Technologizer

Yes, Microsoft Could Have Invented the iPhone. Here’s How

Steve Ballmer's company knew what the future of user interfaces would look like.

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Kevin P. Casey / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Microsoft's Surface table, as demonstrated in Seattle, Washington in May 2007

It’s been more than a week since Steve Ballmer announced his intention to retire, and the blogosphere is still busy assessing his tenure as Microsoft CEO. In a response to a post by Asymco’s Horace Dediu, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber says:

Microsoft, in theory, could have produced the iPhone first — not the actual iPhone, of course, but the game-changing device that set the stage for the future where mobile is the primary computing platform for most people, most of the time. That wouldn’t have disrupted Microsoft’s lucrative existing businesses — or least not immediately.

In a previous post, I said that I thought it was unlikely that Microsoft would ever have dominated mobile technology, for the simple reason that the tech company that dominates the old way of doing things rarely dominates the new way of doing things. But Gruber’s reference to the notion of Microsoft inventing the iPhone, or something very much like the iPhone, got me thinking.

At first, it’s a ludicrous notion. So many basic things about Microsoft’s character would seemingly have gotten in the way of creating something like the iPhone that envisioning how it might have seems pointless, like trying to devise a scenario in which Walt Disney directed Pulp Fiction.

And then it occurred to me: Ballmer’s Microsoft actually did invent something that was an awful lot like the iPhone in multiple major respects. It did so before the iPhone was announced, using a bunch of impressive technologies it developed itself. It came closer than I’d remembered to inventing the iPhone.

Oh, O.K., Microsoft’s invention was utterly unlike the iPhone in one critical way: It didn’t fit in your pocket. It was, in fact, huge. It was Microsoft Surface — not today’s tablet computer by that name, but the tabletop computing system Steve Ballmer unveiled at the D conference in May, 2007.

The Surface table had a beautifully polished, fluid multi-touch user interface. While it ran on Windows Vista, it dumped the Windows interface altogether in favor of something more modern, intuitive and engaging. Microsoft’s demo apps included some of the same stuff that people like to do on iPhones, such as browse photos and play games.

Basically, if Microsoft had announced Surface a year or so after Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, it would have been subject to an avalanche of snark about it being a Jumbotron-sized knockoff of Apple’s product. Even though they both owed a considerable debt to concepts created by researchers such as Jeff Han, who did dazzling demos of multitouch interfaces before either the iPhone or Surface was released.

But Microsoft developed Surface concurrently with the iPhone. It showed it to journalists for the first time at a hush-hush media briefing at CES in January, 2007, shortly before Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. (When I saw the iPhone, my immediate reaction was “Hey, neat — a pocket-sized Surface.”)

Surface’s technology involved a Windows PC, a DLP projector and multiple cameras that picked up the gestures you made on its touchscreen. It wasn’t cheap stuff, which is presumably why Microsoft’s initial plans involved using it for commercial applications in venues such as hotels, casinos and stores. As I wrote in Slate after the debut at the D conference, it seemed like a mind-numbingly prosaic fate for such a clever concept.

The product Microsoft announced more than six years ago as Surface still exists, but I don’t think it’s being unfair to say it’s been a major disappointment. (I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one in the wild, though I did spot one in a restaurant on the Microsoft campus when I attended the Xbox One launch earlier this year.) You know that a company has lost faith in something when it yanks its name to apply it to something newer and sexier, as Microsoft did when it turned the Surface moniker over to its new tablets and redubbed the old Surface as PixelSense.

At a D conference cocktail party back in 2007, Bill Gates told a bunch of us fellow attendees that he thought Surface-style computing would eventually be built into every desk, but it would be a slow process. He may still be proven right — products such as Lenovo’s Horizon are essentially consumerized versions of Surface, at price points which make them plausible for home use. But it may be telling that Lenovo had to devise its own tabletop-computing interface — Windows 8 isn’t designed for such applications.

Anyhow, when you try to envision Microsoft having made a Great Leap Forward in mobile computing before the iPhone came along, the obvious thought process involves assessing what Windows Mobile looked like at the time. It was unimaginative and, with its tiny Start button, backwards-looking. And Microsoft seemed to be reasonably pleased with it.

But Surface proved that the company knew exactly what the future of user interfaces would look like. The only things it got wrong were the scale of the device and the accessibility, pricewise, to consumers. The idea wasn’t destined to eventually show up inside every desk; it was going to be built into a sizable percentage of the world’s phones, starting almost immediately.

