Windows Phone X: How Microsoft can dominate the next generation of computing

Microsoft is a powerful company, and when they are given an idea, they have the ability to turn heads when they release products. With two powerful mobile platforms now in the marketplace, Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft has potential to build incredible products and define the next generation of computing.

For the concept described in this article, set aside some current technical barriers that may exists and understand that this is a forward-looking idea that we hope to see come to fruition. Further, everything described below has been done on other platforms, but they failed to materialize for lack of hardware or software support over the long term.  

Windows Phone 8 and Windows RT are Microsoft’s mobile platforms going forward, and each cater to a separate market, but to fully realize the true potential of both of these products, Microsoft needs to break down the segmentation and make these products one in the same.

Mobile phones are scaling up in processing power at an incredible rate. What was once considered a crazy idea several years ago is now a reality with phones that have quad-core power, gigs of ram and copious amounts of storage space. A smartphone, in short, has a lot of the same functionality laptops several years ago featured on a smaller screen.

Imagine this scenario, you have a Windows Phone X (X representing an upcoming version of Windows Phone) that hums along with all of the Windows Phone goodness we have come to know and love but when you dock the phone into a shell that contains a screen, keyboard and USB connections, the phone switches over to Windows RT and keeps all your content in place and streamlined.

In this scenario, your phone is now your computer. You dock when you need the power of Windows RT, and when you undock, you have the mobile OS that is designed for the smaller screen. Simply put, you can remove one device from your life and replace it with a shell that is extremely thin and lightweight because all the horsepower is contained in the phone.


Palm Folio: A device ahead of its time

Sure, you would likely want a battery onboard, but other than that it’s a barebones setup that bridges Microsoft products to create a killer all-in-one device. A device that would live inside the Microsoft ecosystem from all aspects and provide a unique experience that at the time, the market does not offer.

To take it further than simply a snap-in shell for a laptop, imagine a dock at your workstation where you plug your phone in to a monitor that has USB ports, once again, your entire office is in the palm of your hand, all-day long.


Pictured: ASUS PadFone is representative of how Microsoft should proceed with its mobile platforms

Think storage would be an issue as cell phones don’t contain enough memory to replace your laptop? Microsoft has a nifty cloud storage service called SkyDrive that can house all of your information that is accessible for nearly any internet-connected device.

Sure, we have seen this attempted with the Motorola Atrix and even the Palm Folio (above), but both products failed on several metrics of either expense, being underpowered, or inferior software that provided a poor end user experience.

We already suspect that Apple and Google are both working on something similar with iOS/OS X and Android/Chrome OS; Microsoft could easily compete with Windows Phone and Windows RT.

It will come down to execution for Microsoft (and the others), and the first to do so with a well built and intuitive design will win a significant portion of the market.  It’s not rocket science, but delivering a best-in-class product that will help make people’s lives easier.

We hope that Microsoft will find a blend to these two platforms and make this concept a reality because if they don’t, Apple and Google will, once again, beat Microsoft to the market.

