More and more rumors indicate that Microsoft will eventually release a “power phone” (Surface Phone?) From my understanding, that will be a phone that would be capable of running classic Windows desktop apps (Win32), and therefore they will be, indeed, more than a smartphone. You might argue that running such an app with an emulator will consume a lot of power, but as usually desktop apps were (and are still) built for large screens, you’d probably have the phone connected to a monitor anyway (with Continuum), and therefore you could have the phone charging at the same time.
(Side effect: WPF development may flourish again.)
This way, regardless of their previous Lumia issues, Microsoft could finally get “mobile”, and a lot earlier than it could with HoloLens. I’m a big fan of holographic UI too, but I must admit that it’s probably going to take some time until technology advances enough that people can use it every day, and it also depends on the – always surprising – mass trends. Smartphones are already here, and I’d bet that getting a phone ready to fully replace a laptop may be enough for many years for many people.
(Of course, HoloLens might get the Win32 emulator too, but it needs better batteries or better wireless powering technology, at least when you’re in a certain room, which may take even more time to develop.)
So which is my favorite future story on Microsoft mobility? Surface Phone or HoloLens 2? The answer is: both. And one after the other (i.e. HoloLens could eventually replace both smartphones and laptops, but for some years we’ll still have small screens in our pockets – ready to also run desktop apps on large screens at home and at the office, though.)
Update: From a developer’s point of view, here are the types of UI we’ll need to focus on for our UWP and Windows desktop (optionally cross-platformed) applications:
- Large 2D – for standard desktop screens (and sometimes tablets – UWP, desktop + optional support for Linux/MacOS, e.g. being Web-based; this will also be the case of a Continuum display from a phone);
- Small 2D – for small phone screens (and sometimes tablets – UWP only + optional support for Android/iOS, e.g. using Cordova/Xamarin or being Web-based);
- Large 3D – for holographic environments (UWP only, e.g. using Unity or DirectX).
(We’ll need a new unifying framework to join all these UI types and let us be able to maintain a single shared code base for our app, and build app packages for all these types of displays. At least for Windows, Windows Mobile and Windows Holographic, but better also fully cross-platform. Tough one. Cordova team, Microsoft Xamarin team, who wants to pick this?)