The Mobile 'Phone' is Dead: Microsoft Got It Right

By Doug Mohney July 10, 2015

One of the great conundrums of mobile devices has been how mobility and traditional telephony should fit together. History is littered with the broken corpses of companies that have tried to bridge the gap between delivering data and supporting voice: Palm, Blackberry, and now Nokia, along with money losers such as HTC and Motorola (now owned by Google). I stand before you to say that the concept of a mobile "phone" is dead; it's time to disconnect the word "phone" from mobile devices.

If Microsoft is smart, it will ban the use of the word "phone" from any association with Windows. It has a track record of horrible failure every time it has tried to sell any sort of operating system exclusive for a phone. The latest Windows Phones are a modest success compared to Microsoft's previous efforts over the past decade or so, but nothing that's going to take market share away from Apple iOS and the Android ecosystem.

Success for Microsoft could come through its "one OS for all" philosophy. The smartphone industry has been content to view the phone as a unique device even as tablets and Chromebooks have demonstrated that the differences between a phone and a laptop-like device have been in screen size and user interface rather than the underlying operating system and hardware capabilities. 

Image via Shutterstock

Microsoft is already demonstrating  how Windows 10 and its "universal" apps can be written once, with apps smart enough to automatically adopt the program and user interface to the device they are running on. If the app is running on a tablet or smartphone, you get touch-first controls. If there's a bigger screen or if the app runs on an Xbox One, the app adjusts to take advantage of the screen size and any other unique features.

Before LTE, 2G to 3G smartphones kept silos between voice and data. Even WiMAX had its own special silo between voice and data. LTE blows all that away, with voice and SMS—the two primary "apps" on the thing known as "phone”—running as IP-based apps on an all-IP network. There's no legacy siloing between voice and data.

The trap is fixating on "phone" when the underlying technology has shifted and our communications have shift from "phone" to multi-modal communication incorporating email, IM/SMS texting, social media, voice and even video. It should be no big surprise, given the hurdles it is taking for phone companies to move from TDM to IP and how painfully long a chunk of the business world continues to hold onto Ye Olde Fax.

It isn't a stretch to think that Microsoft and others will be able to put a fully functional "laptop" into the form factor of a phone. Some would argue we're already there with a combination of the cloud and ARM processors, but I'd prefer to have an Intel-laptop grade experience in the palm of my hand and easily dropped into a docking station to support a widescreen LCD, storage, and any peripherals as necessary.

Bets on a Surface "phone" are, therefore, relatively safe bets, but the question becomes how will Microsoft blend a pocket-sized Surface device with the cloud and the ability to cooperate/interoperate to deliver laptop and desktop style experiences? The Surface Pro line is being touted as a laptop replacement? Five years from now, will the Surface "phone" be touted as the Surface Pro replacement?




Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Contributing Editor

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

Pai Makes His Case for Title II Repeal

By: Paula Bernier    11/21/2017

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today made clear his plans to repeal Title II net neutrality rules. The commission is expected to pass his proposal at its Dec. …

Read More

Mist Applies AI to Improve Wi-Fi

By: Paula Bernier    11/9/2017

Mist has created an AI-driven wireless platform that puts the user and his or mobile device at the heart of the wireless network. Combining machine le…

Read More

International Tech Innovation Growing, Says Consumer Technology Association

By: Doug Mohney    11/8/2017

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is best known for the world's largest trade event, but the organization's reach is growing far beyond the CE…

Read More

Broadcom Makes Unsolicited $130B Bid for Qualcomm

By: Paula Bernier    11/6/2017

In what could result in the biggest tech deal in history, semiconductor company Broadcom has made an offer to buy Qualcomm for a whopping $130 billion…

Read More

How Google's 'Moonshot' Could Benefit Industrial Markets

By: Kayla Matthews    10/30/2017

The term "moonshot" encapsulates the spirit of technological achievement: an accomplishment so ambitious, so improbable, that it's equivalent to sendi…

Read More