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Speculating On What a Microsoft Superphone Might Mean 371

Posted by timothy
from the it's-gotta-have-super-powers-and-ruthless-enemies dept.
smitty777 writes "Forbes is running an intriguing story on a new 'Superphone' under development by the folks at Microsoft. According to this leaked MS roadmap document, the plan is to build the Apollo-based phone in the 4th quarter of 2012. FTA: 'In the end, however, none of this matters. Microsoft's "peek into the future" is barely a glimpse into what the company may or may not have planned for 2012. While the "superphone" bullet is worth noting, it is not the confirmation of a revolutionary new product. At best, it indicates that Microsoft wishes to compete with Apple by offering a product that is, well, super.' It's also interesting that Sony and AT&T also appear to be working on superphones of their own."
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Speculating On What a Microsoft Superphone Might Mean

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  • Super (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:33PM (#38550212)

    I expect a Super cool bluescreen on that phone!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Galestar (1473827)
      I know you meant it to be a joke, but XP and onward rarely bluescreens anymore. I experience more kernel panics in Ubuntu than I do in Windows these days.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:37PM (#38550248)

    one phone for all bands? so you can get the phone and use it on any network with have to buy a ATT or sprint one like the iphone. No having the phone locked to the carrier you choose.

    • by Deorus (811828)

      one phone for all bands? so you can get the phone and use it on any network with have to buy a ATT or sprint one like the iphone. No having the phone locked to the carrier you choose.

      My iPhone 4S works with any carrier...

      • Are you certain about that? I would think that for a phone to be GSM and CDMA it would need to have hardware for both on board... doesn't seem like a very cost effective way to manufacture. Interesting...

        • Perhaps the savings of not having to deal with multiple phone models outweighs the costs of including hardware for multiple bands? I don't know, but this is a guess.

      • one phone for all bands? so you can get the phone and use it on any network with have to buy a ATT or sprint one like the iphone. No having the phone locked to the carrier you choose.

        My iPhone 4S works with any carrier...

        No. The iPhone 4S can work with any carrier in general, for the most part. A specific one cannot though, since there is a GSM model and a CDMA model. You either have the GSM or CDMA model in one phone, not both. You could however own both models...

    • If it's anything like Microsoft's original answer to the iPhone [collegehumor.com], I think we can be sure it will do all of those things and more!

  • by lucm (889690) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:38PM (#38550266)

    Microsoft has deep pockets and is not shy to use them to support a money pit until it becomes a success (like the xbox). Maybe this phone thing will be a success, but I hope they will come up with something better than Windows CE which, as a developer, was painful to work with.

    • by oPless (63249)

      You realise WP7 is still WinCE but with a nice-ish managed UX layer.

      No native stuff tho, so no Unity3D stuff. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/38561/Unity_Engine_Not_Coming_To_Windows_Phone_7.php [gamasutra.com]

    • Microsoft has deep pockets and is not shy to use them to support a money pit until it becomes a success (like the xbox). Maybe this phone thing will be a success, but I hope they will come up with something better than Windows CE which, as a developer, was painful to work with.

      I'll see your X-Box and raise you a Zune.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        The mp3 player market itself only lasted about 4 years, so there wasn't enough time for "try try again." I would guess the "mobile" market will probably continue much longer, since it incorporates mp3 players almost as an afterthought, plus cellphones, cameras, and most productivity functions of the PC itself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:46PM (#38550342)

    Microsoft reminds me of General Motors.

    The capability of both companies is immense, yet due to various internal
    influences, both companies have an overwhelming tendency to produce
    things which are mediocre at best and outright repulsive when compared
    to alternative choices, this with distressing regularity.

    Microsoft could produce an amazing phone, but it will suck in ways which
    matter to smart users, who won't want to use it, much less buy it. Just
    wait and see.

    • Indeed, Microsoft could produce an amazing *anything*, but they are hobbled by their own situation.

      When it comes to a phone, unless they go the route of the XBox, where they build it themselves, there is no way to keep it secret when so many other vendors have to have access to the plans to get their own version out. Thus, companies like Apple and Google can move faster and mitigate any new or innovative features said phone might actually have.

      • Indeed, Microsoft could produce an amazing *anything*, but they are hobbled by their own situation.