So if you want to imagine Microsoft inventing the iPhone, it’s easy. Just summon up a mental image of Microsoft researchers demoing Surface to Steve Ballmer while it was in its earliest stages of development. Then ask yourself: What would have happened if Ballmer had said “That’s fantastic — can we build it into something you can put in your pocket, and sell it at a profit for a few hundred dollars?”

46 comments
michaelobar
michaelobar

I respect Microsoft and especially Bill Gates for the philanthropical efforts he champions. Microsoft does some incredible research that nobody every hears about because it's so obscure at this time. However, Microsoft Office... those, too, were taken from other companies - Lotus, WordPerfect, etc.

Apple is the same way. They do a lot of research in areas that most people think they have no ground to stand, but yet they still succeed where people say they won't. Fact is, they are just another tech company in the competition.

Stealing ideas? I think it's foolish for anyone to think only one person has these ideas. In fact, no one ever says, "Hey! They STOLE that from The Jetsons!" Heck, I've even thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." And then years later, it happens. I'm sure everyone who reads the above article has probably had moments like that as well.

What I find most is that every time Apple comes out with something, people hate them and look for something to criticize. I used to hate Apple until I had to use one in the job I had. Then, it became a love/hate relationship. That's pretty true with all technology... Love it. Hate it.

Timezone
Timezone

The title of the article should be, "Apple created the iPhone that Microsoft invented."  Microsoft was there first and I owned the smartphones from Microsoft years before the iPhone came to being.  They were phones built by HTC and Samsung.  I still have them in the house.  In fact Jobs said the smartphone was a waste of time.

A few things happened.  Microsoft talked about an OS upgrade for the existing phones.  Microsoft delayed for unknown reasons.  Would it have looked like the existing windows phone we will never know but the delay was deadly.

Second, the only difference between today and yesterday, the windows phone didn't have touch.  That is the only difference that Apple introduced but they were not the first.   I do agree, touch screens were key but back then making a touch screen was beyond the ability of Microsoft and Apple.  Technology was not quite there and very expensive to produce.  Here is an example where it is easy to criticize without taking into account the state of the technology at different points along the way.

When the first smartphones were available the processors were not as good, the networks were slow, the phones were expensive.  Apple moved in after the hard work was done by Microsoft, Treo, blackberry and the partners of the mobile companies.


 

osmanstpaul
osmanstpaul

People need to understand that Microsoft lended or loaned like 80 million to Apple in the early years of both companies.  I have big respect for Microsoft as most of society would not be civilized with Microsoft since it brought tools like Office, Outlook and Windows XP which are still used in 90% of offices.  I dislike Apple because it's like it doesn't give crap about the customers.  Everything it bring's it sells very expensive.  Look at Google, it invented the Chromecast for $35.  Had that been Apple's idea, it would have cost $200 due to Apple's inflation of prices.  Apple even charges the very developers that made it's devices famous by creating amazing apps, like $99 a year just for developing.  Sadly, Microsoft followed in Apple's footsteps by also charging $99 for app development.  Windows 8 also has lot's of signs that Microsoft is trying to give similar features like Apple Devices.  Everything Microsoft did has been perfect since Windows 8 arrived, heck even Vista was better than Windows 8.  Read the cons and pros of Windows 8 http://techlivewire.com/1309/cons-of-windows-8.html

VinitKVerma
VinitKVerma

That's true with most products. OEMs do get their royalties..But it is wrong to say that Microsoft "could have".. its all about implementation.. It's ok to say that they didnt wanna be in this space... but such statements appear as if they are repenting their poor vision...

SalusD'Souza
SalusD'Souza

Even Steve Jobs said the computing world would be nothing without Microsoft. Dumb people commenting here fail to realize that the iPhone relies 95% on Microsoft developed technology for hardware and 100% for software. Without AJAX, there would be no mobile smartphones and no modern internet. If you buy an iPhone for $400, Microsoft gets $250 of it in royalties. Eat that.

m1db
m1db

They did, they invented the Zune.  Only Microsoft could have conceived and carried out the Zune technical innovations, of course that was after buying a few iPods and a few man years of Microsoft reverse engineering.  Zune was released 5 years after the iPod. The bummer is when Microsoft cannot even make a good copy, even with the real McCoy article in their hands they still don't get it.

s.supreeth92
s.supreeth92

Microsoft couldn't have and will never invent anything like iPhone or iPod. The reason Apple came up with such devices is that they wanted phone and mp3 player for themselves. They had passion for music and for better phones. They wanted better devices. When you do something for yourself, you always give your best shot. Folks at microsoft are better at copying. There is no passion in what you make when you copy. The result is a crappy product like zune.

