Microsoft to release a Surface Phone in 2017

In the meantime, Lumia continues to lose ground.

Lumia 800 in pants pocket
Credit: Martin Abegglen

There have been rumors floating among Microsoft enthusiast sites that the company plans to replace its Lumia brand with a Surface branded phone, bringing it at least into name parity with the more successful tablet line.

Now Windows Central, which has a decent track record on mobile news, saysthat there will be a Surface Phone line, but not until next year. In the meantime, there would be a marginal effort with the Lumia, a $7.7 billion mistake that can be blamed on the prior CEO. WC theorizes this is to continue Windows 10 Mobile development, give OEM partners time to make new hardware and give Microsoft time to come back with a bang.

As it stands, Lumia accounts for 97% of the Windows Phone market, according to AdDuplex. How that changes, when Microsoft will remain an active competitor in the hardware space, is beyond me. Yes I know Google has its own branded phones, made by partners. But those phones serve more as a high bar for the rest of the industry. They are not actively competing with Samsung and LG.

Microsoft has two major updates to Windows in the pipeline, codenamed "Redstone." Redstone 1 is due this summer, while Redstone 2 will hit in early 2017. Now Intel has a new generation of processors called "Kaby Lake" due at the end of the year, so it stands to reason that new generation PCs and Surface tablets with Kaby Lake processors will come out at the same time as Redstone 2, or at least reasonably close. If there is a new Surface tablet launch in early 2017, it would be logical to release branded phones at the same time.

WC said that Microsoft is considering three different models of Surface phones, for consumer, business, and prosumer/enthusiast. What that means is not clear but it will likely mean variations in hardware specs.

The business phone fits a comment made at Build last week, when Aaron Woodman, a marketing exec, told a Russian news site that the company sees business users are a target market.

Conspicuously absent from this new line of thinking is the low end, which is where the Lumia brand has done well, especially in Europe and emerging countries. So it looks like Microsoft may, repeat may, be looking to dump the one market it's had success.

And it still remains to be seen how Microsoft will lure back developers, even with the Universal Windows Platform to simplify porting. Windows Phone 8 was a great platform. I really, genuinely liked it. But it had no apps. And that will be the undoing of the Surface Phone, too.

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