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I don't think the approach of docking your phone is the best, but rather, they need to take advantage of the use of multiple devices rather than trying to solidifying it into one package. The phone is easy enough to slip away in a pocket, so it isn't much of an issue of carrying it separately instead of putting into some tablet dock. What Microsoft needs to do is unify all their services and make them act as one. In the past, this has been the underlying defeat of Microsoft, they had so many good products but it was all out of sync because of lack of a unifying force. For example, look at Vista, it had great software, Windows Mail, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Calendar, but Microsoft stopped there, and went off a different branch and did the entire thing over in the Live Suite. Where does this leave Vista users? With redundant software and missing features that make an OS more productive (I'm looking at that now archaic Contacts folder, and the inability for Windows Vista and 7 users to get Calendar reminders without having the program open, and others). Another, more current example is the transition from Messenger to Skype. Messenger has a plethora of handy features they are just throwing aside in favor of a NAME. Messenger has awesome picture sharing, remote connect invitations, fun games, a much better UI, FREE SMS, video and voice chat, where Skype is subpar on the IM front, lacking FREE SMS, picture sharing, remote connect invitations, and it doesn't really bring anything new when it comes to voice/video chat. Just some examples of really bad ideas.
What Microsoft needs to do, is stick with what they have and BUILD on it, not scrap it and reformat (which is what many Windows users seem to do as well with their systems, lol). What they need to do with the mobile platform is build on that shared core of Windows 8/RT and WP8. Features needs to synchronize. Lock screens should have the option to sync, messages should sync (sms, Skype, messenger, it can be tricky, but MS can probably get it done, messenger does send out SMS for free). Start screens should sync upon user log in on other computers as a guest (kinda like ChromeOS). All these things would eliminate the need to have to physically dock the mobile in order to sync or power that device up, because it would already be like you're running it docked. So what Microsoft needs to add on to that is the ability to use the phone as a second screen. Move notifications there, make it picture viewer, an awesome remote (using NFC+bluetooth). We've seen similar concepts like this before with Microsoft Sideshow which was first shown on Vista, then once again scrapped instead of built upon. Apps on WP need to be submitted with apps for Windows 8/RT. There should not be this model of having to rebuy an app for the tablet when you have purchased it already for the mobile. Because of that shared core and tools from Microsoft for both tablet and mobile UI, it should be easy to bundle something like that up. This would allow using that awesome feature of having synchronized saves, just picking up where you are on your mobile on your tablet in the middle of the game, or wherever you are in your app, ala save states that Microsoft has demoed in the pass on Windows Phone 7, but has failed to once again build on it. Another tool that Microsoft has is their active digitizer support. It is stellar on Windows 7, but degraded in Windows 8. Any real TabletPC user can tell you this, that the Tablet Input Panel has been degraded, and once again, instead of building upon it, they scrap it for a better touch keyboard when they should have just made both experiences much better. Inking is so much better with Windows than it is on Android, comparing it on the Galaxy Note 10.1, the Note 2, etc versus my HP tm2t, regular users tend to find inking a much better experience on Windows than it is on Android, and this is something Microsoft has chosen to just sweep under the rug instead of showcasing it, and making it a requirement for new hardware. This could have been the defining feature that no other OS on the market can do as well. People are always asking me if they can try my stylus on their iPads or Galaxies, because their fat rubber nib styluses just plain suck. On that topic, Microsoft could make a better note if they would bring over this stuff to their phones as well. That rumored 6.1" phone from Huawei would have much benefited from a feature like this. Again, a shared core, but a scarped feature Microsoft has but just decides not to carry on with.
This is what pains me to stick with Microsoft while Apple carries on this concept upon building on their system. Look at OSX, it has been around for almost a decade, and it is still as modern, where as Windows has gone from XP to Vista to 7 to 8, always being "reimagined," "from the ground up," etc. We all know Microsoft can do this, but they actually have to do it though, which is a problem and a pain for so many users.

my only complaint about wp8 is not having software comparable to itunes that lets you sync the device with all your fav songs pics or what have you. it is a pain to get your music on their, when i had a iphone it was so incredibly easy to get my most played music on the device with wp8, i have to go through all my music and search through the folders, because syncing it with wmp, is a joke.

illustrick said,
my only complaint about wp8 is not having software comparable to itunes that lets you sync the device with all your fav songs pics or what have you. it is a pain to get your music on their, when i had a iphone it was so incredibly easy to get my most played music on the device with wp8, i have to go through all my music and search through the folders, because syncing it with wmp, is a joke.

I actually think its quite the opposite. The only reason you tolerate HAVING to use iTunes to sync your music is exactly that, because that was the only way. Why would you want to load up some massive bloatware crap having to sync and backup and do all this other futile bull$#!+ when you could just mount the sd as a disk and copy it on or better yet just Bluetooth it across. The fact that you want to be forced through iTunes is a joke...

how is it a joke? i dont like shifting through 200k songs. that are broken down and artist>album>cd, would take me hours. itunes atleast saves a most recently played and most played list. which is easy to manage, and easy to modify. Where as wmp not so much gotta shift through all the songs.

I think people think way too exacting with the coming evolutionary devices. What will really happen is multitudes of devices will find places and integrate with everything else. Like all of the fitness monitors, connected home devices, glasses, tvs etc and people will build their own personal device ecosystems.