DavidBarbakadze
DavidBarbakadze

And how do you say that? Because the Surface has an iPhone-like black frame on this pic? Seriously?.. Is this all there is to it - black frame === iPhone?

EbenMensah
EbenMensah

I    BELIEVE  AND  TRUST  MICROSOFT  NO MATTER  THEIR  FLAWS  EVEN  THOUGH  ANDROID  HAS  MANY  FLAWS  THAT MICROSOFT.

EbenMensah
EbenMensah

Microsoft  rules  in  the  tech  world and not  any  other.

EbenMensah
EbenMensah

Microsoft is  so  far  the  best  when it  comes  to  electronics  and  all other  aspects  of  technology.Android  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  tech  world  and  should  as  much  as  possible  find  their  way in  the  zoo.I   really  trust  MICROSOFT.

IvanThomson
IvanThomson

Apple didn't invent the smartphone.  They are not even attributed with the phrase smartphone.  They also didn't create the first phone with a touch screen.  In fact most of the technology on their first iPhone appeared elsewhere on other devices in one form or another.  What Apple did, was bring it all together in a slick design and give it the 'cool' factor and make it very attractive to consumers.  Ericsson couldn't do it, Nokia couldn't do it, palm couldn't do it and there is no way in h3ll Microsoft could have done it.  Any of these companies could have built the technology and brought it to together in a nice package with a decent interface; but, none could give it the 'cool' factor and that is what Apple excels at (or did excel at).  Google/Samsung have managed to do it as well with Android - a cool factor for a different set of consumers.

And that is what it comes down to.  Microsoft has no idea how to make things cool anymore and they haven't been able to do that for a very long time.  The brand name of Microsoft brings up very negative images in consumer minds and has been tarnished.  If Microsoft invented sliced bread it would be a failure because of their brand image (too much negative goodwill).

khi.mah.uk
khi.mah.uk

Skype, although not very profitable could actually be the one piece of Technology that saves this dinosaur corporation!

khi.mah.uk
khi.mah.uk

They tried and failed. Even an idiot realises after competing with a competitor for decades what their adversary is up to. Apple made their products very fashionable at a very high cost limiting themselves to a small segment of the upper wealthy class while the Japanese made their products affordable to the masses.
Both Gates and Ballmer were clueless throughout this entire process. Gates did not write Windows as he has misled the World and Ballmer did not steer Microsoft into a profitable direction as he is suggesting to everyone.
What MS needs is someone like Larry Ellison to teach them basic business sense and someone like Elon Musk to show them how to make their products fashionable. The Tesla looks fabulous. I am sure Larry could spend a little time on the MS board without bringing his other private ventures into the MS fold.

tjfrench1
tjfrench1

This article goes to show the salesmanship of the two people in charge of MS and Apple.  Steve Jobs had a great sense of what the average consumer would want while Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were more interested in the business world.  Microsoft is and has been a company that wants to operate your device while Apple has been making those devices as well as operating them.  The consumer just wants the device put in their hand and works when it is there.  That is why Apple is such a successful company it offers both and works.  As a matter of fact if you look at AT&T, you see that down through the years it has been telling us of all this coming in the future and who would know better than a communications company?

Microsoft has been an innovator in the operation of devices but does not do devices well at least until now.  Selling stuff is one thing but selling the future of how it works is entirely another story.  Remember, it was IBM that really started the pc business in a big way which has lead to all sorts of new ideas, they just could not create an OS that was as enticing as Microsoft for the public because they are first a business oriented company with the hardware and some software.  That is where the big bucks are in a small space while the consumer market is volatile, spread out over a huge market with many diverse tastes.