        It always amazes me that some people still believe Microsoft is just chock full o' amazing ideas that would overwhelm the world - if ONLY their corporate culture didn't get in the way.

        There's simply no evidence for this. Microsoft has done very little innovation - most of their successful products have resulted form iterative fine-tuning on ideas that originated elsewhere (e.g. Windows, Office). They've done this very well at times... but it's not innovative in the least.

        • by nwf (25607)

          It always amazes me that some people still believe Microsoft is just chock full o' amazing ideas that would overwhelm the world - if ONLY their corporate culture didn't get in the way.

          There's simply no evidence for this. Microsoft has done very little innovation - most of their successful products have resulted form iterative fine-tuning on ideas that originated elsewhere (e.g. Windows, Office). They've done this very well at times... but it's not innovative in the least.

          I think people are referring to the fact that a company of the size of Microsoft with that much cash flowing in, should be able to produce fantastic products. The fact that their company structure is set up to produce boring products is what is interesting.

        • by gtall (79522)

          Well, the do have a lot of sharp computer scientists who sold their souls for Microsoft Research. So I guess it could be the corporate structure getting in the way. On the other hand, maybe the suckiness of the company turned their brains into mush.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          It always amazes me that some people still believe Microsoft is just chock full o' amazing ideas that would overwhelm the world - if ONLY their corporate culture didn't get in the way.

          There's simply no evidence for this. Microsoft has done very little innovation - most of their successful products have resulted form iterative fine-tuning on ideas that originated elsewhere (e.g. Windows, Office). They've done this very well at times... but it's not innovative in the least.

          Microsoft Research pumps out some am

    • by jbplou (732414)

      They are so far behind in marketshare they need to do more than create a competing phone, they need to create a better phone. It's hard to see how they can claim much marketshare quickly. the churn rate on iPhone is quite low and people who have those phones generally purchase apps they may be be hesitant to abandon for the MS phone which has a fraction of the apps that iOS has available. On the Android front there are way more models than wp models which creates great pricing deals on the 6 month old mo

    • by Glasswire (302197)

      I think you want to take that back. GM is producing good [dailyfinance.com] products now.

  • iPhones are a commodity with a certain amount of cache, it will eventually collapse. Android is the reasonably priced alternative used by the masses. Unless MS can come in with phones at half the price of Android phones with all the features this will be a two pony race for some time. As Android and Chrome grow though I suspect it could eventually eat into the Windows market which is the biggest strength that MS has for making Windows mobile viable. Of course this is all speculation and at best conjectur

    • by jbplou (732414)

      There is no certainty that Android will start taking share from IPhone, it hasn't happened yet, I don't see it happening in 2012. the difference between Apple and Google is that Apple is number two in marketshare but number one in revenue. Google needs to find a way to make android more profitable, winning marketshare certainly hasn't helped.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:53PM (#38550424) Homepage Journal

    I dont think there's been a single other player out there who can stand to compete against Microsoft in it's ability to generate huge amounts of press and fanfare in unreleased products that ultimately become unparalleled market failures.

    Frankly, Microsoft would do well to take a note from Apple's playbook and SHUT THE FUCK UP about the product until it's release instead of blathering like a spastic child about it's vaporware, leaking feature after feature and allowing the competition to catch up or even surpass it's abilities before the product is even launched.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      It's a coin toss. Do you want companies telling you what they're trying to do so you can prepare for changes, or do you want to be broadsided by a truly innovative product developed in secure isolation?

      I'd argue that if a company is working on something truly revolutionary, it's there obligation to let others know about it so they can issue the layoff notices before having their lunch eaten. :p

    • by Motard (1553251)

      STFU? WTF? This was a leak of a simplistic chart. Apple has managed to get actual prototypes stolen.

    • by Gr8Apes (679165)

      Frankly, Microsoft would do well to take a note from Apple's playbook and SHUT THE FUCK UP about the product until it's release instead of blathering like a spastic child about it's vaporware, leaking feature after feature and allowing the competition to catch up or even surpass it's abilities before the product is even launched.

      Actually, it's a strategy MS has used over and over again when it's products are waning in the competitive market. They'll bluster and blather about all these wonderful features, and, but wait!!!... there's more!!! and inexplicably (in my mind anyways) they manage to get the entire media world to listen to them and ignore everyone else. Until they fail to deliver... Anyone else remember Chicago, Blackcomb, or Longhorn?

