By all accounts, based on a large number of patents and a number of discoveries in the Windows 10 code and APIs, Microsoft has been working on a foldable smartphone/tablet for at least 2 years.
According to ComputerWorld’s Mike Elgan, the world is finally ready for it, citing a number of reasons why now is the time Microsoft should launch the clamshell device.
He notes that the heat has gone out of the smartphone market, with shipments dropping 21% in China and tablet sales down 6.5% in Q4 2017. He blames this on consumers being bored with black slabs and demanding something new and innovative.
Like other analysts, he also expects this device to be a clamshell device, as, after devices became almost completely bezel-less, it is the only way to increase screen sizes further.
He also notes that the Pen is back, with even Apple rumoured to be working on a device with support for a stylus. For Microsoft the pen, of course, never left, meaning their support is now quite mature, with features such as combined pen and touch support. He expects this feature to attract particularly business users, Microsoft’s natural market.
He also expects business users to be now more accepting of an on-screen keyboard as a replacement for a hardware laptop keyboard, meaning they may see similar productivity value to a clamshell device with a soft keyboard as a small laptop.
He also notes that Microsoft appears to be working on software that would deliver a Courier-like experience on their Surface Phone, but without this being the only way to use the device, meaning Courier is now only an app, not a full OS. This is actually an advantage as users will still be able to access the full depth of Windows 10’s features.
He also notes that Microsoft has been working for years on the hardware technology for the device, particularly when it came to hinges and cameras, and even had interesting user interface ideas, such as automatically turning the device into an alarm clock if you place it into the Tent configuration.
He believes Microsoft will produce an appealing, business-orientated device that will “break all the rules” and, now that Microsoft has completely killed off Windows Phone, expects the company to tease the handset at Build 2018 in a few days time.
Mike is not claiming any special sources, but we know there is a race on by several companies to be the first to deliver a hit foldable. Microsoft might as well get into the starting blocks.