TeaPartyCitizen
TeaPartyCitizen

You have a company, Microsoft who wants nothing more than to rest on their laurels. They feel that they worked hard enough and now it is their time to do nothing and get paid for doing nothing. I hope another company moves into the desktop space now that Microsoft has abandoned it. As a developer I want a desktop. If not Microsoft, then fine. I just want a desktop. I don't care who gives it to me. 

rpasea
rpasea

Having worked with MSFT as a consultant, I just don't see their corporate culture being able to leap frog existing competitors with a paradigm shifting device like the first iPhone. Their arrogance is astounding. As the author noted, the leading old tech company can't be expected to have the Next Great Thing and I see this is the current dilemma MSFT is in: it has become a huge cash machine devoid of innovation.

The firm that came close but missed the big kahuna was Palm, IMO. Their Lifedrive was close (no cellular radio), their TX PDA had wifi but no cellular and their Treo phones, great devices at the time, did not have the apps to match what the iPhone could do. Palm could have put those devices together and might still be around. I see traces of Palm in many aspects of my iP4 and think Jobs was the only one to see the potential that the Palm leadership couldn't.

sgreco1970
sgreco1970

Absolutely. In fact HP could have made the iPhone too, or nearly anyone.

The shocking reality is that they didn't. The same with the iPad. It wasn't that it was something so original and amazing and utterly unheard of before. I mean, Star Trek the Next Generation really invented the concept of the iPad, so much so that as a doff of the hat to TNG, Jobs chose the name iPad instead of iSlate which was one of the first titles because TNG called theirs a PADD (personal access display device).

But no one seemed to want to make it.

When Apple made it, we ran out and gobbled them up not because we had never seen such a concept before but because we couldnt BUY one before.

And that's the principle lesson here. GIVE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT AND YOU WILL SUCCEED. Microsoft's lame detachable screen laptop becomes a tablet is bombing because no one really cares. Note also the vast difference in advertising. Recently, I watched a tv ad for Microsoft's laptops and couldnt help but notice ALL they showed you was a detachable screen from a distance. Remember the first iPhone and iPad ads? Close-ups of the glossy screen and a finger sliding icons this way and that. Oooo we couldnt wait to touch! 

If microsoft wants to survive, they'd better note what people find tech-sexy and start making it.

Erknho
Erknho

Whenever I see someone poking their Galaxy tab (or note or whatever it is) with a small stylus, I am reminded how, sometime around 2002, 2003, about 4 to 5 years before the first iPhone,  I used to do similar poking and prodding of icons and apps on my pocket PC which had maps with a GPS, wifi, email, web browser, could play music, view photos (no camera though). In fact, it's size was nearly identical to the size of the the original iPhone.

The only thing really lacking was... it was not a phone. But it's really odd to me that it took nearly 5 years for someone like apple to say, "ah... let's put a phone in there too and start actually building out a real "mobile" OS instead of scaling way down a desktop OS as Microsoft did with their first attempts. 


But it does seem to me that Microsoft and their hardware partners were ...Sooooo close... to that Golden "Ah Ha" moment... And literally let Apple steal the idea away from them under their nose.

M.Hardie
M.Hardie

You make a fair point, Harry. And I'll bite on the similarities between Surface circa 2007 and the earliest iPhone. But don't pin this on Ballmer. By that time Apple's small device skills were well established. The iPhone is a logical extension of the iPod. Whereas Microsoft's copycat Zune efforts show lack of imagination or creativity. The enterprise thinking in Redmond overwhelms everything - an eclipse of sorts. It's a wonder XBOX ever saw the light of day. While a more nimble Apple schooner tacked toward mobile's open waters, the ULCC Microsoft held steady as she goes deeper into the narrowing confines of Enterprise Channel. A good read nonetheless.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Microsoft is incapable of originality. They take other people's ideas and do it cheaper ........ or manipulate a monopoly so you have to buy their cr#p. If you buy a PC, you get Microsoft Windows, want it or not. Even if you asked for Linux (a free operating system) the PC maker will still charge you the same price! Tell that's not a rip-off.

JimFromJersey
JimFromJersey

Terrible article. I totally agree with Kevin9794. Harry you need to go back and review the comments Steve Ballmer made when the iPhone was introduced. Pay particular attention to the fact that Ballmer listed the use of a touch screen as its biggest failing. According to Ballmer, the lack of a keyboard would doom the device. Do you really believe that that a company being run by this man was capable of inventing an iPhone-like device at that point in time? In fact time has shown that even with Apple's incredible success with the product, Microsoft remained stuck in neutral even years later.