  • by jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:53PM (#38550426)
    Fuck all.
  • Because most of modern smart phones seem to be lacking in that department. My 10 year old nokia has better reception, better sound quality, longer battery life and doesn't shatter when I drop it by accident. To me, a superphone would at least be able to do this. Any added features that do not take away one of the previous named, is a benefit, but not required.
  • We're super, thanks for asking.

  • so that "superphone" means they will have something which supports today's hardware sometime in 2013. Remember, "super" can be a relative term and in this case it means it'll be better than the previous versions of Windows Phone( 7.x). There's little doubt that by 2013, both iOS and Android will be super duper phones compared to this Microsoft superphone.

    OT: is a Windows Phone based phone called a Windows Phone phone? Android based phones are called Android phones.

    LoB
  • Too late. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @03:11PM (#38550594)

    I was a Windows guy for portable stuff for many years because they were usually the first to market with the "killer apps" that I needed. (Apps not necessarily meaning applications but also features.) Honestly, M$-based PDAs had some killer features back in the day. But what they've got on the phone market now is a joke. They're a distant third these days. One or two phones per carrier, some still on 6.5 which is 2 years old now. Verizon doesn't even have a 4G WinMo smartphone. It's pretty pathetic. Apple's nice but they've always been behind the curve in connectivity. Last OS to get tethering, still don't have 4G, etc. Android's been at the cutting edge for a while now and, unless they totally drop the ball, it will be hard to pull existing customers away from the platform.

    I made the switch a couple weeks ago and haven't looked back. It doesn't really matter to me what Microsoft puts out in the next few years because I don't think they'll be able to catch up, let alone regain the lead. The only hope they have is to go after business clients with cloud computing, workstation docks, etc. Of course, they'd still be playing catchup to Android. Already got laptop and desktop docks for Android phones along with google docs to work on your documents from any device.

    • Re:Too late. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by oakgrove (845019) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @07:41PM (#38552804)

      They're a distant third these days.

      How does this myth persist? Blackberry, Symbian, and even Bada outsell and have a higher marketshare than windows phone. They might be third in marketing and fanboys but they damn sure aren't third in sales.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @03:12PM (#38550598) Homepage Journal

    It's fascinating to watch Microsoft fail in market after market where it didn't start with a monopoly, like in mobile devices generally, phones specifically, tablets specifically, media generally, mobile media players specifically, and everything else.

    Except for mouse and keyboard, and in games both console and PC. Why are those different from the rest? Maybe because mouse and keyboard are just extensions of the Windows brand monopoly on the desktop, with no real brand competition whatsoever. And maybe in games the competitors each have their own monopolies, and the competition is the kind Microsoft likes: based on spending a lot of money and running a corrupt supply chain / marketing system rather than on quality.

    • by Animats (122034)

      It's fascinating to watch Microsoft fail in market after market where it didn't start with a monopoly.

      Like game consoles?

    • by 0ld_d0g (923931)

      I'm curious.. how do you start with a monopoly? Is there some hidden gem that you need to acquire that makes you go from 0% market share to 90+?

      SQL Server, MSVC tools, .NET, etc, are all non-monopolies and are all high quality software products.

      The main problem with microsoft is that they are cowards and the middle management is filled with people that should be fired ASAP. They only look at business markets when someone else has spent capital to create a billion dollar market and thus allowing some doucheb

      • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:09PM (#38551122) Homepage Journal

        You start with a monopoly by making a deal with IBM as it introduces its first PC, requiring all IBM PCs to run your OS (but letting you license your OS to any competitor to IBM that might arise). I don't know how you missed that - it's pretty common knowledge. In fact it was a Supreme Court decision, if there were any doubt.

        MSVC tools and .NET are extensions of the MS monopoly.

        SQL Server gained its market share by making a deal similar to the IBM one with Sybase, though MS in that case literally copied Sybase and then used its business SW monopoly to kill first Sybase, then nearly all its other competitors. SQL Server is an interesting example, because it has gained market share not only through its business SW monopoly, but extended that monopoly through actual innovation and quality. But also through the synergy with its business SW monopoly and its developer market share that it gained through that monopoly.

        The rest of what you say about MS is true. It's a symptom of its monopoly advantages. In fact MS benefits from sitting on good developers, even if it doesn't get better products from them, by denying them to the competition. More monopoly strategies.