The problem with microsoft is Management and execution. I remember 20-30 (it was about the time that OLE was the big thing) years ago attending a lecture from Bill Gates and he envisioned a wallet PC. The Wallet PC of yesteryear is todays smartphone - iphone/android device They don't have lack of vision but their main problem was flexibility and scalability of the NT kernel. Today most of todays super computers run Linux or Unix and on the lowend most smartphones run OS that are derives from Unix/Linux. They finnaly moved to path where they have some flexibility with the NT kernel, It now runs on arm, x86, and whatever the next xbox uses. Only time will tell if they made the correct decisions. It may be too late. If Management had made the correct moves earlier they would not be in the potential predicament they find themselves in now.

Melfster said,
You must be high. Yes how relevant are they in ARM and High performance computing compared to the competition.

Dude just stop. The whole "super computers run Linux" argument is one stated by n00bs that don't actually know anything about super computers and usually computers at all... the OS running on supercomputers is not Ubuntu, Android of some other Linux kernel using OS, it is a highly modified barebones clump of code which is pretty much just assembly to talk to the bare metal, the 'Linux kernel is open source and so the engineers can completely rip it apart and just use the miniscule amounts of it that they need which saves them writing their own one. If NT was open source then they would without a doubt use that. For the record, the supercomputer itself may run Linux but the data feeding in and the data feeding out is all powered by NT workstations/servers.

While this is a great idea, and easy to put in place, I'm really looking forward to a clip-on device for my glasses, that will display a either a full screen desktop or minimal information depending on whether I'm sitting down to work or walking around. Let's do away with physical screens altogether :-)

"A smartphone, in short, has a lot of the same functionality laptops several years ago featured on a smaller screen."

I'd argue that, in many cases, smartphones today actually have higher-resolution screens compared to laptops a few years (and even many laptops today).

Jeex said,
I'd argue that, in many cases, smartphones today actually have higher-resolution screens compared to laptops a few years (and even many laptops today).

The quote is about size, not resolution...

No it's not.
Ubuntu is trying to do what MS is doing with Windows 8/WP8 and Xbox. Device symmetry, many devices same GUI.

of course since no one actually uses Ubuntu, and even less people use Unity, the effort seems a bit wasted. what's coming out in a year is merely the first Ubuntu phone. and being so far in the future even that isn't guaranteed. the fact that their first hardware is a year ahead in time is already dooming them.

HawkMan said,
No it's not.
Ubuntu is trying to do what MS is doing with Windows 8/WP8 and Xbox. Device symmetry, many devices same GUI.

of course since no one actually uses Ubuntu, and even less people use Unity, the effort seems a bit wasted. what's coming out in a year is merely the first Ubuntu phone. and being so far in the future even that isn't guaranteed. the fact that their first hardware is a year ahead in time is already dooming them.

Excuse me, where is this Windows Phone that I can dock to a monitor and it turns into a Windows 8? Or a tablet I can dock it to? Or a TV I can dock it to and it turns into an Xbox.

Ubuntu ARE exactly doing what this post suggest. You dock the phone to a TV, it switches to the TV interface and turns into a multimedia center. You dock it to a PC display, it turns into a full fleshed PC and switches to the desktop interface.

The only thing Microsoft is doing is slapping the same UI across all the different devices. I'd say Ubuntu is smarter about it since their SDK will gain the ability to develop one app for the platform which uses different interface depending on the form factor.

Of course, I agree that no one uses Ubuntu and that this will most likely pass by the general audience, but it doesn't make your post wrong. Ubuntu are doing it first.

Syanide said,

The only thing Microsoft is doing is slapping the same UI across all the different devices. I'd say Ubuntu is smarter about it since their SDK will gain the ability to develop one app for the platform which uses different interface depending on the form factor.

Of course, I agree that no one uses Ubuntu and that this will most likely pass by the general audience, but it doesn't make your post wrong. Ubuntu are doing it first.

Brad mention that other may done it but few can make this idea into fruition. Microsoft create a path for developers to create one apps for all for instance. In your case of Ubuntu, is that a company? Can it create path like MS?

minster11 said,

Brad mention that other may done it but few can make this idea into fruition. Microsoft create a path for developers to create one apps for all for instance. In your case of Ubuntu, is that a company? Can it create path like MS?