Surface-style computing has its developmental roots in kiosks. Touch screens have been used in kiosks since 1977. In the mid-1980's, Florsheim Shoes had over 600 touch-screen interactive kiosks in show stores across the country. In 1991, kiosks were developed that could interact with the internet. It might be a more amusing article if you postulated that a shoe company could have invented the iPhone. 

kevin9794
kevin9794

So... what is the point of this article?

Touch screens had existed for years. Companies experimented with them. The fact that other companies worked with touch screens too, and made touch devices doesn't make a difference. 

In that case, can't we say Nintendo could have invented the iPhone? I mean, we have the DS, which had a touch screen and fit your pocket. What would have happened if Iwata would have said, "alright guys, make it a single screen"? 

Point is, they didn't.

And the DS is a closer bet. The Surface could have never have gotten smaller, because it used cameras to detect touches, not a touchscreen. It's a totally different technology, and one that cant be scaled to smaller sizes, or made portable.


I thought the Time published quality articles. This came as a big disappointment. 

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

@m1db Heh, the Zune is a pretty good copy.

Decent tech; I think Redmond has fine engineers (whose talents are mostly wasted). Zune only lacked a reason why customers should trust Microsoft to stay in that business (since they stabbed their earlier PlaysForSure® project in the cradle); why customers should promote somebody who offers little new; why customers should think that the Microsoft ecosystem would be built out as aggressively as Apple's with follow-on products like the iPod Touch or 2007 iPhone; why you would lock into a me-too shop; why you'd commit to Windows Forever!!!®.

Timezone
Timezone

@s.supreeth92

The iPod is a copy from Sony.  The big innovation of the scroll wheel was invented by another company Apple licensed. Microsoft had smartphones years before the iPhone came to being.  Apples genius is not in the devices they copied but the marketing and licensing.  Steve Jobs was able to get the music licenses no one else could get because of his abilities and he knew how to market.  He also was able to change on occasion.  Originally he did not want apps built by people outside of Apple.  

Crappy products, lets see.  We have antennagate, Scratchgate,  security holes and the original Apple cloud was garbage.   Innovation, hmm.  Still no wireless charging, NFC or screens big enough to surf.  No USB connectors, external drives or multitasking on iPads.  They don't have servers or application suits.  Apple is made up of smoke and mirrors and one day the public will realize there is no need to pay a premium price to get a great product.  The premium price does not buy a better product. It  buys the walled garden to keep you in the fold. 

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

@IvanThomson It was much more than “slick” or “cool.”

Apple spent years figuring out how a tiny screen could be useful for a real web browser. Starting from that objective, they built the pinch-to-zoom, scrolling lists and other tech that'd make using a pocket gizmo useful.

In about the same time, Microsoft built the Surface/Table. Similar pinch/zoom concepts, but purely for show. Microsoft had no notion of upending the pocket computer / “smartphone” business that they ruled. No fire in their belly; no incentive to take outsized risks.

So I object to “cool.” Not because the iPhone isn't cool, but because that wasn't necessary, or sufficient, to have the iPhone succeed. What mattered was enabling people to use tech, in a way that nobody else had ever done, and copycats would only succeed at years later (possibly, by infringing Apple's patents).

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

@tjfrench1 Let me guess that Microsoft's future isn't in making/selling devices, either.

Look at how/when Apple succeeded, and you see a ten-year vision, careful consideration of what it would take. What the buyer needed. How 3rd parties could get in the way or be helpful.

Example: the iPod. Jobs started building a retail base almost as soon as he came back in the 90s. Tried out stores-within-stores in Japan. Then in the US (CompuWare). Then Apple-branded ones. Then, recruited the head of Gap stores to the board. Then acqui-hired the SoundJam team to make iTunes software. Then arm-wrestled the music industry to offer digital tracks rather than see them ripped off.

And only then, after like 7 years, intro'd the iPod. And in turn, started working on replacing it with the iPhone, which you'll remember was intro'd as “a wide-screen iPod… a revolutionary internet communicator… a mobile phone!” just a few years later, signaling that Apple was already thinking about the successor to the iPod when they introduced it.

You say “salesmanship,” I say “skating to where the puck would be.” I think we're saying the same thing. Microsoft has not wanted to do the damn hard work of creating new product categories, for maybe 15 years. They've been successful, and very profitable, extending their existing monopoly.

Kudos to somebody else who noted Hemingway's quote: 

“‘How did you go bankrupt?’ 

