It's just so weird: When Apple launched the iPad Pro, a lot of people were comparing it to Microsoft's Surface. Now the industry is wondering whether Microsoft will take the Surface experience and squeeze it into something that could better compete with the iPhone.
In the days leading up to Microsoft's recent unveiling of the latest Lumia smartphones, there was intense speculation on BetaNews and elsewhere that the company would be offering support for Android apps and Google Play Store on Windows 10. Though it would certainly represent a major step forward after the two firms' patent battles, it probably would have seemed like too much of a concession to the failure of Windows Phone 8. All anyone seems to agree on is that Microsoft needs to offer greater innovation if it wants to keep app developers, and, of course, consumers engaged.
Instead of Android support or a Surface smartphone, Microsoft did offer one surprise at its device launch. As CNet reported, it was an intriguing way to bridge the gap between those who grew up on Windows PCs before moving over to iOS or Android:
"One of the most impressive aspects of the new Lumia devices is their ability to work in Microsoft's most familiar environment: the desktop. Using phones as the brains of a computer isn't new. Motorola attempted to do the same with its Android-powered Atrix smartphone four years ago, but it was a slow and disappointing experience. Microsoft appears to have gotten this right, and some enthusiasts at the New York event oohed and ahhed over the function."
CNet noted that it may take considerable effort from Microsoft to turn those oohs and ahhs into compelling mobile apps and games from developers. That said, Yahoo reported earlier this summer how a number of mobile apps have started to launch "desktop" versions based on surprising feedback from their customers. It's not unreasonable to think there are similar use cases for smartphones that developers haven't even imagined.
I also think the new Lumia feature is consistent with Microsoft's push towards the concept of universal apps that can span desktops, smartphones, tablets and so on. It makes sense that the "universal" nature of the experience should not merely be limited to the app but the device itself. For all the criticism of Windows 8's tiles, this was another example of Microsoft trying to offer anytime, anywhere and "anyhow" computing.
Whether developers create apps for Windows 10 or not, Microsoft's ongoing experiments in UX are worth further study. You can't please everyone, but apps and devices that aim to be all things to all people sounds like a good success strategy to me. --Shane