Canonical is the company, Ubuntu is the OS. And yes, they can "create path."

Now you made me look that up. Ubuntu is open source like Android. Actually, Google have to include their recipes in and call it Google. Is Canonical like Google?

If you are the owner of Canonical what do you need to do to make this path of yours work?

No they're not doing that.

They're making Ubuntu powered TV's... well in theory, they're making ubuntu powered laptops. well not making but... and they're making ubuntu powered phones, though again in theory. There has been NOTHING about docking phones.

just a lot of talks about unified interface across devices. ie. ModernUI. or in their case Unity.

in any case, Ubuntu doesn't have close to the market power to get hardware partners for a project like this.

HawkMan said,
No they're not doing that.
There has been NOTHING about docking phones.

Except they freaking showed them off. Ubuntu for Android was demoed last year. Ubuntu Phone runs on the same kernel and it's been mentioned numerous times the same technology was applied.

I agree they most likely won't do much with it, but please don't spread misinformation. Ubuntu has an actual phone that can dock and turn into a computer. Not in theory, not in Brad Sams article, it's somewhere in their company running at the moment. The fact they most likely won't do much with it is a different matter altogether.

Microsoft has a solid story on R&D, security, and customer care. Solid as stone.
Other companies like Google can't compete in that because they have not the habit of feeling responsible for a wide range of software on a wide range of hardware. They are just naive neofits and they'll lose the game in the long period.

I have talked about this concept several times here on Neowin over the last couple years... I even mentioned this in a comment a couple days ago. I really think this is the future.

Agreed. But for the concept to work, the screen is paper thin, transparent and flexible (coming in a range of sizes, A5 to A3+). And the dock is wireless between the phone and screen.

I like the wireless concept. They need to implement miracast and make sure Bluetooth is sold. I could then place my phone on its wireless charger, it'd sync to my monitor and Bluetooth keyboard/mouse. Done deal. Take the frame of the ATIV Smart PC Pro, replace the motherboard with the miracast hardware and Bluetooth adapter for the touchpad/keyboard. Reduce the battery to a 100th of what it currently is the it lasts forever. I could keep my phone on my hip and still do all my work, or if its starting to run down, again, just lay it on its wireless charger and be able to pick it up whenever I get a call. It seems so incredibly simple with existing tech.

MS is a powerful company, but they will NEVER be a big player in the mobile space. This is because the people in charge at MS are out-of-touch with the reality of whats going on in the consumer market.

Surface RT and Windows Phone (I own both) have great potential but the short comings of the OS is unacceptable for a SW company.

MS may have the resource to accomplish what you mentioned in the article, but I guarantee you it would be a horrible experience.

gullygod said,
MS is a powerful company, but they will NEVER be a big player in the mobile space. This is because the people in charge at MS are out-of-touch with the reality of whats going on in the consumer market.

Surface RT and Windows Phone (I own both) have great potential but the short comings of the OS is unacceptable for a SW company.

MS may have the resource to accomplish what you mentioned in the article, but I guarantee you it would be a horrible experience.

That's exactly what people said about the PC market way back in the day but look where they are now. Both Windows RT and Phone 8 have so much potential to expand and become the most dominant tablet and phone OSes but Microsoft have always been a company to invest long term and it will only be a matter of time. Windows CE wasn't the first embedded OS but now runs millions of low level devices (security systems, ATMs, POS) likewise with Xbox and Server even stuff out of Microsoft Research like Kinect and exFAT.

We often forget about how much technology experience Microsoft have ranging everywhere between processor architectures and high level programming languages. If I had to bet on which company was going to be at the forefront of mobile computing in the next 5, 10 maybe even 3 years I would put it on Microsoft! Three things put it ahead of the other companies massively: Information/experience, the NT kernel and of course immense amounts of cash flow into research.

gullygod said,
MS is a powerful company, but they will NEVER be a big player in the mobile space. This is because the people in charge at MS are out-of-touch with the reality of whats going on in the consumer market.