‘Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’ ” 


SamInsomniac
SamInsomniac

@rpasea Windows phone, Zune HD, Kinect, Metro, Surface Pro.....Microsoft doesn't lack innovation, it's just they're incapable of executing it.

TeaPartyCitizen
TeaPartyCitizen

@timothy.patrick I actually is a good article in that it tells us that Microsoft is this leading technology company. What we are learning new is that Microsoft is lazy and unlike Google and Apple don't want to change things. In my opinion a technology company should be pushing the boundaries like Google and Apple is doing with Glass and self driving cars. Microsoft is the lazy technology company.

yeahitsfast
yeahitsfast

I believe you are referring to the Galaxy Note 10.1 and its nothing like the "poker " as you call it. It does about anything you want it to in any style and color. The Pocket PC poker did just that usually because everything was so small it was the only way to get any thing done.

Timezone
Timezone

@M.Hardie 

Microsoft had the pocketPC smartphone years before the iphone.  Zune was a copy but better.  Where as the iPod was a Sony copy of their music player.  It was just a hard drive with a speaker.  The famous scroll wheel was invented by another company Apple licensed.   Apple entered late in the game taking what others learned.  Apple's genius is in the marketing and licensing of products.  Even Steve Jobs said, "good artists copy, great artists  steal." That is what Apple did with all of their products.  Apple stole and marketed a copy.

harrymccracken
harrymccracken moderator

Sorry you didn't like it. But the Surface interface was a hundred times closer to the iPhone's than anything that Nintendo or anyone else came up with in the pre-iPhone era, with some very similar applications, such as the photo viewer. Multi-touch was also new to commercial products. And while it's true that Microsoft chose to implement it in a way that couldn't scale down in size in price, there's nothing fundamental to the interface which required that it do so.

We know that Microsoft didn't have the imagination to try and build Surface into a phone. But it did try to create something with an interface that was very, very close to the one that Apple built at the same time.

tjfrench1
tjfrench1

@WaltFrench @tjfrench1 You may be correct in saying that making/selling devices is not in MS future but I am guessing that you are wrong on that one.  While Ballmer did dismiss Apple early on that was just being a braggart and now he saw that was clearly wrong.  That will go down in the list of people saying the famous "wrong" things about new products.  I believe it is the biggest part of the reason why he decided to step aside probably with some pushing from within as well.

Microsoft is late to the game of smartphones but they are beginning to rapidly change the game with Windows 8 and now 8.1.  While many are still wary of the new system and I believe mostly because of all the negative talk out there rather than real usage.  The company that accomplishes the one system that works across all devices is the one that will come out on top and right now MS is that one doing it right.  Apple has been working on this too but MS is already ahead of them in that field plus when you add into the mix the business footprint that MS has you have the necessary makings of the next huge impact.  When the dust settles from all that has happened because of Windows 8 we will see that MS leapfrogged over the competition.

Google is trying to get into the game in a big way and they are clearly making progress and because of all the competition between the three tech giants we consumers benefit along the way.  We get the best of both worlds as a result of all this competition.   

ed18
ed18

@SamInsomniac @rpasea 

Windows phone was an iPhone knockoff, Zune was an iPod knockoff, Kinect was a PS3 Move knockoff and their flagship Windows is a Mac OS knockoff. Microsoft doesn't innovate or blaze any new trails. They wait for someone else to release a successful, mass marketed product and ride that company's coattails by copying the product.

Timezone
Timezone

@harrymccracken

To say Microsoft didn't shrink the surface to make a phone is a crazy statement. The Surface took the interface from the Windows phone.  The Windows phone came before Surface.  So no need to scale down. They already had the phone.  In fact the Surface RT uses the OS of the Windows phone with possibly a few small differences.  How can you dismiss the Windows phone and how it fits into the development of Surface rather than the other way around.  I think you missed the boat on this one.

Of course they had the pocket PC years before the iphone sans touch.  In many ways the Android is similar to the original pocket PC.  People were writing applications for the phone rather than the platform which is the problem with Android phones.   

pbaek
pbaek

 Before Apple started selling iPod, they were already working on creating a mobile OS for the future use, in which they were thinking about developing a new tabelet PC -- later known as iPad, while others were slowly catching up on the idea of making a netbook.  iOS was originally developed for iPad in mind, not iPhone, but neither the US market nor the consumers were ready for it without mentioning the slow network infrastructure, so they first released the iPhone whose consumers then easily adapted to using iPad later on.  

