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Microsoft's VP of Hardware makes it Absolutely Clear in a Recent Interview that a 'Surface Phone' isn't on their Roadmap

1 cover  microsoft prototype device


Earlier this month there was a lot of buzz in both the Windows and mobile news cycles about a reported leaked document in early July about a smartphone-like device in the works at Microsoft. A report by The Verge stated that Microsoft had been working on a new mysterious Surface device for at least two years that's codenamed Andromeda. The report further noted that "Microsoft describes its Andromeda project as something the company has quietly incubated internally, and that will create a 'new and disruptive' device category to influence the overall Surface roadmap and blur the lines between what's considered PC and mobile.


Our Patently Mobile site has over the past 18 months uncovered a series of Microsoft patent describing a dual display mobile device (one, two and three). It's a common form factor Microsoft is projecting. 


2 microsoft patent figures

Suffice to say for now that Microsoft is trying to drum up some excitement for an original mobile device that could distinguish itself from anything Apple has done to date.


Wired sat down with Panos Panay, Microsoft's VP who heads the Microsoft Devices group that includes Xbox, Surface Hub, Microsoft Band, HoloLens, and Microsoft Surface. Wired reporter Lauren Goode tried her best to get Panay to spill the beans about this new device being connected to a Surface Phone. The full interview could be found in Wired Gadget Lab Podcast available on iTunes.


Wired Podcast: Partial Interview with Microsoft's Panos Panay


Last week Lauren Goode, a reporter for Wired, had a busy schedule attending a private meeting in New York regarding the updated MacBook Pro and then crossed the country to sit down with Panos Panay in Seattle to learn about the new 'Surface Go' and to interview Panay about their mysterious device that made headlines earlier this month. The part of the podcast with Panay starts at the 18:55 minute mark.


The interview starts with Panos Panay talking about the new Surface Go as if the iPad or iPad Pro never existed; as if the Surface Go was a first to market product. It was difficult to take him seriously. Get this revelation: "Surface Go … "has this mobility factor to it …" Really Panay?


Then Lauren Goode said that Surface Go feels like a tablet. Hello – it is a tablet! Of course live interviews are at time very awkward with some of the dumbest things being said. It's as if they really don't get that people are going to actually hear their seemingly private conversation.


With that nonsense out of the way, the discussion began to generally turn to future Microsoft devices around the 27 minute mark.


Lauren Goode: What are the devices we're holding … what do they look like in the future?


Panay: This is the classic question of tell me what your future roadmap is. I can't right now. But I can tell you this: The idea that we can move between modes of touch, pen, voice, using your eyes, motion. The idea that we can see more, hear more when we're interacting – form factors continue to evolve, continue to change. There's a pretty exciting future in front of us, for sure.


Lauren Goode leapt in to ask: Does that include a Surface Phone?


Panay: (quietly laughs) Well … I wouldn't say it includes a Surface Phone, I think you have to think about where is that unmet need when you're thinking about your product; when you're thinking about your roadmap, your line-up. Of course we're always inventing; of course we're thinking about the new form factors. It doesn't include a Surface Phone but it includes the way to think about what is that people want to accomplish and how they're going to accomplish it and what are those form factors.


So I would say that there will be new form factors, there will be new changes in the market and there will be opportunities.


Lauren Goode: So does that mean it's not traditional … that the definition of a phone changes rather than you working on a traditional Surface Phone? Something like the Surface Go shrinking to the point where it's even smaller but it has LTE capabilities and it's doing all the things …. like running universal apps? Is that what a new phone looks like in the future?


Panay: I think the way to say it is that the way that people will communicate in the future will change and the form factors will wrap around that. And so when you say the form factor of the phone changes – I'd flip it a bit and say, I think communication changes … and evolves.


Lauren Goode: I think my editor is going to be excited to hear that there's even a distinct possibility that there could be a Surface "Phone-ish" ….


Panay: Hahaha is that would you took away! (in sheer horror and amazement).


The segment ends at the 31:00 mark.


Clearly, Microsoft's Panos Panay said no to a traditional mobile phone. Telephony could be added to other form factors in the future, but don't expect the form factor to be a classic smartphone. For instance, if you wear smart glasses in the future that will enable users to receive a phone call, will that make the smart glasses a smartphone? No.The line is going to be blurred in the future and that's what Panay is hinting at.


At the end of the day, whatever Microsoft's secret project is for their dual display device, it won't be for a "Surface Phone" as we imagine smartphones to be today. 


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