Surface RT and Windows Phone (I own both) have great potential but the short comings of the OS is unacceptable for a SW company.

MS may have the resource to accomplish what you mentioned in the article, but I guarantee you it would be a horrible experience.


I will give you that Windows Phone 7 was sorta a clean slate start for them, Windows Phone 8 improving on that. W/ each new version, they catch up that much more w/ Android, iOS in terms of features.

The biggest shortcoming I see they have is apps. This has been slowly eroded at over time, but still isn't where it should be yet. Other than that, I would like to know your 'shortcomings list'

And, to counter-argue you point, I feel that Windows Phone is posititioned BEST of all the mobile OSes. It falls in the middle-ground between Android and iOS. It suffers no problems from Android segmentations, and it is not as Super-strict on everything like iOS.

Perhaps you could provide some examples of these short-comings or how MS is out of touch. Without them your comment is pretty meaningless.

There is no consumer oriented sync/media management software for Windows Phone 8/RT Tablet Devices/Windows 8 Desktops.

Out of touch, even with iTunes in their face and Zune on Windows 7.

While developing the sure to be controversial Windows 8, Microsoft did nothing to ensure that there were killer apps or games "for" Windows 8 or the Modern UI on Day 1 of release. We're 90 or so days in and there still is no killer app or game for Modern UI or Windows 8 period for that matter.

gullygod said,
MS is a powerful company, but they will NEVER be a big player in the mobile space. This is because the people in charge at MS are out-of-touch with the reality of whats going on in the consumer market.

Surface RT and Windows Phone (I own both) have great potential but the short comings of the OS is unacceptable for a SW company.

MS may have the resource to accomplish what you mentioned in the article, but I guarantee you it would be a horrible experience.

MS has technological guts that not google nor apple has. the scale of investments in R&D defines company's future which microsoft is leading by a large margin.
http://setandbma.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/1240/

They have XBOX the most popular gaming console, Kinect Technology which they can easily integrate. they were lacking a decent mobile and touch friendly OS in the past 5 years where they could develop earlier but they have it now. When they started to produce WP7 they could only do it single core and low resolution where everybody was dual core and higher res. now they pretty much caught up with the rest. They announced they will develop next version of WP based on Tegra 4 pretty much as android phones do. more than that, Windows NT Platform is superior to android in terms of multimedia, directX support. potentially all PC games can be ported to WP8 and higher. is this what you call horrible?

Edited by trojan_market, Jan 17 2013, 4:59pm :

Is there any integration or synchronisation between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8?
I liked the feel and speed of WP7 but felt it felt like anything in its early life... basic. Does WP8 remedy any of that?
I was disappointed with Android so went back to iOS. Android has matured since so I need to give it another try but I would like to give WP8 a try. My wife has a WP7 phone but I don't like it because of reasons I already mentioned above.

dvb2000 said,
If Windows phone "X" = Windows "10" (and they have bought back the start button/desktop then it might have a chance.

window phone has no start button. So give it a rest

WP8 and W8 integration? To be honest, I am disappointed. Skydrive is good. But I expected more innovation with NFC (particularly between Surface and WP8)

foaf said,
WP8 and W8 integration? To be honest, I am disappointed. Skydrive is good. But I expected more innovation with NFC (particularly between Surface and WP8)

Patience my friend. Patience. I highly suspect they are developing cool stuff integrating XBOX 720, WP 9 and W9. by that time new windows platform would be mature as well. Future is Microsoft not apple or google.

dvb2000 said,
If Windows phone "X" = Windows "10" (and they have bought back the start button/desktop then it might have a chance.

start buttons gone. Deal with it or use a 3rd party /discussion

There's LOTs of integration between WinPhone8 and Win8.... even more so than iOS and Android, and that's the beauty of it. Everything just syncs nicely. The only things that don't really sync are not all 3rd party apps take advantage of that, but that's the app developer's job for having that set up in their app... I have some apps that utilize SkyDrive and Azure for that, so the WP8 and Win8 apps work together. Also, everything with your SkyDrive and Outlook.com accounts sync really nicely too.

you obviously have no idea what your talking about... windows phone never had desktop.. or a start button.. clearly an apple fanboy