surface tablets to set the bar. If a user has a bad experience with a particular OEM’s tablet they’ll be able to look at Surface and realize that the problem isn’t the OS.
So when the “Surface Phone” rumors started circulating, tech pundits everywhere assumed that Microsoft’s strategy for the mobile space must be the same. But the problem in the smartphone space is that Windows Phone has been running great on all the existing handsets. The user experience is stellar. So the tech pundits assumed that Microsoft moving into the mobile space as a hardware maker would be a big mistake.
What if it’s not about setting the bar?
Microsoft does not need to set a hardware bar in the smartphone realm. It’s doubtful that Microsoft could come in and bring any more hardware innovation or quality than their strongest OEM partner, Nokia.
Instead, perhaps Microsoft is preparing to fill an existing void in their lineup.
Windows Phone’s marketshare isn’t exactly good. In fact, it’s pretty bad. As a result, OEMs cannot afford to take risks producing devices that aren’t targeted towards the mass market. A niche market for what is currently a niche operating system would be a guaranteed money loser.
What niche market would be worth losing money for?
It’s just business
Many business-people are still using Blackberry phones. It’s often not because people particularly like their phones, but because RIM has made an effort to create phones that serve business customers with phones with a strong communication system and strong security features. Most Blackberries are also pretty inexpensive. However, Blackberries are not quite up to par with other smartphones in other day to day features.
With RIM’s newest OS still nowhere to be seen, and their market share slowly dwindling, the corporate consumer is ready to try other options.
Microsoft will be most likely making a push to get businesses, big and small, to adopt Windows 8, Windows RT, Office 365, Azure, etc…
MS may also want a phone that they can add to their business pitch; a basic phone that doesn’t come with all the expensive frills, bells, and whistles that the upcoming consumer based handsets will have, but preloaded with the functionality that will make integration with Microsoft’s other business products smooth and effortless.
Imagine something that looks like the Dell Venue Pro with a smaller screen running Windows Phone 8. It would make a lot of sense.
What we could be looking at may be RIM’s worst nightmare.