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article imageSatya Nadella: Microsoft building the 'ultimate mobile device'

By James Walker     Nov 23, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has again reaffirmed the company's commitment to developing smartphones. Unfazed by its market share dropping beneath 1 percent, Nadella said Microsoft is planning a revolutionary "ultimate mobile device."
Nadella made the comments during an interview with the Australian Financial Review. He visited Sydney last week to address a local developers conference about Microsoft's cognitive computing systems and Azure cloud services.
Nadella outlined his plans for Microsoft's future involvement with smartphones. He suggested the company has stopped trying to rival the established leaders in the field. Instead, Microsoft is working on something for the future that it thinks will give it the upper-hand in the long term.
Nadella hinted at an "ultimate mobile device" that could give Microsoft a credible presence in the industry. The company seems keen to develop a product with unique capabilities that aren't replicated by its rivals. A key feature that already fits this description is the company's Continuum tech, Windows 10 Mobile's ability to transform itself into a desktop PC at a moment's notice.
"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," Nadella said. "Therefore [with Nokia assets], we stopped doing things that were me-too and started doing things, even if they are today very sub-scale, to be very focused on a specific set of customers who need a specific set of capabilities that are differentiated and that we can do a good job of."
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile - when connected to a display  the phone powers a Windows 10 desktop ...
Continuum on Windows 10 Mobile - when connected to a display, the phone powers a Windows 10 desktop experience via a dock
Microsoft October 2015 Live Event
Some widespread rumours have now long suggested Microsoft could relaunch its mobile efforts under its established and popular Surface brand. Nadella avoided direct discussion of the elusive "Surface Phone," instead saying Microsoft is not prepared to launch a new handset just for the sake of competing with others. He expressed a desire to wait and develop something unique and valuable, rather than rushing another ill-fated Windows phone to market.
"We don't want to be driven by just envy of what others have, the question is, what can we bring? That's where I look at any device form factor or any technology, even AI," said Nadella.
Currently, Microsoft's mobile selling point is the productivity and security features of Windows 10 Mobile. The platform also features rich management capabilities that have made it popular with some large organisations. Nadella appears to be hinting at more distinguishing features being in the pipeline, again aimed at professionals and businesses rather than consumers.
One standout capability could be x86 app emulation on Windows 10 devices, allowing traditional Windows desktop programs to be run on smartphone processors. While this wouldn't make sense on a phone display, it could greatly expand the possibilities presented by Continuum. According to a report from ZDNet this week, Microsoft is actively working to enable x86 on ARM emulation by fall 2017, coinciding with the "Redstone 3" Windows 10 update.
It's also thought Microsoft may be collaborating with HP to build a new premium Windows 10 phone for launch early next year. Windows 10 Mobile may be a long way from catching up with iOS and Android but Microsoft appears committed to the platform in the long-term. How exactly smartphones will fit into the company's future remains unclear but Microsoft has consistently said it's not ready to let Windows Mobile disappear entirely.
More about Microsoft, windows 10, windows 10 mobile, Smartphones, Mobile
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