Microsoft couldn't even make and sell MP3 player.  Remember, zuner player? The suceess of iPad is rooted in the sucess of iPhone, which is rooted in the sucess of iPod, which is rooted in he sucess of iTune store as well as Apple store.

Why did Zune player fail? Why couldn't Microsoft come up with streaming online music service such as Pandora that now has over 200M users? Because i
t wasn't a right time, so they couldn't have.

Zuner player ultimately failed becaue it had a wrong revenue model of going with subscription service and of course, a lack of music selections.  


iPhone is iPod + Cellphone becuase iPod was already a smart PMP device that kept on innovating every year.  Zuner player wasn't that of smart device, so MS couldn't have made a smartphone like iPhone.  It's not really a rocket-science. It's just your lack of common sense.

MS Surface also isn't a mobile platform either.  Zuner player would still be a peice of junk, had it include all the features of MS surface.  Now, you add a phone into MS surface, that would be like the most ridiculous thing one can image carrying around without getting laughed at.  Steve Ballmer laughed at iPhone when it first came out 'cause it was pricy, and had no keyboard.  Even if MS would've come up with truly the first mobile OS before Apple did, they would be only seling the software to vendors, not the whole iPhone-alike product.  

Erknho
Erknho

@harrymccracken As I wrote in my post above, I truly believe the Pocket PC was far far more like an iPhone than anything in the 5 years between when the first PPC's came out with iphone sized screens and when the first iPhone actually arrive. Same size. Same overall purpose and concept of apps and icons (albeit scaled back to 2002 tech / hardware levels). All the ingredients where there except the dialer and cell phone bill. It took an outsider like Steve Jobs/Apple, probably watching the fumbling and bumbling Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and the rest were doing, but seeing the potential and watching the mistakes and how to avoid them. OS was not enough, Apple saw it was critical to be in control of the hardware. Pocket Internet wasn't enough if you could never get online.., it would need to be a phone with a cellular data connection so a user could bring it anywhere. Remember, this was before there was Wifi on every street corner.  MS was probably ahead of it's time because if we remember back in 2007, cellular data speeds were AWFUL. Imagine in 2002. It wouldn't even be possible. So Apple I think kinda saw all this over the next few years and basically leapt in for the kill when all the things came together... hardware, software, Cellular Data company onboard with AT&T and "ok" speeds. Remember too... there was no App store in 2007. We had an email app, and a few meager other built in apps. The iphone, upon initial launch, was no different than a pocket PC in many ways. Except for that phone thing.

AintThatWill
AintThatWill

@harrymccracken Harry, maybe the surface team is hiring? They make coffee tables that will never see real world use...You write articles that have no real world use.

I wish we were all so lucky to have a job where we could write about our day dreams and call it a career.

WaltFrench
WaltFrench

@tjfrench1 @WaltFrench Sure seems that making devices is now in Microsoft's present. 

I remain very dubious they'll succeed at it for the simple reason that they have nothing new to bring to the Enterprise market (which they understand very well, but because it's relatively static and well-served by commodity machines), and they don't understand the purchasers of mobile/smartphone devices, consumers. But a savvy integration of Nokia's handset people could change that.

We'll see how well THAT works.

Timezone
Timezone

@ed18 @SamInsomniac @rpasea 

The ipod was a Sony knockoff.  The PS3 does not have Kinect technology in them.   PS3 Move is a wand. Kinect is motion detection using cameras.  It is very different technology with the Kinect able to recognize movement the wand could not even begin to do.  Excuse me the Mac OS is a Xerox Parc knockoff. Xerox invented the mouse, laser printer, Ethernet and the graphical user interface.  Microsoft had smartphones years before Apple sans touch screen. 

Apple has been the one copying everyone else.  

TeaPartyCitizen
TeaPartyCitizen

@toaster1 Blasting Microsoft for the sake of blasting MIcrosoft? Microsoft could have adopted Google's strategy of running with technology and never slowing down. Microsoft, on the other hand, get's into the lead and lounges and orders a margarita. Google never did that. They have this great search engine and  they keep inventing. Keep innovating. Keep pushing the edge. Microsoft is like my grandmother who just sleeps all day. Google is youth invigorated. Microsoft is a festering sore.

toaster1
toaster1

@AintThatWill Come on people, your comments just show how narrow minded you guys are. You just think it's "cool" to blast at whatever Microsoft does. In fact, it's not!