        The main problem with Microsoft is that they have abused their monopoly power to clog the innovation with anti-competitive software and market strategies for decades. Their crap software dominating through monopoly and other unfair competition is deadweight that has divided and slowed personal technology, and saddled it with all kinds of legacies that benefit no one but Microsoft.

        • by 0ld_d0g (923931)

          You start with a monopoly by making a deal with IBM as it introduces its first PC, requiring all IBM PCs to run your OS (but letting you license your OS to any competitor to IBM that might arise). I don't know how you missed that - it's pretty common knowledge. In fact it was a Supreme Court decision, if there were any doubt.

          Not exactly. Microsoft did not "require" anything in the deal. They had no such leverage, they were a tiny company back then. IBM just contracted MS to give them an OS. IBM then rebranded it as PC-DOS. When IBM sold their PC they sold it with the option of CP/M & PC-DOS. But because PC-DOS was cheaper by $200 and so it won out. But ofcource the main thing that fucked up IBM was when other PC manufacturers reverse engineered IBM's proprietary hardware/BIOS etc and created clones. Since PC-DOS was already

      • by Galestar (1473827)
        Would love to have mod points to mod you up... the idea of the OP saying "where it didn't start with a monopoly is just ludicrous".
  • A "superphone" should be super strong. It should be able to handle being run over by a car, immersion in water, and falling off a building.

    Like the Sonim XP3, the Kyocera KX12, and the Casio Ravine phones, all of which can do that. Those thin black plastic things, not rigid enough to survive and not flexible enough to bend when necessary, aren't "super".

    Another thing a "superphone" should have is fallback to Iridium satellite links. None of this "no service" crap.

    Supermodels - ha! Nothing super about

  • by Slutticus (1237534) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @03:38PM (#38550850)
    That "leaked" roadmap is what Steve Ballmer get's paid billions of dollars to shit out quarter after quarter. *sigh* I hate my job....
  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @03:54PM (#38551004)

    Didn't we hear the same crap about the Zune over the iPod a few years back? Big hat, no cattle.

  • - Exciting features delivered with disappointment
    - Revolutionary change followed by a miserable user experience
    - Energetic marketing strategy followed up with monotonous patching and bugfixes
    - missed boats and opportunities
    - stale product model
    - lotta' MEH

  • by asa (33102) <asa@mozilla.com> on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:03PM (#38551076) Homepage

    Here's my take. I think Microsoft wants to unify their operating systems.

    Windows Phone was the first "Metro" experience, but it runs on an old CE kernel and the stack above that is Silverlight (and XNA). Metro is huge. It's the first really new user interface Microsoft's shipped since Windows 95. Metro makes classic Windows and even iPhone and Android feel ancient -- the same old square icons on a desktop we've all been using for the last several decades.

    Windows 8 brings Metro to the desktop, laptop, and tablet world. This world, though, is built on the NT kernel, with the WinRT API above that. Sure, you can build Silverlight-like apps in Windows 8 Metro, it might even be trivial to port your WP app to Windows 8 Metro, but you can't easily go the other way.

    So, what can Microsoft do about this? Well, it's easy, move Windows Phone onto the NT kernel, and carry over the bulk of the WinRT API. This would make developing your Windows app for any form factor, from desktops to phones, a very easy task. Throw in some nice Visual Studio and Blend templates for re-shaping your app to fit the various form factors, and you've got something really compelling.

    The problem with that? Well, today's Windows Phone hardware probably isn't sufficient to drive an NT+WinRT OS. Enter "Superphones."

    Superphones, I'm guessing, are the first generation of Windows Phone that run on the NT kernel and support the WinRT (or at least enough of it for most apps.) Note the Apollo release timing is not far from the expected Windows 8 release. Put that together with the recent news that the Windows Phone chief was put in charge of a "a new role working for me on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8", and there might be something to this.

    So, what do you all think. Am I crazy? Would "same API" across all devices be a worthy Microsoft goal? An achievable one? And what about X-box? Could Microsoft pull off the hat-trick, and unify all of their major platforms under a Metro front end? No doubt that's a tall order, and there are three CPU architectures to deal with. But Microsoft is a big and wealthy company.

