Microsoft Thinks Phablets May Be The Future, Kinda

Microsoft’s Surface RT is a flop, but the company is still beating the drum because it thinks the mobile operating system has a future.

Microsoft Thinks Phablets May Be The Future, Kinda

Speaking at Microsoft’s Financial Analyst Meeting yesterday, Terry Myerson, EVP of the new operating system division, made some revealing comments about the future of his company. Specifically he explained that Microsoft’s ARM chip-powered Surface RT tablet, a flop that’s cost the company a billion-dollar write-down, was merely the “first ARM tablet” from MS. “Many more” are on the way he said, especially because the changing market is seeing “phones extend into tablets.”

Yes, Myerson is saying that one big future for Microsoft is in powering phablets.

That word may send shivers down your spine, and for that, you can blame Samsung. And no matter how weird or clunky you think phablets are (too big to jam into a pocket, too small to do meaningful work on) there’s a school of thought that says they’re a device class that will likely flourish. At least for a while. Even Nokia, which Microsoft just bought, is poised to release what many think will be a giant Lumia phone, technically a phablet, in October. And it’s actually this device that’s interesting in terms of the new words from Microsoft. Lumias are powered by Windows Phone 8, a sub-variant of MS’s mobile operating system that really isn’t quite as flexible or powerful as Windows RT (which itself is less powerful than MS’s full Windows 8 mobile code). Basically MS sees its RT software powering the middle ground of mobile computers.

Apple, of course, has taken a different route. The company has powered its iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet with the same mobile OS, and the mobile computing advantages from using a tablet are derived from its better battery life, bigger screen, and potentially more powerful chips. Apple’s new iPhone is basically as powerful as a desktop machine from a few years ago, so the theory is its upcoming iPad will be even more impressive and that Apple may eventually bring its mobile tech into its traditional Mac computing line, closing the circle.

Which company’s plan will work best? Hard to say. But, to be frank, our money is on Apple. What’s your take?

[Image via Flickr user: John Bristowe]

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.