Surface phone render Bartlomiej Tarnowski
Surface Phone Concept, Credit: Bartlomiej Tarnowski

Like the unicorn and Loch Ness Monster, the Surface Phone has lived in the land of myth for years. However, over the last 12 months, there have been loud noises regarding the handset finally arriving as the next wave of Microsoft smartphones. A new report suggests that the Surface Phone is now in deep development and close to release.

In a podcast (The Sams Report) today, Microsoft watcher Brad Sams said he has heard about the Surface Phone from two separate sources.

The device will not be a smartphone per se, but instead a “mobile type” device Like other Surface products, it will not be expected to drive massive sales. Instead, it is supposed to spur developer interest by providing a hero device that they can use as a reference for the capabilities of hardware on Windows 10 Mobile.

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This tallies with what Microsoft has officially said. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has said the companies next mobile device is unlikely to look like a traditional phone. HoloLens chief Alex Kipman took it a step further and said mobile devices will soon be built upon mixed reality.

Sams matches his sources to the company’s statements. He said Alex Kipman is heading development on the Surface Phone. However, he says while hardware is ready to launch, Microsoft is still finalizing the software.

That’s because the company will bring Windows CShell to the Surface Phone. Composable Shell is a version of the platform that works seamlessly across devices. It means a mobile device would ship with the full Windows 10 desktop experience.

Microsoft wants to bring CShell to the Surface Phone, but the software is “buggy” according to Sams. Our previous reports suggest Composable Shell will start to bear fruit through the Fall Creators Update.

Developing Mobile

The Surface Phone is an exciting idea. However, I have long argued that it now merely exists as a concept. The idea of a Surface branded smartphone has been banded around for years. Microsoft has simply now been working on a handset for that long.

Instead, it is clear the Surface Phone is just the name that will be given to any game-changing handset Microsoft makes.

Unfortunately, making an excellent device is unlikely enough to resurrect Microsoft as a mobile brand. The company’s Windows 10 Mobile platform has collapsed over the last year and still many users would prefer a robust app ecosystem over spiffing hardware.

Of course, if Microsoft could deliver a device that is truly innovative and sort out the app issue, then there is a chance that the company could be at the forefront of the next generation of mobile.

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