    • If history is an indicator, I don't have much faith that they can pull it off until the 2nd or 3rd release. Look how much trouble they had with Vista and all they were doing was modifying one platform. Win7 fixes most of the issues with Vista but it took 2 more years. Money is helpful but considering MS has thrown almost $1B into Kin and that spectacularly failed.
    • by jcupitt65 (68879) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @06:33PM (#38552300)

      I don't think Apollo will be on the NT kernel.

      One of the bullet points for Apollo is support for dual core (current wp is single core only due to a limitation in wince 6), which by coincidence is also a bullet-point for wince 7 (released March 2011). I'd therefore guess they will stay with wince until at least 2013.

      I wonder if wince is the thing that's also keeping them from allowing native code. It has rather poor process separation, compared to linux / osx anyway, so they would find supporting it safely difficult.

  • by igb (28052) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @04:22PM (#38551246)
    In other news, Microsoft will be released the very best VCR you've ever seen in 2014: it'll redefine the way you use video tape, just in time for the next mid-terms.

    The phone market is done and dusted. People have increasing investment (in money and in time spent learning to use) a collection of applications, and the market for "dumb phone to smart phone" transition is finished. The only market left is competing head-on to switch people away from iPhone (good luck with that) or from Android (fractionally easier, as there's evidence people can be switch to Apple).

    In order to compete, Microsoft would either have to completely kill Apple stone-dead in functionality and quality, with a release one product going against a mature product with a mature eco-system (didn't Zune teach them _anything_?) or would have to undercut the commodity Android vendors on price, which is essentially impossible now, never mind in a year's time.

    Microsoft are increasing slow to react, and are arriving both late and under-armed at every fight. Music Player, Smart Phone, Tablet: they've missed all three. They need to find a new place to innovate, and for as long as they refuse to do anything which isn't based around Windows, that's going to get harder and harder for them.

    • by NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @05:15PM (#38551694)
      Word up! If Microsoft really wanted to take over this market, they'd take the phone out of their superphone and just make it super. Seriously, imagine a device you could use just like a phone but without the carrier (e.g., AT&T, Verizon, Vodaphone). Not just some WiFi/Skype thing, but a 5G, video call, LEO satellite, wireless system with global coverage and no 'pay per second' or 'pay per bit' usage charges. Call it a "Microsoft fucks the carriers." That would sell BILLIONS.
    • I would say MS is slow to react but not late. In fact in some cases early. They've had smart phones and tablets long before Apple. But their efforts were not as successful. However you have pointed out that their early failures are primarily due to wedging in Windows paradigm where it would not have fit.
  • What it means, no matter how good it is technically, is that it will fail through bad marketing.

    Microsoft has its good points and bad points, but where it really, really always fails, is marketing. A "zune", in brown, that squirts? What complete and utter retard thought that would work?

    One example of many over the past 7 or 8 years that just prove that their marketing droids are talking to the wrong people in their focus groups. Microsoft products are not cool.... at all, in any way, to anyone. Busines
  • I'm sure they'll find a way to ruin it, just like many other products before that, no matter how nice they may have been in theory (Zune clusterfuck, Courier debacle, ...).

  • If that's what's suggested, then I think a Microsoft Superphone would mean...that hell froze over. Don't get me wrong; I think Microsoft is amazing, and has done a great deal for the world. But their phone products are the biggest, steamiest nut-studded shitloafs I've had the displeasure to use. I HATED my phone when I had Windows Mobile, and the odds of them coming out with a great product all of a sudden (be mindful..they've been trying to sort this out for as long as there have been smartphones) are

  • This is such a worn out strategy. Almost every time MS has been out done in a product area, some info "slips" out about their new fanatastic, better-than-anything-in-history product. The reason they do this... and all you business majors out there should remember this from your business strategy classes... is to freeze the market. All the possible MS customers that are completely committed to the MS brand will hold off on making a purchase of a competitor's product hoping that MS will actually deliver. And
  • MS realises they can't compete in the Smartphone market so they have devised a cunning plan to create a whole new market, the superphone market.
    Sure a superphone looks and acts kinda like a smartphone but that' doesn't change the fact that a smartphone is just not a superphone (It doesn't have an MS logo on it for starters).
    And when the stats come rolling in, MS will be the only player in this new market so they will naturally have 100% market share.

    But it doesn't end there. MS will trademark the Superphon

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