What direction should MS go with Windows Phone 8? Is a Surface phone a good idea?

Onuora recently wrote about how now is the prefect time for Microsoft to strike with its own Surface phone. He made a few excellent points here, but there are a few areas where I’d like to offer up a slightly different opinion.

As a disclaimer of my own, I work primarily as a writer in the Android community these days, though I’ve owned Windows Mobile 6.x devices in the past and have an iPad  2 that I use on occasion. I also have a  Playbook (RIM) and two Android tablets.

I enjoy having a wide exposure to different operating systems and can appreciate the positive and negatives in all the different platforms out there- even RIM. I like Android, but I also like Windows, Windows Phone, Linux and many other operating systems. Freedom of choice is a good thing.

That being said, I’m not even the slightest bit interested in the iPhone 5. I used to want an iPhone, long ago, but at the time my carrier didn’t offer it. By the time they did, I was already happily rocking a Samsung Galaxy S2.

With the iPhone 5, I am less ecstatic about iOS and Apple’s direction. From its Map drama to the thousands of complaints from users that are having WIFI troubles with iOS 6, and the scuffs coming from new iPhones- I’m just not excited.

On the other hand, when my contract expires I’m really thinking hard about a few different headsets to replace my aging S2. One of these is the S3, but I’m starting to truly turn my attention towards the Lumia 920 and would love to take it for a spin and get a closer look when the time draws near.

Onuora pointed out that the 920 isn’t as sleek, slim and light as the iPhone or many other Android devices. Still, I find the overall design very sexy. There is something about its design that sticks out and is truly different from the iPhone and most of the Android devices on the market. The idea of wireless charging built-in is also appealing.

That being said, the Lumia 920 isn’t going to lure iPhone users. Instead I argue it seems more aimed at competing against Android 4.5-to-5-inch devices. Android is the big dog in the phone world, and iPhone plays second fiddle as this point. If Microsoft wants to do well, they need to find ways to reach out to both Android and iPhone users. This means a large variety of phones that are distinctly different.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Lumia 920 is a good starting point, as is the Samsung ATIV. Now we need at least one ‘phablet’ to compete against devices like the Note 2. Heck, a Windows-powered Samsung Galaxy Note x8 or something would be awesome as well. We also need several devices that can reach out and appeal to iOS/Apple/iPhone fans.

Do we need a Surface phone? Yes and no. I like the power of choice. Surface is an attractive-looking choice in the tablet world, but I’m not so sure it will work in the phone scene. Still, if MS goes for it, I commend them for taking a chance and hope for the best.

Instead of a self-built Surface approach though, I instead think going the Google Nexus-route might be better suited here. Imagine a “Galaxy Surface” or “Lumia Surface” as reference devices that are pure WP8 devices in a manner similar to the Nexus line. This could work and could allow Microsoft a bigger hand at influencing the direct design and look of these phones.

The time to strike at the iPhone is here, though striking at Android is just as important. Microsoft doesn’t need to jump to first place- they just need to steal enough users away from Apple and Google in order to solidify their place in the market. Once they have this solid opening, they can go from there.

Do you feel that MS should consider their own phone, go the Nexus route or continue to let their hardware partners handle the design and marketing of their devices?

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