Microsoft chief Satya Nadella has again denied that Windows Phone is completely dead, but there won't be a successor device until Microsoft has a radically different concept.
Don't hold your breath if you'd like to see Microsoft release its rumored high-end Surface phone. Incremental changes in smartphone technology won't be what reignites Microsoft's ambitions for a Windows phone, according to Nadella.
Instead, as he told the Make Me Smart podcast, Microsoft is looking for something far more transformative, like an entirely new category of smartphone that's so original and appealing that OEMs won't be able to resist tagging along.
"At this point we're making sure that all of our software is available on iOS and Android and it's first class and we're looking for what's the next change in form and function," he said when asked whether Microsoft would make another phone.
Nadella doesn't discuss what form these mobile devices could take, though Microsoft does have some candidates, like its HoloLens augmented reality (AR) headgear. No doubt he's keeping close tabs on Google's early progress with its Tango phone AR experiments.
Whatever it is, Nadella wants the device to have the same impact as its Surface line had on today's 2-in-1 category. While Microsoft's hardware designers don't appreciate 2-in-1s that too closely copy the Surface, the category itself benefits Windows, which uniquely supports touch and conventional inputs.
"No one before us thought of 2-in-1s. We created that category and made it a successful category to the point where there are more 2-in-1s coming. And that's what we want to do," said Nadella.
"In some sense, when you say, 'Will we make more phones?' I'm sure we will make more phones, but they won't look like phones that are there today."
The spark that could reignite Microsoft's phone ambitions is Continuum, which as Nadella pointed out, "is a phone that can even be a desktop".
He also insisted that Microsoft is still making Windows Phones via its OEM partners such as HP, which sells the HP Elite x3, one of just three phones that supports Continuum.
However, as The Verge noted in a recent review of Continuum, Microsoft hasn't yet delivered a phone that is a desktop, but rather a proof of concept that demonstrates what it could be if it had better third-party app support and overcame some current technical limitations.
Nadella made similar comments to the Australian Financial Review late last year. "We will continue to be in the phone market not as defined by today's market leaders, but by what it is that we can uniquely do in what is the most ultimate mobile device," he said.
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